• Classified for You, Not Me

    January 21, 2023 // 1 Comment »

    Without double-standards would we have any standards for classified information left at all?

    President Biden said Tuesday he was “surprised” to learn in November his lawyers found classified documents in his former office at a Washington think tank. Biden’s lawyers discovered a cache of classified documents as they packed up his former office at the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement. The tone of the MSM seems to be boys will be boys, and since Biden is being so cooperative with classification authorities after being caught red-handed and after being allowed to hide the story until post-midterms, maybe this has nothing in common with Trump’s cache of classified documents at Mar-a-Lago. Or Hillary’s cache on her private e-mail server. Could there be a double-standard?

    Biden had  some/several/a bunch of classified documents while Trump had thousands so that’s different. Yes, on Sesame Street four is bigger than three, but with classified documents it is not a meaningful difference. The law is clear each document is a violation, and there are no discounts for having under a certain number. One classified document is enough to seek indictment. But let’s not forget about Hillary, who was allowed not only to carry over 33,000 subpoenaed documents in the form of emails out of secure spaces on her server, but to delete them. Imagine if Biden reported he and his team simply deleted whatever they had found, never mind if Trump had had a bonfire.

    Biden’s documents were safe inside a locked closet. Classification law is extremely clear how documents must be stored, specifying for example, how many minutes a safe is expected to withstand against an attempt to cut it open. In the case of the Secure Compartmentalized Information (SCI) level docs Biden, Trump, and Hillary held, details are written into law and regulation as to what type of room, with what type of door, they are to be stored in. “Closet” does not find the definition whether it is at Biden’s place, Mar-a-Lago or Hillary’s home housing her email server.

    Nobody saw the documents. Maybe it wasn’t to standard, but they were kept under lock and key. No blood, no foul. Sez who? The reason all those laws and regs regarding classified exist are to safeguard the documents absolutely, so instead of arguing whether the cleaning crew would have had access to them or not, one can say “U.S. Marines guard these documents in the equivalent of a bank vault deep inside the White House 24/7, that’s who sez so. With Hillary, the question of illicit access begs for a starting point, because the end point, an unclassified, insecure out-of-the-box email server connected to the internet itself meant any hacker with moderate skills, including those assigned to attack her official trips to China and Russia, presumably had full access.

    Biden’s documents were just old briefing notes, nothing so important. If the documents were labeled Top Secret or SCI when created then that was their classification, no matter what we think of the contents today. The law is clear arguing the level of classification after getting caught is not a viable strategy, and retroactive classification is not an option. “The documents were not important even though they were classified” is simply not a defense after getting caught. It sounds a lot like the infamous “nuclear weapons” docs Trump had were briefing documents as well. News reports state the nuclear documents dealt with the capabilities of one specific country, and thus were likely part of Biden’s broader briefing package ahead of meeting that nation’s leader, or ahead of weighing in on what U.S. opinion might be on an issue concerning nuclear weapons proliferation.

    Biden cooperated with the Justice Department and National Archives and Trump Didn’t. It is almost always taken into account at sentencing whether the perp cooperated with law enforcement, and sometimes a reduced sentence is in order. But there is nothing in the law (any law) which says if you cooperate after getting caught whatever you did was not a crime. And again look at Hillary — her response to accusations was to electronically shred (Bleachbit) all the documents in her possession and then destroy the hardware they had been stored on. And no brownie points to a MSM who seem to be trying to present Biden’s cooperation as sign of responsibility — after the fact, of course.

    Maybe some of the documents were not clearly marked classified. This one is included for historical purposes because Hillary made such a claim; Biden and Trump have not. Documents are given a classification based on their content and the sources of that content. The marking itself (e.g., Secret) just sums up what there is to say about the content itself. If you remove the Secret moniker by retyping things (as appears the case with Hillary) or just tearing off that part of the document, it does not change the classification.

    A matter of trust. Apparently the Justice Department is just going to take Biden’s word that all is well, and all the classified has been found. Something along the same lines with Hillary. Trump of course saw his own home raided by the FBI, armed with automatic weapons, in a frantic search for more evidence, and the alleged documents splayed on the floor and photographed like TV drama crime scene evidence. In the Biden and Hillary cases, it appears the lust for evidence is not quite as strong. We’ll note the Biden documents were found the day before the midterm elections, when the story would have been political dynamite, and held until two months later when they were presented as a nothing burger. Why did the Biden Justice Department hold the news so long? Why did they wait until Republicans announced a possible Church-style investigation to show how cleanish everyone’s hands are, cooperating and all?

    Fun Fact. Presidents are allowed to declassify any document while in office, and Trump has issued a disputed claim that before leaving office he declassified all the documents the FBI found when it searched Mar-a-Lago in August. The same privilege of broad declassification does not apply universally to Vice Presidents (Biden’s classified documents are from his time as VP) or Secretaries of State.

    The next move lies with Attorney General Merrick Garland, who will decide what if anything is to be done about Joe Biden improperly storing highly classified documents at a think tank while holding no public office. Garland’s predecessor filed no charges against Hillary. Garland himself appointed a Special Prosecutor for the Trump case. Arguments the Biden and Trump cases are different ignore that those differences seem to have no meaning in the law itself and are superficial, appearing to be a big deal to those uninformed as to how classification works, a false unequivalency. Transparency? Timeliness? Garland seems oblivious to the concerns of the newly-elected Republican Congress that a full-on witch hunt is in play to defeat Candidate Trump prior to any election, using the criminal justice system to defeat Trump when the electoral system will not.

    Given the real, lawfully meaningful similarity among the three cases, where will the standards of justice fall this time? As a nation of laws, need we test so often who is above the law? The point is that if the FBI is going to take a similar fact sets and ignore one while aggressively pursuing another, it is partial and political. Any further action against Trump must address why Hillary was not searched and prosecuted herself, and if so, why not Biden as well. Fair is fair, after all.

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    Posted in Biden, Democracy, Trump