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Classified

“Three may keep a secret, if two of them are dead.” Benjamin Franklin

With all the news about classified documents being found in the possession of Trump, Biden and most recently Pence, little has been said as to how they came in possession of these documents. What has been said in Trump’s case is speculation that in the mad rush to vacate the White House once the reality of having lost the election set in, his staff simply dumped everything in boxes, including these documents, and hauled them off to a basement file room in Mar-a-Lago.  In Biden’s case, he just doesn’t recall how they got wherever they were found; the same is said by Pence.

But that doesn’t really explain how something that various officials and the media claim is so critical simply is “discovered” to be where it’s not supposed to be. The responsibility for the retention and security of these documents is the Information Security Oversight Office of the National Archives and Records Administration”. When a document is requested by those with the proper clearances it is brought to what the U.S. Department of Defense calls a SCIF (Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility), basically a room certified and accredited as meeting Director of National Intelligence security standards for the processing, storage, and/or discussion of sensitive compartmented information. Wow, does this stuff get thick on the tongue but apparently thin on effectiveness.

The fact is that the process is so ineffective that there have been many presidents, vice presidents and other government officials who have been found to possess classified documents outside of these SCIFs, both while in office and after they leave office, like Truman, Carter, Clinton, Obama, and of late Trump, Biden and now Pence; all have cooperatively and willingly returned such documents, with the infamous exception of Trump who first denied possession, then fought for retention with at best dubious legal tactics. 

However, we are still left with the explanation as to how, with all these seemingly strict security protocols, does this happen? Is there some secret password they use, a special nod and wink signal to leave the SCIF with this stuff in hand? As one official at the National Archives and Records Administration anonymously confided with a reporter, the SCIF is an illusion, an invention on paper; the reality is sloppy housekeeping made newsworthy once exposed.

It is still concerning that this has happened, especially in the case with Trump and Biden, both of whom have had dubious relationships with foreign governments in Russia, Ukraine and China. While the Steele Dossier has been discredited as a fabrication by a now disgraced FBI agent, Trump’s relationship and business dealings with Putin have always been concerning, but in truth no more so than Biden’s through his son Hunter with Ukraine and China. In fact, Biden had classified documents that go back 14 years to his time as a Senator, as do Hunter’s influence peddling schemes.

Now consider the case of Julian Assange, the Australian editor, publisher, and activist who founded Wikileaks in 2006, and who the U.S. Department of Justice has indicted, alleging that he conspired with former Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to leak and publish classified documents which showed that the U.S. military killed Iraqi and Afghani civilians and did not report the incidents. Further, during the 2016 U.S. election campaign, he published confidential Democratic Party  emails showing that the party’s  national committee conspired against Bernie Sanders in the primaries in order to get Hilary Clinton the nomination. WikiLeaks also published a series of documents which detailed the CIA’s electronic surveillance of not only US allies, but US citizens. Assange has been confined in Belmarsh Prison, London since April 2019; as of July 2022, Julian Assange is appealing the UK decision granting extradition to the US. The point is that if Julian Assange is subject to prosecution for taking classified documents, and then exposing US war crimes, rigged elections and illegal surveillances, what should we expect for both Trump and Biden? My guess is Trump and Biden will not face what Assange has so far.

Which brings to my mind the question of what exactly qualifies for something to be classified information? The government’s ready answer is whatever constitutes an issue of national security; how often have we heard that line before? So what constitutes an issue of national security? When our government was more direct and honest, which was a long time ago, the answer was any issue involving military or non-military threats against the territory of the US and its citizens, their properties, their commerce and economic security; lately it seems to be whatever the government says it is. What Julian Assange is really guilty of in the eyes of the government is exposing that which it did wrong.

So who decides what information is classified?  According to Federal law classification authority may be exercised only by the President and, in the performance of executive duties, the Vice President, agency heads and officials designated by the President. Now that’s a whole lot of people who, with little if any Congressional oversight, can simply deem information to be of sufficient sensitivity as to be classified, like war crimes, rigged elections and illegal surveillances.

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Author: jvi7350

Politically I am an independent. While I tend to avoid labels, I consider myself a Libertarian. I find our politics to have deteriorated to a current state of ranting tribialism, and a growing disregard for individual rights; based on the axiom that silence is consent, I choose instead to speak out and therefore launched this blog.

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