They seem to be impelled by an ideal of loyalty: that the president who appointed them is entitled to their silence afterward. That is normally a fine principle. But all principles must take account of facts, and the facts in this case are unprecedented. They owe their duty to the president not because he is some kind of feudal lord, but because he heads and represents the state they swore to serve. And if they see things that convince them that the president poses a danger to that state, then their duty is to warn their fellow citizens, the common employers of both the aides and the president.

Their duty is to speak.

No doubt all feel pragmatic imperatives not to speak: partisan identity in some cases, ambition in others, or distaste for the unpleasantness of any conflict with the most egomaniacal, impulsive, and vituperative president in history. It’s hazardous to get crossways with Trump.

But as national-security officials, all have been party to decisions that exposed fellow Americans to the risk of their lives. Much less is asked of any of them now. They are asked only to risk their quiet retirements—their after-careers of speaking engagements and seats on boards of directors. Is that so dear?