Major GOP super PAC appears to be using CIA officer-turned-Democratic candidate's security form in campaign

Democratic House candidate Abigail Spanberger
(Image credit: AP Photo/Steve Helber)

The Congressional Leadership Fund (CLF), a super PAC linked to House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), acknowledged Tuesday it has a copy of the federal security clearance application of former CIA officer Abigail Spanberger, the Democrat challenging Rep. Dave Brat (R) in Virginia's competitive 7th Congressional District. And it appears to be using some of the information from the highly sensitive document to campaign against her, The New York Times reports.

The CLF says a different GOP super PAC, America Rising, obtained the document though a Freedom of Information Act request to the U.S. Postal Service. "CLF follows the letter of the law in examining any candidate's background and Ms. Spanberger was no different," CLF said in a statement.

Spanberger, who served overseas as a covert CIA officer for eight years, isn't buying it. In a cease-and-desist letter to CLF executive director Corry Bilss, she says she has "clear evidence" that the PAC provided copies of her unredacted security clearance form to "at least one news outlet," and she's "not aware of any legal way that CLF could have this document." While Spanberger was waiting for the CIA to approve her security application, she filled out a similar application to work for the USPS Postal Inspection Service. Neither of those applications are legally FOIA-able.

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National security analyst John Schindler sees two possibilities: "Either her political enemies have a mole inside CIA who's breaking a mountain of laws," he tweeted, or Spanberger's file was pilfered by the Chinese government in a huge data heist discovered in 2015. Either way, he added, the CLF and Brat campaign are either "exploiting a criminal [act] for illegal political purposes" or "in bed with Chinese intelligence." Spanberger and national Democrats are worried this tactic is being used on other candidates with intelligence or law-enforcement background. "I have nothing to hide," she said. "If they need a canary in the coal mine, I'm glad it's me."

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Peter Weber

Peter Weber is a senior editor at, and has handled the editorial night shift since the website launched in 2008. A graduate of Northwestern University, Peter has worked at Facts on File and The New York Times Magazine. He speaks Spanish and Italian and plays bass and rhythm cello in an Austin rock band. Follow him on Twitter.