After Gov. Mark Sanford admitted leaving the country for a secret tryst in Argentina, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security suspended the governor's security clearance because of questions raised 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 suggest high-level supervisors were involved.
In a certified letter to Sanford dated July 1, Katherine Janosek, chief of the Homeland Security's Personnel Security Division, wrote the "Office of Security has suspended your access to classified information" with the agency.
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 security clearance 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."
A week later, Janosek wrote back to Sanford and SLED that the governor's clearance had been reinstated, adding "the suspension of your clearance was made in error."
Among the documents received in response to The Post and Courier's open records request was a partially blacked out copy of a news story about Sanford's emotional confession that he secretly flew to Argentina to visit a woman with whom he was having an affair.
Earlier this summer, Sara Kuban, Homeland Security's press secretary, told The Post and Courier that an agency employee was operating without consulting anyone else in restricting Sanford's security clearance, and that "as soon as senior DHS officials learned that it occurred, it was immediately rectified."
At the time, officials with Homeland Security and the governor's office declined to say whether the suspension was related to Sanford's secret trip to South America and affair with Maria Belen Chapur.
Chapur is a former TV reporter and English interpreter in Buenos Aires. She told The Associated Press in 2005 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: "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 he was exposed to classified materials during his tenure. "I don't recall the federal government being very forthcoming at all with classified information," he said.
However, Hodges said 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 his 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."