The White House has denied security clearance to a member of its technology team, Ashkan Soltani. Prior to his appointment at the White House, he had helped report on national security documents leaked by former NSA analyst Edward Snowden.
Soltani is a Pulitzer prize-winning journalist who until recently worked as the chief technology officer for the Federal Trade Commission, before moving on to the White House to work on privacy, data ethics and technical outreach.
This move caused many eyebrows to be raised as Soltani, in partnership with Barton Gellman at the Washington Post, was a key player in helping reveal, protect and analyse the Snowden documents. However, just a few weeks after he was appointed senior adviser to the technology team at the White House, Soltani has announced that he has stepped down. He said the decision to quit was made following the White House's refusal to give him the security clearance.
Although Soltani has refused to speculate about the reason for the denial, the tech researcher's departure from the White House indicates that despite the passage of time, the Snowden incident remains fresh in the memory of the Obama administration. Commenting on the government's rebuff, Soltani said: "This is something that happens from time to time, and I won't speculate on the reasons." He added that he was proud of his work and at having passed the mandatory drug test. He also said that there was no indication that he was denied clearance "based on my integrity or the quality of my work", according to a Guardian report.
When approached for comments, a spokesperson for the White House said: "Ashkan Soltani was on a detail to the Office of Science and Technology Policy from the Federal Trade Commission, and his detail has ended."
Ironically, Soltani was originally hired in order to help the White House lure more hardcore techies to work for the government instead of moving on to greener pastures offered by a Silicon Valley-based tech giants.