Jack Posobiec is one of the right’s leading agitators and conspiracy theorists.
He implied there may be a child-sex ring under a D.C. pizza joint run by Democrats. He peddled rumors about the murder of former DNC staffer Seth Rich. He interrupted a supposedly anti-Trump Julius Caesar play, yelling “you are all Goebbels.” He popularized a WikiLeaks campaign against a French presidential candidate. He even tried to sabotage a D.C. protest by holding up a sign that said, “Rape Melania.”
Posobiec did all of this, and more, as a U.S. Navy intelligence officer, apparently while he had one of the military’s highest security clearances. How can a person with a record of spreading disinformation for political reasons be allowed access to raw intelligence?
Posobiec told The Daily Beast his security clearance was put on temporary hold in February while he was in between units and after concerns were raised by his former commanding officer over his Twitter account.
“They told me it was under review, but they didn’t really explain to me what exactly it was for, but my security clearance is only on a temporary hold, it was not suspended by DoNCAF,” Posobiec said, referring to the Department of the Navy Central Adjudication Facility that is responsible for investigating and determining who within the Department of the Navy is eligible to hold a security clearance.
“Yes, I can confirm his clearance was suspended. I don’t have any additional information as to why,” a Navy spokesperson told The Daily Beast following an NBC News report about the suspension.
Though he’s now a reservist, Posobiec maintained one of the highest clearances, known as Top Secret, Secret Compartmentalized Information.
“A clearance holder who has a full-time job in a non-Governmental capacity is still bound by the rules and restrictions that come with holding a security clearance,” national security attorney Brad Moss told The Daily Beast. “Mr. Posobiec cannot ‘turn on’ and ‘turn off’ his obligation to the U.S. Government, even as a Reservist.”
That obligation would include not promoting #MacronLeaks, the Wikileaks-led effort to release 20,000 emails from the presidential campaign of Emmanuel Macron before the French election, Moss said.
“As a matter of policy, clearance holders are not supposed to be accessing WikiLeaks or particularly viewing leaked classified documentation to which they were not otherwise already authorized access,” he said.
Posobiec says he currently serves in an administrative role and does not have regular access to classified material.
“I think [Moss] is completely off-base [regarding his security clearance and WikiLeaks] because I have never once mishandled classified information, I’ve never once tweeted out classified information, I’ve never linked to classified information, I’ve never done anything on duty with classified information that would be seen as mishandling it in any way.”
Posobiec’s military unit, the Joint Reserve Intelligence Support Element Dekalb did not respond to a request for comment.
Posobiec learned about the forthcoming email dump before it was promoted by WikiLeaks when he was the Washington bureau chief for a right-wing Canadian outlet called The Rebel.
Posobiec tweeted links to WikiLeaks on at least three separate occasions, along with screenshots of being on the site from his web browser on his verified Twitter account—an apparent violation of Defense Department policy for members of the U.S. Armed Forces that came in the wake of the Chelsea Manning leaks.
Malcolm Nance, a retired Navy senior chief petty officer and former member of the U.S. intelligence community, said Posobiec “and people like him are a danger because these people are literally a fifth column for Russian intelligence. They have weaponized their contributions and conspiracy theories in the culture war.
“How he can hold a Top Secret clearance working actively in the intelligence community as a known factor in the information operations of the alt-right, which is essentially a war on media reality itself, shows that he quite possibly is one of the greatest security dangers to whatever organization he’s working on.”
More bluntly, Nance called Posobiec a “disgrace to the uniform” and said he wants the Navy to “explain how the fuck he still has access to classified information.”
Posobiec reacted to Nance’s comments by saying people who call his security clearance and service into question are “xenophobic racists.” Posobiec said Nance was referring to his fiancée, who was born in the former Soviet Union.
“It’s disgusting and offensive that he would say something like that about a fellow Navy veteran. There are many people in the military who have wives that are not born in this country and no one is calling their service into question,” Posobiec said, adding he properly reported his fiancee to his chain of command because she is a foreign national.
From Pizzagate to Presidential Retweet
On Nov. 16, 2016, Posobiec, livestreamed a visit to Comet Ping Pong, a pizzeria in Washington, D.C., that right-wing conspiracy theorists claimed housed a child sex-slave ring underground.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen to me,” he said, adding he would do a quick “IPOE,” which stands for “intelligence preparation of the operational environment.”
Posobiec had his friend pre-dial the first two numbers of 911, saying, “He’s ready to dial the last 1.”
Posobiec was kicked out by management for livestreaming and could be overheard saying they received death threats and that Posobiec was spreading false rumors. Posobiec would later ask for “sub-sources” to go in with hidden cameras. He told The Daily Beast that this call for sub-sources was to provide further confirmation that Comet Ping Pong was not engaging in anything nefarious.
In January, Posobiec was caught holding up a sign at an anti-Trump protest that said, “Rape Melania.” Posobiec told The Daily Beast the Secret Service “debunked” this, but the Secret Service did not respond to a request for comment.
Not long after, Posobiec used a one-day White House press credential to ask President Trump about the conspiracy theory that Seth Rich leaked DNC emails to Wikileaks. (Fox News and a local Fox affiliate released a now-retracted report claiming Rich “had contact with WikiLeaks prior to his death.”) Trump ignored Posobiec’s question.
Posobiec has since said he does not believe in the conspiracy theory surrounding Rich and believes he was the unfortunate victim of a crime wave in Washington, D.C.
This past weekend, Posobiec promoted a report from GotNews.com that falsely accused a Michigan man of being the driver of the vehicle that plowed into protesters in Charlottesville, killing Heather Heyer.
“Literally, I was trying to find out about the car crash, who did it and that [the GotNews.com article] was the first article I saw and I accidentally hit the retweet button,” Posobiec told The Daily Beast. “I immediately took it down, once I realized I did, but to say that I helped frame an innocent man is posterous.”
Despite being associated with the so-called “alt-right,” Posobiec said he was invited to speak in Charlottesville but he didn’t return the request.
“I’m not associated with them. They’re white nationalist scum and I condemn their objectives.”
On Monday night, Posobiec’s whataboutism tweet about murders in Chicago was retweeted by Trump and more than 26,000 other accounts.
“Like all good white supremacy conspiracy theorists, the reality of his damage to the naval service and the nation is always an attack on his race,” Nance said. “His very words are reason to remove his clearance and demand he resign his commission. Send him back to the fever swamp of Pepe the frogs.”
—with additional reporting by Ben Collins