(BBC) President Donald Trump is considering revoking security clearances for ex-CIA Director John Brennan and other Obama-era critics of his administration.
The White House named six former intelligence, law enforcement and national security chiefs.
Press secretary Sarah Sanders said they had “politicised and in some cases monetised their public service” to make “baseless accusations” about Mr Trump.
But at least two of them no longer have security clearance.
In Monday’s scheduled news conference, Mrs Sanders also cited former FBI Director James Comey, former Director of National Intelligence National James Clapper, former National Security Adviser Susan Rice, former National Security Agency Director Michael Hayden and former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe.
She denied a reporter’s suggestion that the president wanted to punish the former officials for free speech.
The press secretary said Mr Trump “doesn’t like the fact that people are politicising agencies and departments that are specifically meant to not be political and to be monetised off security clearances”.
She said security clearance “provides inappropriate legitimacy to accusations with zero evidence”.
Mr Clapper told CNN the plan was “a very, very petty thing to do”.
Mrs Sanders said that “accusing the president of the United States of treasonous activity… when you have the nation’s deepest, most sacred secrets at your hands” was something that made Mr Trump “very concerned”.
Mr Hayden said on Twitter after the announcement that even if the president decided to take away his clearance, it would not change anything he says or writes.
A spokeswoman for Mr McCabe, who was fired days before his retirement earlier this year, said that his clearances had already been deactivated due to “FBI policy”.
A friend of Mr Comey tweeted that the fired FBI chief no longer possesses a security clearance.
Mr Comey turned down an offer for a temporary clearance “lest the president accuse him of leaking”, according to Benjamin Wittes of the Brookings Institute.
Senator Mazie Hirono, a Democrat from Hawaii, tweeted of the security clearances threat: “This is what totalitarianism looks like.”
Earlier on Monday, Senator Rand Paul, a Kentucky Republican, tweeted that he had advised Mr Trump to revoke security clearance for Mr Brennan and “others partisans”.
John Brennan: A frequent critic of the current president, only last week the former CIA director called Mr Trump’s summit in Finland with Russian President Vladimir Putin “nothing short of treasonous”.
James Comey: The former FBI director, whom Mr Trump fired, has called the president “morally unfit” to lead. His memoir, A Higher Loyalty, likened Mr Trump to a mob boss.
James Clapper: Another outspoken critic, the ex-intelligence chief has said the Watergate scandal “pales in comparison” to the Russia collusion inquiry dogging the Trump presidency.
Andrew McCabe: After the White House sacked the deputy FBI director days before he could retire with full pension benefits, he blamed Mr Trump for making his family “the targets of an unrelenting assault on our reputation and my service to this country”.