After a summer of outrage over classified documents found at Mar-a-Lago, public figures, from press personalities to former intelligence officials, are now suggesting that the mishandling of classified documents is commonplace.
In August, former President Trump was embroiled in scandal when the FBI raided his Florida property to recover classified documents. The tables were turned in January with revelations that classified documents were found at President Biden’s Delaware residence and DC office.
Suddenly, public figures from powerful institutions have come out of nowhere to explain how easy it is to mishandle classified material or how too many documents get classified in the first place.
In early January, former CIA lawyer Brian Greer explained on a CNN segment that the mishandling of classified documents is commonplace.
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“Because this kind of mismanagement happens all the time and now it’s become such political football with the last three presidential candidates being investigated, I’m concerned, while we need to take all of this seriously and it should be investigated, I’m concerned. overcriminalizing it,” he said.
“CNN This Morning” had a segment on Thursday in which Kaitlan Collins explained how “common” it is to find classified documents outside of their “places and spaces.” A deputy news chyron said the common “spill” of classified information is “Washington’s little secret.”
In the same segment, homeland security reporter Katie Bo Lillis claimed that such mishaps or “classified spills” happen “almost literally every day.” Lillis further added: “In more serious cases, there may be penalties such as losing security clearance or being fired.”
Lillis noted that the “overclassification” of documents is a widely cited concern.
“There are over 4 million security clearance holders floating around, and some national security officials will also acknowledge that the US government has a big problem with overclassification,” he said. “There are just millions and millions of pieces of classified information, not all of them are exquisite.”
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A Washington Post “Fact Checker” analysis by Glenn Kessler published on the same phenomenon on January 11.
The article, titled “Biden, Trump, and Classified Documents: An Explanation,” answered the question “Do classified documents often appear in someone’s improper possession?”
Kessler cited a lawyer with extensive experience on this issue.
“It happens all the time, according to Mark S. Zaid, an attorney who defends people who have committed security breaches,” he wrote. “People retire or leave a job, pack boxes, and sometimes find out years later that they accidentally put a classified document in their garage or attic.”
Zaid said it is the “hoarders” who are facing legal trouble for allegedly bringing home “a lot of classified documents” without authorization.
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NPR published an article on the same “overrating” concern on Tuesday. Oona Hathaway, a Yale University law professor and former special counsel to the Pentagon, was interviewed.
He stated that overclassification “has been a problem for decades”, further noting that “people who have been looking at classification and thinking about classification have long recognized that the system is out of control.”
Hathaway also commented on the Biden documents, saying, “Well, it’s hard to know exactly what’s going on with the Biden administration because we haven’t seen those documents. And it’s hard to know if those are documents that really shouldn’t have been classified.” .”
He also theorized about the way they were stored.
“The fact that they are mixed with a large number of documents that were not classified suggests that they were just part of a set of files that classified information slipped into and inadvertently took the boxes with them when they left,” Hathaway speculated. .
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On Thursday, NPR published an article titled “Is the US Government Designating Too Many Documents ‘Classified’?” based on an interview with historian Matthew Connelly heard on “Fresh Air”.
“On average, Connelly says, records are marked as classified three times a second, leading to so many secret documents that it’s virtually impossible to keep them all,” NPR said.
When asked about how Biden handled the classified documents, Connelly said: “I think you can look at it two ways: One way to look at it is that this is just more evidence of how state secrecy is out of control. It’s just they can not”. keep track of all the secrets you are generating, because there are too many. And so even if you give credit to Joseph Biden and the people around him and think they were responsible [stewards of these documents]So you still have to wonder: How did they lose track of records that apparently, at least in some cases, were classified as top secret?
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ABC News contributor and former acting assistant secretary for intelligence and analysis at the Department of Homeland Security John Cohen spoke about the issue on ABCNews’ “Start Here” podcast.
“Unless you’re working in an organization like the CIA or another intelligence community organization, where all you’re working on is classified information, and these types of security breaches aren’t that uncommon when you’re working with large amounts of documents. and you are mixing classified reports with unclassified documents,” he said, “it’s not uncommon for there to be situations where people inadvertently mix them up and walk out of SCIF or a secure facility with a document they shouldn’t have. .”
He continued: “Security breaches sound very, very dire, but in many cases, they are just accidents.”