After Gov. Mark Sanford's emotional confession in June that he lied about a secret tryst in Argentina, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security yanked the governor's security clearance because of questions about his "lack of candor" and "trustworthiness" to protect classified information, federal documents show.
Homeland Security officials reinstated his clearance a week later, saying the suspension was a mistake by a lower-level employee. But documents obtained by The Post and Courier through the U.S. Freedom of Information Act show specific concerns about the governor's actions.
In a certified letter to Sanford dated July 1, Katherine Janosek, chief of the Homeland Security Personnel Security Division, wrote that the "Office of Security has suspended your access to classified information."
She explained that the "suspension is based on recent actions and statements by you that raise questions about your judgment, lack of candor, reliability, trustworthiness and ability to protect classified information."
Janosek also sent a memo to Maj. Scott W. Prill, the State Law Enforcement Division's Homeland Security director, advising him of the suspension. "This action was taken due to recently reported information to this office," the memo said. "... Please ensure that Governor Sanford does not have access to any classified information until further notice."
Among the documents received in response to the newspaper's open records request was a partially blacked out document that contained a news story on Sanford's admission about his affair.
A week later, Janosek wrote back to the governor and SLED that Sanford's clearance had been reinstated, adding without elaboration that "the suspension of your clearance was made in error."
Earlier this summer, Sara Kuban, a Homeland Security press secretary, told The Post and Courier that a department employee suspended Sanford's clearance without following proper procedures, and that "as soon as senior DHS officials learned that it occurred, it was immediately rectified." At the time, she and officials with the governor's office declined to say whether the suspension was related to Sanford's affair with Maria Belen Chapur.
Chapur is a former TV reporter and English interpreter in Buenos Aires. She also told The Associated Press in 2005 that she had worked as a market researcher and was learning Chinese to help her now-ex husband on a business trip to China.
On Wednesday, the governor's press secretary, Ben Fox, said the temporary suspension of Sanford's security clearance "didn't affect on a practical level the governor's ability to lead or engage in day-to-day governing."
Fox added that, "if there's anything that we and the governor have learned over the past couple of months, it's that when one admits to making a mistake, you move on. In this case, the division chief at DHS admitted to making a mistake, and we've moved on."
Former Gov. Jim Hodges said he couldn't recall any time that he was exposed to classified materials during his tenure. In fact, "I don't recall the federal government being very forthcoming at all with classified information," he said.
However, Hodges noted that the governor is privy to sensitive information about facilities including nuclear reactors, the movement of nuclear materials and port operations.
The military also studied Sanford's security clearance after the affair came to light and decided not to take any actions, said Cliff Tyler, a spokesman for the headquarters of the Air Force Reserve Command at Robins Air Force Base in Georgia. Sanford is a captain in the Air Force Reserve.
Under military law, adultery can be prosecuted under Article 134, which involves behavior that "reflects adversely on the service record of the military member." Tyler said, the Air Force Reserve "hasn't initiated any disciplinary actions and has no plans to do so."