President of United States is privy to lots of top secret (in a colloquial, not technical sense) information.

What are the rules and mechanisms in play to prevent a former POTUS from:

  1. Divulging that information to other governments

  2. Using that information themselves

  3. Actually becoming the president or prime minister of another country (i.e., are there any international customs to prevent this; or does the United States have any authority to say "no, you can't become president over there because it is a conflict of our interests"?).


1 Answer 1


In any job with clearance to see classified information, you do have a "lifetime" obligation to protect classified information after you leave a job, not just while in employment. Presumably, as part of the lame duck session, the President will sign some papers that he acknowledges that he is still obligated by law to protect classified information under penalty of law. This prevents the former POTUS from divulging the information or acting upon it. As all former Presidents still receive Secret Service protection, they are in reach of Federal Law enforcement at all times, who can pick him up if such violations occur and a warrant is issued.

  • But, if he were to become the president of another country, that warrant would be an act of war, no? So, Barack Obama, if elected Prime Minister of Greece, could effectively tell all state secrets, and also give highly classified information regarding, say, ISIS, as would be his responsibility.
    – user31078
    Commented Mar 19, 2018 at 16:04
  • @user31078: I'm unaware of this being even remotely possible. President Obama is not, to my knowledge, a citizen of Greece, which typically is required for a parliamentary run. In so far as I am aware, most nations will not allow former heads of government/state to hold high office in their own country upon retirement. Unless there is some political movement I'm unaware of, this won't likely happen.
    – hszmv
    Commented Mar 20, 2018 at 14:26
  • You're too unimaginative, my friend. This is a hypothetical scenario. This simply will not happen, but it absolutely could happen in a democratic election. Unless it is expressly forbidden in a country's legal code either indirectly (e.g., banning non-native born citizens from running for president), or directly (banning any former head of state from participating in their election). Becoming a citizen of a country is not impossible, and it could be done. And, if he were to become a citizen, and get elected, what legal issues would arrive?
    – user31078
    Commented Mar 21, 2018 at 1:17

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