Former FBI director James Comey is among those who could lose their security clearance in part of what is being viewed by some a White House crackdown on critics of Donald Trump.
The US president is said to be “exploring the mechanisms” for stripping clearance from Mr Comey, who has been a vocal dissenter since being fired last year.
In an explosive TV interview back in April, he said Mr Trump “lies constantly” and was “morally unfit” to be president, prompting a furious rebuke from his old boss.
Now White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders has revealed that Mr Comey – along with five other officials who served the Obama administration – could lose their security clearance.
Among the five are ex-CIA director John Brennan – who in March said Mr Trump would one day become known as “a disgraced demagogue in the dustbin of history” – and one-time national intelligence director James Clapper.
Mr Clapper told CNN that the threat was “very, very petty”, adding that it was an “abuse of the system”.
Former National Security Agency director Michael Hayden, former White House national security adviser Susan Rice and former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe are the others Ms Sanders said could lose their clearances – but a spokeswoman for Mr McCabe has said he had already lost his.
Melissa Schwartz tweeted: “Andrew McCabe’s security clearance was deactivated when he was terminated, according to what we were told was FBI policy.
“You would think the White House would check with the FBI before trying to throw shiny objects to the press corps.”
It would normally be standard practice for each of the officials to continue to hold a security clearance so that they can review their old files in case they need to be consulted on important matters.
Ms Sanders said they were being considered for having “politicised and in some cases monetised their public service and security clearances” – and “making baseless accusations” against the president.
Comments by Mr Brennan in which he slammed Mr Trump’s controversial summit with Vladimir Putin as “nothing short of treasonous” were singled out for criticism.
“When you’re the person that holds the nation’s deepest, most sacred secrets and you go out and you make false accusations against the president of the US, he thinks that is something to be very concerned with,” Ms Sanders said.
“Making baseless accusations of improper contact with Russia or being influenced by Russia against the president is extremely inappropriate. It provides inappropriate legitimacy to accusations with zero evidence.”
When asked during the Monday press briefing whether the president was punishing them because of their criticism of him, Ms Sanders said: “No, I think you are creating your own story there.”
It came as a judge revealed that Mr Brennan was one of five people granted immunity to testify in the criminal trial of the president’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort.
The trial – which was due to begin on Wednesday but has been delayed until next week – forms part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s role in the 2016 presidential election.