Ashkan Soltani is a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist. He was also recently given a position working with the White House on privacy and data ethics, as well as doing technical outreach. However, he is probably going to have a hard time doing his job since the White House has denied him the security clearance necessary to perform the tasks, citing his work reporting on the Edward Snowden story when it broke in 2013. Soltani previously worked for the Washington Post and was on the team of journalists who analyzed – and even protected – the set of sensitive documents leaked by Snowden.
Though Soltani currently works for the FTC, he was undergoing the tests and checks to be able to work in the White House. He passed a drug test, but was still waiting to undergo the background checks that it takes to be able to work in the White House. Though it seems clear why his clearance was denied, Ashkan is not reading too much into it. “This is something that happens from time to time, and I won’t speculate on the reasons…I am proud of my work, I passed the mandatory drug screening some time ago and the FBI background check was still underway. There was also no allegation that it was based on my integrity or the quality of my work.”
The White House simply said that Soltani’s “detail” has ended, and he will go back to work at the FTC. Industry experts believe that it’s certainly no coincidence that Soltani didn’t pass the background check, and some speculate that the government will continue to be hard on the journalists who worked on that case.
Soltani has worked on public policy for awhile now, and his background is in security research. Currently he serves as chief technologist for the FTC, working on protecting consumers from new cyber threats and fraud.
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