Gordon Adams, the former White House official for the National Security Budget, learned quickly when his job took him to the executive branch one day. extremely strict rules Controlling his own handling of classified information did not apply equally to everyone in the administration.
“I remember walking into the offices of the National Security Council to find a high-profile official sitting on the phone with his legs up and talking about a specific issue. “I was briefing with the document open,” he says. Former Deputy Director of National Security and International Affairs, Office of Management and Budget, “–speaking with reporters.”
The scene Adams witnessed was inside the office of an official who refused to give his name, violating almost every rule in the literal book governing access and control of confidential information slammed into him by word of mouth and by contract. It looked like
“The reality is that there is an information in-and-out game with taxonomies. . And he specifically adds, “We categorize too many things.”
All employees who obtain access to confidential information undergo rigorous training in its handling procedures. Then you need to “load” the same employee into a specific program or a specific access. In this case, specialized officials dictate their own security conditions. Do not discuss its content over unsecured communication lines or reveal confidential information to members of the media.
But as everyday Americans have learned from the recent rise in politicized cases, the mechanisms for classifying and processing sensitive information from the president under the chain of command are not always clear.
Rules are often deliberately violated, such as by relaying information to reporters.And because accidental leaks are frequent, such as when retiring senior leadership staff move large volumes of documents from secure facilities to storage, the National Archives A surprisingly factual set of instructions Such cases are described on its public website – reportedly in line with the actions taken by members of President Joe Biden’s staff when he made such discoveries in his archives and his private residence. Yes, it seems that was the case with former Vice President Mike Pence. His lawyer told the Archives last week that confidential documents were “accidentally” boxed up and taken to his home.
The situation remains bleak regarding the cache of classified materials discovered during the FBI raid on President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence last year.
In fact, as Adams explains, disclosure of sensitive information is “very common, not always, but usually under guidance.” In the situations he witnessed, the administration strategically released information to try to influence public debate on specific issues.
“Information is power, and that’s the point.” Recent blog posts“When you’re in executive branch, information is the common currency. If you know something, keeping it or disseminating it to the right people is an important part of politics. Accept it or don’t accept it.” or is part of politics.”
For many who have worked in the classified system of the U.S. government, as much as the system itself is to blame, so are those who deliberately divulge or collude to fail to meet their official responsibilities. .
“The American system of classifying information and declassifying information, in fact, the whole American system of thinking about classification is 100% broken,” said the founder of Southern Methodist University’s Center for the History of Presidents. Jeffrey Engel says
A 2010 estimate estimated that 50% to 90% of all classified information would need to be classified, even though the Obama administration had promised to implement transparency reforms for the American public at the time. I assumed no. Engel believes that number has only increased by 99% since then, largely due to widespread failures in reforming the system and the combined effects of the information age.
On top of that, no government official or agency is solely responsible for declassifying information, and no one has been fired for preventing the release of classified documents, so the cautious approach is overclassified. Add the fact that there is government secrets. But in an era of growing public distrust of government and a growing obsession with conspiracy theories, it has consequences.
“What this means in English is that there are countries that are more concerned about unknown threats and have 100,000 times more electronic data than what they want to use,” says Engel. . “There is probably no human being who can experience it all.”
In addition to the political situation Adams emphasized, the half-dozen former officials who described their experiences to U.S. News noted dramatic differences in the way classified information was handled by senior and junior military or political officials. pointed out.
For example, even young Army Privates and Members of Parliament generally had access to classified information only in secure facilities and practiced strictly enforced procedures for handling classified information. However, top decision makers such as the CIA director and secretary of state deal with classified information more routinely.
Also, as part of President Richard Nixon’s historic activities in Beijing in the 1970s, like when Henry Kissinger showed satellite images of Russian tanks to his Chinese counterparts, they did not value making it public. Engel points out that we might decide for ourselves.
The most pressing question facing the current Special Counsel investigation is whether any of the politicians whose actions in recent weeks have been in the public eye have knowingly used classified information, and whether it Whether or not it was for malicious purposes.
Those who have worked with highly sensitive information lament how quickly the need to protect sensitive information is diminishing. Consider, for example, the difference between protecting a U.S. infantry company’s plans to patrol a particular village in an Afghan valley the next day, and having to restrict that same information a year or a month later.
Still, these documents remain classified and may remain classified until someone petitions for their release.
Every Republican and Democratic presidential administration since World War II has repeatedly called for transparency, offering little optimism that the nature of the classification process will change, but rather become more onerous. I guess.
“In terms of historians who are constantly struggling to get more and more documents, the funnel we get each year is getting narrower and narrower,” says Engel. “There’s a problem with volume. And there’s an obsession with classification.”