Spokespersons for the FBI, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the CIA and the National Security Agency declined to comment.
For now, the risk of Trump’s storage of top-secret documents at his Palm Beach, Florida resort remains purely theoretical. It is not known publicly who accessed or viewed the classified material in the boxes recovered by the archives and the FBI — or what the documents themselves reveal.
But current and former US officials have sounded alarm bells about the potential danger posed by the highly insecure storage of such sensitive documents, and top US lawmakers have put pressure on the intelligence community to tell us in detail what they know about the consequences.
There are multiple concerns for intelligence officials, including that classified US programs may have been revealed. There is also concern that the sensitive ways the US government collects classified information — including human sources, overseas wiretaps and other tech platforms like satellites — have been exposed to the wrong eyes and become useless. Of particular concern is the possibility of a human resource being put in physical danger if their identities are revealed to a hostile government.
Formal damage assessments such as those announced by Haines are designed not only to reveal any immediate damage from exposure of classified information, but also to look at the long-term risks of that information being made public, said Brian Greer, a former CIA attorney specializing in national security investigations. Such an assessment could, for example, analyze whether there are foreign policy concerns for the US if a particular piece of classified information were revealed.
That’s different, Greer said, from the kind of case-by-case assessment done by the relevant operational units at each agency aimed at immediate damage mitigation.
“It makes sense to me that this has been going on since the second time the FBI identified those documents,” Greer said. “Those efforts to reduce risk are different from a formal assessment, which will be analytical in nature and look not just at immediate harm, but also long-term harm — it’s both concrete and theoretical.”
According to Greer, there are some potential risks associated with conducting a full damage assessment: in particular, that it could hinder the criminal prosecution that the Department of Justice could pursue as a result of the investigation. In theory, the damages assessment could be discovered in court and there is a risk that the defense will be given the opportunity for what is known as “graymail” – the threat of revealing state secrets in public court to get the DOJ to hear the case. drop.
Haines promised in her Friday notification to Congress that the ODNI will “coordinate closely with DOJ to ensure that this IC review is conducted in a manner that does not unnecessarily interfere with DOJ’s ongoing criminal investigation.”
In January, the National Archives recovered 15 boxes of presidential material containing 184 documents marked with classified markings, “including 67 documents marked CONFIDENTIAL, 92 documents marked SECRET and 25 documents marked TOP SECRET,” according to a DOJ affidavit released on Friday.
The Justice Department earlier this month requested a search warrant to search Mar-a-Lago and obtained 11 sets of classified material, including one marked “top secret/SCI” and four marked “top secret.”