A guide to classified information and the Trump Mar-a-Lago warrant


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When a federal magistrate judge on Friday unsealed the court-authorized warrant used to search the home of former President Donald Trump, he also made public an inventory of all items captured in the high-profile raid.

The unprecedented search was linked to an investigation into the possible mishandling of classified documents, including material related to nuclear weapons, The Washington Post reported Thursday.

Agents at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago seized 11 sets of classified documents, court files show

The inventory of 28 seized items gives a glimpse of what was still preserved at Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s residence and private beach club in Florida, more than a year after the National Archives and Records Agency began trying to track presidential records that had been erroneously taken from the White House at the end of Trump’s presidency. It offers few details.

Here’s what you need to know about classified information to help decipher some of the items in the inventory list.

FBI searched Trump’s home for nuclear documents and other items, sources say

What is classified information?

Classified information refers to documents and other documents that the government considers sensitive. Access is generally limited to people who have passed the appropriate background checks.

There are three broad levels of classified information.

Confidential defined as information that could “damage” national security if made public is the lowest level, according to Steven Aftergood, a security specialist with the Federation of American Scientists. The largest number of government employees and contractors – thousands upon thousands – have access to this information. It could contain basic cables from the State Department and information from a foreign government, Aftergood said.

“Even if it’s not very sensitive secrets, it would be marked confidential,” Aftergood said. “And you don’t want to release it because it would complicate diplomatic relations with that foreign government.”

Secret is the next level of classification, referring to material that, if released, could cause “serious damage” to national security. Aftergood said this is the broadest category. For example, the budget of a US intelligence agency could be classified as ‘secret’.

The most sensitive information is classified as: very secret, it mean could pose an “exceptionally serious threat” to national security. And within “top secret” there are a number of subclassifications that often deal with the most protected pieces of American information and intelligence. Top secret information could be weapon design and war plans.

Sensitive compartmentalized information, a category that falls under the “top secret” classification, includes information derived from sources and intelligence. That could be an electronic interception or information provided by a human informant abroad.

“The concern is that if it were revealed, not only would it endanger national security, but also the individual source or method,” Aftergood said.

How do agents get warrants like those used at Mar-a-Lago, and what do they mean?

What classified information did Trump allegedly possess?

FBI agents have recovered four sets of “top secret” documents, three sets of “confidential” documents and three sets of “secret” documents from Mar-a-Lago, according to the list of items seized in the raid and handed over by a judge. unsealed Another set of documents was labeled ‘Various classified TS/SCI documents’, a reference to ‘top secret’ and ‘Sensitive compartmentalized information’.

But the list did not describe the documents beyond their classification levels. Since much of the seized information was classified, lawyers had warned in advance that any inventory list would be vague to protect the contents of the documents.

How is information classified?

In theory, the president decides which information is classified and which is not. But in practice, the president delegates the responsibility to the cabinet and the heads of the agencies, who can then pass the responsibility on to others who work for them.

“In the executive branch, there are a few hundred officials who can generate and designate it,” Aftergood said.

Who has access to classified information?

Government workers and contractors must undergo background checks to obtain the necessary authorization to access classified information. The more sensitive the information, the more difficult the background check process a person would have to go through to get consent. There is certain classified information that thousands of people have access to. For other information, only a handful of people have the necessary permission levels to access it. The president would have access to every document and all intelligence information.

Some employees are required to sign non-disclosure agreements when they leave the government to ensure they don’t discuss classified information they had access to while on the job, said Javed Ali, a senior National Security Council official during the Trump administration who is now teaches at the University of Michigan.

“You go through serious background checks to get permission, and not everyone passes,” Ali said. “You want people to be able to trust this sensitive information and do the right thing.”

Can a president release information?

Yes, the president has the authority to release information. According to Ali, there is usually a process to do that. It includes communication with the cabinet or head of the agency from which the information originated to ensure that its disclosure does not pose a risk to national security.

Trump’s team has publicly said it released all documents found in Florida before leaving the White House. But it is unclear whether he has gone through a document-by-document declassification process, in conjunction with the relevant agency.

Can a President Remove Legally Released Information from the White House?

No, according to security experts. There are other laws protecting the country’s most sensitive secrets other than how it is classified. For example, according to Aftergood, some intelligence and documents related to nuclear weapons cannot be released by the president. Aftergood said such information is protected by another law, the Atomic Energy Act.

Another law – called “collecting, transmitting or losing defense information” – states that it is illegal to remove national security documents from their proper place if doing so could endanger the security of the country. regardless of the classification level of the information.

“The classification is only part of the picture,” Aftergood said. There are other protections in the law that can make disclosure or unauthorized retention problematic or even criminal.

Removing certain property and documents from the White House would also violate the Presidential Records Act, which requires presidents to keep official records while in office. By law, documents belonging to a presidency are public property and not owned by the president or the White House team. Violating the Records Act would be a civil, not a criminal offence.

Speaking of violations, what laws were violated according to the warrant?

The warrant contains the codes of three US laws that may have been violated. That doesn’t mean they’ve all been broken, though, or that these are the only laws that could have been violated in connection with the FBI’s investigation. The laws cover the destruction or movement of government documents and include criminal penalties.

Section 793 – “Collecting, Transmitting or Losing Defense Information” – is known as the Espionage Act. It’s a broad law, and breaking it doesn’t necessarily mean someone has committed espionage. The law states that it is illegal to remove documents or records related to national security from their proper place if doing so could endanger the security of the country.

“It’s almost a misnomer because when people hear ‘espionage,’ they think of the classic definition of espionage,” Ali said. “But this has nothing to do with that, as far as we know. This may not be the cloak and dagger of espionage.”

The second, Section 1519 – “Destruction, Alteration, or Falsification of Data in Federal Investigations and Bankruptcies” – criminalizes the destruction or concealment of documents to obstruct an investigation. The warrant does not specify what investigation could impede the removal of these documents. It carries a maximum prison sentence of 20 years.

And the third, Section 2071 – “Disclosure, Removal, or Mutilation in General” – makes the willful theft or destruction of any government document illegal. Any violation of this act is punishable by up to three years in prison. A person convicted of violating this section may not hold federal office by law.

Government officials accused in the past of mishandling classified information include David H. Petraeus, a CIA director during the Obama administration, and Samuel R. “Sandy” Berger, a national security adviser during the Clinton administration. . Both eventually pleaded guilty to charges of unlawful removal of classified documents.

The Valley Voice
The Valley Voicehttp://thevalleyvoice.org
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for The Valley Voice, with a focus on sports and stories related to race and culture.


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