US spy agency refuses to share secrets with White House aide overseeing Africa policy

US National Security Advisor Mike Flynn, speaking at a ceremony last year. One of Flynn's aides has been denied a top secret security clearance (Credit: US Department of Defense)

The US Central Intelligence Agency has denied a security clearance to the White House official responsible for coordinating US foreign policy and defense policy in Africa.

The CIA decision, which was revealed on Friday by US media, reportedly “infuriated” the head of the National Security Council, Lt-Gen (ret) Mike Flynn.

America’s federal government has several civilian and military intelligence agencies, including the civilian-run CIA and FBI and the military-run Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and National Security Agency. Flynn used to head the DIA, the military counterpart of the CIA.

Washington, DC-based news agency Politico reported that Flynn’s aide Robin Townley was informed on Friday that the CIA had rejected his request for an elite security clearance required for service on the NSC. Politico cited “two people with direct knowledge of the situation.”

It is not known why Townley’s request was denied.

Townley had served as an intelligence officer in the US Marine Corps – Flynn’s service branch – before being appointed as senior director for Africa on the National Security Council. Without the security clearance, however, he will be forced out of his new role, the report says.

The National Security Council is the US president’s principal arm for coordinating international security policies among various US government agencies, the US military and cabinet departments.

Historically, NSC Advisors have been among the most powerful officials within the US government, sometimes having more influence than cabinet secretaries. Flynn comes to the post after losing his job as head of the defense intelligence agency during Barack Obama’s presidency before winning the confidence of Donald Trump during the 2016 campaign.

Politico says that rejection of Flynn’s aide has escalated tensions between him and his allies and “the [US] intelligence community.” A source said, “They believe this is a hit job from inside the CIA on Flynn and the people close to him.”

Townley had received scant press attention since he was named to the White House post. One report in the Washington Post referred to him as one of Flynn’s “battle buddies,” without elaborating on their relationship. Trump’s National Security Council is more military-heavy than previous councils.