An analyst at a secretive Pentagon think tank was stripped of his security clearance and had his pay slashed in what he claims was retaliation for his questioning of some suspicious contracts, including those for the informant the FBI used to snoop on the presidential campaign of Donald Trump.
Adam Lovinger was a strategist for 12 years in the Office of Net Assessment (ONA), a strategy group that reports directly to the secretary of defense.
James Baker, ONA’s head, hired Stefan Halper to “conduct foreign relations,” a job Lovinger believed could only be lawfully done by government officials, not a contractor. Halper was to engage with foreign government officials on behalf of the United States, according to Lovinger’s attorney, Sean Bigley. In October 2016, shortly before the election, Lovinger sent an email to his supervisors, warning about “the moral hazard” of “contracting with Halper.”
On May 1, 2017, supervisors stripped Lovinger of his security clearance and relegated him to administrative duties. A year later, they used his lack of clearance to justify cutting his pay. He’s been on administrative leave since.
Lovinger filed a whistleblower reprisal complaint with the Defense Department’s inspector general against Baker and others.
“They were looking to scapegoat him from the start and essentially find a reason to get rid of him in retaliation for his whistleblowing,” Bigley said.
The Defense Department didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Halper was de facto revealed as the informant that the FBI used to spy on the Trump campaign, in May 18 articles in The Washington Post and The New York Times, after others, such as blogger Jeff Carlson, suggested the same.
Halper was hired by ONA four times since 2012 on contracts totaling over $1 million.
The first contract, for around $198,000, was only described as “direct labor.” Bigley said it was a 562-page academic study, but that Halper wrote less than a half of it and paid other academics to do the rest. The second contract ($204,000) was described as “research and studies—the year 2030.”
The third contract (about $245,000) was described “Russia-China Relationship Study” and lasted from Sept. 24, 2015, to Sept. 27, 2016.
A day before the previous one expired, Halper landed another contract for “India and China econ study,” which was extended on July 26, 2017, until March 29, 2018—for almost $412,000.
“It was a topic of conversation within the office,” Bigley said. “What is Halper doing, and why is he being paid astronomically more than others similarly situated?”
Halper has links to the CIA and British intelligence agency MI6. He’s served in the Nixon, Ford, and Reagan administrations and is a professor at Cambridge University.
Lovinger also complained about contracts totaling some $11 million since 2007 to Washington consulting firm Long Term Strategy Group (LTSG). The firm is headed by Jacqueline Newmyer Deal, who is “best friends” with Chelsea Clinton, daughter of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, according to a 2011 WWD interview.
Lovinger questioned the benefit of LTSG’s work. For one thing, the firm’s personnel lacked security clearance, Bigley said, so it could only base its analysis on publicly available information. Also, some study topics seemed rather inane, such as a study of whether Americans are “war-like people” or a study of whether there were enough “coastal elites” in the national security bureaucracy, Bigley said.
Halper also lacked security clearance, Bigley added.
In January 2017, Lovinger was selected by the Trump team to work at the White House National Security Council. That didn’t help Lovinger’s case as Baker held an animus toward Trump, Bigley said.
In May 2017, “after considering all available information,” the Pentagon’s Consolidated Adjudications Facility (CAF) “issued an unfavorable clearance determination and Mr. Lovinger’s clearance was revoked,” a Defense Department spokesman told the Washington Times.
The CAF is part of the Washington Headquarters Services (WHS), the same Pentagon support agency that awarded the contracts to Halper and the Clinton friend, Bigley noted.
“The CAF’s entire ‘adjudication’ of this case was orchestrated by corrupt officials at WHS, which was demonstrated numerous times throughout the process,” he said.
Baker was appointed to lead the ONA in 2015 by Defense Secretary Ashton Carter. Baker is a veteran of the department and a member of the Council of Foreign Relations.
WHS Director Barbara Westgate was appointed in 2016. The WHS manages facilities, security, information technology, communications, human resources, contracting, financial, and other services for the Defense Department.
Westgate stated in a memo to Lovinger regarding his clearance that she had “concerns regarding your judgment, trustworthiness, and reliability while carrying out your official duties, specifically relating to your personal conduct, misuse of Information Technology systems, outside activities and your improper handling of and safeguarding of protected information.”
Bigley called the allegations “ridiculous,” saying Lovinger received the highest ratings in his performance reviews for the first half of 2016 and the second half of 2015. His supervisors appear to have only started to have a problem with him after he blew the whistle and began working for Trump.
Lovinger acknowledged one incident where he inadvertently took a research paper marked “classification pending” to read on a plane. He was admonished for that infraction—one of the lowest-level penalties in the military, The Washington Free Beacon reported in May 2017.
Lovinger has four cases pending: one against the alleged whistleblower retaliation; one with the Pentagon criminal division against alleged inappropriate ONA contracts; an ethics complaint against the way Pentagon officials treated him; and an appeal against his security-clearance revocation.