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Are All Those Classified Documents a Threat?

              Now that Trump’s trial for the charges brought against him for taking all those classified documents home is coming up, we’re beginning to get lots of Fake News noise about the threats to ‘national security’ which are involved. Because after all, we have fried a couple of people – Ethel and Julius Rosenberg – for handing over secrets to the other side, and there have also been a couple of guys spending their lives in the Colorado Super-Max for doing the same thing.

              But in Trump’s case, we’re not talking about a few classified documents that were dropped off in some garbage can in Rock Creek Park. We’re talking about hundreds, maybe thousands of top-secret materials that Trump could sell to our adversaries because he’s broke and needs the cash to pay his legal bills.

              Here’s the latest warning about how all those classified documents lying around in the homes of Trump, Biden and other former or current government employees constitutes a grave threat, an op-ed for CNN produced by a guy who “conducted and supervised criminal, counterintelligence and counterterrorism investigations and operations for the Department of Defense, Office of the Director of National Intelligence and Department of Homeland Security.”

              And here’s what this expert has to say when it comes to whether we might be looking at a serious problem which could create God knows how much damage to national security: “When classified information fails to be safeguarded, including retaining documents in a home office or garage such as Biden did or a bathroom such as Trump did, national security can be jeopardized in several ways.”

            This statement assumes that the documents in question actually contain information which if transferred or sold to another country, would actually make us vulnerable to an attack or a threat from somewhere else.

            But such an assumption implies that the process of deciding that a particular piece of information is ‘classified’ and therefore needs to be kept under strict lock and key is a process which somehow reflects the military or strategic value of the information involved. And that assumption happens not to be true.

            Back in the 1980’s, when we were still fighting something known as the Cold War, I was the Security Clearance Officer at a university which annually received hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal funding to conduct all sorts of military research on the campus. In fact, this campus still had the building where some of the research had been conducted which led to the development of the atomic bomb.

            Every month I reported to a military agency called DARPA, which stands for Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and was housed under the Department of the Army. I not only processed all security clearance applications for faculty members who were doing classified research. I also had to go around and inspect the various laboratories and other physical sites where the research was being done.

            My inspections required me to make sure that only individuals with the proper clearance could actually access a particular research site. I also had to make sure that all documentation covering any research was locked up and securely stored every night.

            Every three months or so I would go to a weekend DARPA conference where someone from the agency would review any changes in the rules, and then we would all retire to the lounge in the conference center’s motel for a drink and then another drink. Most of the security officers attending this meeting were former military guys who were now working for private companies which conducted classified research.

            In other words, they knew how to drink, and after we knocked back a couple, we went into the dining room and had a good, steak meal. While we were eating, there was always someone at our table recounting the latest visit to his company from a DARPA employee who would wander around for an hour, ask a few questions about this or about that, and then announce that everything appeared to be in ‘tip top shape’ and go home.

            Lemme tell you something about how and why documents are designated to be ‘classified’ and therefore contain information vital to our national defense. You stuck the documents in a folder, you inked your stamp, you smashed the stamp down ion the outside of the folder and now there was a big, red ‘classified’ word on the folder’s cover.

            In the three years I served as Security Clearance Officer, I designated every piece of paper connected to every, single DARPA-funded research project as being a classified document which meant that the information on that page was vital to national security and helped protect us from any and all military threats.

            It didn’t matter whether a document I classified described some lab test which did or didn’t work. It didn’t matter whether the document was the lab assistant’s shopping list given to him by his wife which he forgot to take to the supermarket when he stopped to buy groceries on his way home.

            If I said the paperwork in a folder was classified, it was. And nobody gave a shit about anything I said. Foe that matter, nobody cared whether they could open up this folder and learn the specs of some heat-resistant metal or learn that the lab assistant’s wife was at home waiting for that box of Pampers and that quart of milk.

            I can just imagine how the Chinese will send some spy over here to work as a waiter in some Chinese restaurant during the daytime and sneak into some lab where they are doing classified research at night.

            If I’m the Security Clearance Officer at that research facility I’ll open the door for that guy to come in and photograph every document he can find, assuming he’ll bring me some egg rolls and not forget the duck sauce.





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