Biden’s Classified Documents Scandal Won’t Go Away

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The photo you see here was taken in 2013. It shows then–Vice President Joe Biden standing in the Oval Office with his back to the window. Next to him stands Obama’s press secretary and to his front is an assembled group of reporters. Biden is holding — and apparently referring to or even reading from — a document clearly marked “Codeword” and “Classified.”

We’ll never know if that document is one of the dozens or hundreds of classified documents — many reportedly classified as “top secret” and which include intelligence information on Ukraine, Iran, and the United Kingdom — that have been recovered from Biden’s “think tank” in D.C. and his home in Delaware.

Biden’s possession of classified documents in his home is just as illegal as was former President Donald Trump’s and former Vice President Mike Pence’s. Biden’s media minions are trying to belittle the scandal but it just won’t go away. Nor should it.

The New York Times recently declared that the government classifies too much information and documentation. That may be true, but it’s no excuse for Biden’s negligence and irresponsibility.

At last count, there have been five searches of his Delaware home and garage. The latest resulted in six “items” being taken. The “items” could very well be boxes holding dozens or hundreds of classified documents. Some of the documents were taken from his office when he was vice president, and some were taken from his office as senator, which he occupied from 1973 to 2009.

Members of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence were briefed on the Biden and Trump classified documents scandals a few days ago. They have demanded to see copies of the documents held by Biden and Trump, but the intelligence community is refusing to produce them.

They — and we — have no knowledge about what categories of classification most of the documents recovered from Biden’s home and think tank were in, but we do know that some — perhaps many — were classified as “top secret.”

There are three categories of classified information, which range from “confidential” — the lowest — to “secret” and the highest, “top secret.” Codeword information is within the top-secret category, which also includes sensitive compartmented information (SCI), satellite intelligence, codes, codeword programs, and special access programs, which are usually covert operations authorized by special presidential order and often leave blood on the floor.

How did Biden take classified documents from the Senate? Biden served on the Judiciary and Foreign Affairs committees but never on the Intelligence Committee. Thus, he would — and should — have had far less access to classified documents than a Senate Select Committee on Intelligence member.

Taking a classified document from the Senate requires a considerable degree of irresponsibility and, perhaps, ingenuity. I asked my friend, retired Missouri Sen. Kit Bond, about it. Bond served as vice chairman of the Select Committee on Intelligence, and I asked him how classified documents — and conversations about classified information — were handled when he and Biden were in the Senate.

Bond told me, “We kept ALL of our papers and discussions in the SCIF. I never even thought to take anything out.”

A SCIF is a “sensitive compartmented information” facility that is regularly swept for bugs and is supposedly sealed tight against electronic monitoring. When I served in the Pentagon, we had several SCIFs available for such discussions, including “the Tank,” a room without windows that was sealed with a bank vault–like door when we were inside. Like Sen. Bond, it never occurred to me to not handle those documents — or any conversations about classified information — with anything but the utmost care.

To my knowledge, there is only one SCIF available to senators and congressmen. It’s a sealed room in the Capitol building to which admission is supposed to be limited.

As a senator or vice president, Biden had no authority to declassify information or documents. Trump had that authority when he was president, but his handling of classified information is under investigation — as is Biden’s — by a Justice Department special counsel.

There is little difference between Biden’s handling of classified documents and Trump’s, with two exceptions.

First, Trump resisted turning over the classified documents in his possession. Second, Trump’s claim that he had declassified all of the documents is undocumented. Trump’s claim, made in a Fox News interview, was simply nonsense.

In that interview, Trump said:

Different people say different things but as I understand it, if you’re the president of the United States, you can declassify just by saying it’s declassified, even by thinking about it.

Because you’re sending it to Mar-a-Lago or wherever you’re sending it. There doesn’t have to be a process. There can be a process, but there doesn’t have to be. You’re the president — you make that decision.

Baloney. Trump could have declassified documents by simply scribbling “declassified” on them, adding the date and his signature or initials. But he didn’t do that. There is a process and it has to be followed or the supposed declassification isn’t effective.

The worst of the handlers of top-secret information was then–Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her staff. They frequently exchanged classified information — including top-secret information and satellite intelligence (“SITK”, i.e., “Special Intelligence Talent Keyhole”) — on Clinton’s totally unsecured “Clintonmail” private email system. Any foreign power could — and many probably did — intercept some or all of those emails.

Clinton’s conduct, and that of her staff, was so obviously and blatantly criminal that only then–FBI director James Comey could conclude that there was no prosecutable offense in their conduct.

There are now two Justice Department “special counsels” who are (separately) investigating Trump’s and Biden’s illegal possession of classified documents. In the context of either case, each is highly unlikely to result in prosecution. The Clinton case alone would make a mockery of either special counsel if he tried to bring a case against either Biden or Trump.

The Select Committee on Intelligence — whose primary function is oversight of the president and intelligence community’s actions with respect to intelligence matters — should be given copies of all of the classified documents found in Trump’s and Biden’s possession.

The Select Committee on Intelligence should also be given whatever damage assessments the intelligence community has made or is making with respect to the Biden, Trump, and Clinton possible leaks of classified information. (A damage assessment is an exercise to determine what effect, if any, the presumed disclosure of secret information has had.) That information, too, is being withheld from the Select Committee on Intelligence.

In Biden’s case, the scandal goes beyond him and his staff. Biden’s “think tank,” the University of Pennsylvania–affiliated Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement, enabled Biden to earn $900,000 while giving a few lectures at the university.

The Penn Biden Center is alone among former presidents’ such groups in that it produced little to none of the academic research that is normally produced by these groups. Its founding also corresponded with an increase in Chinese donations to the University of Pennsylvania. Were there leaks of classified documents or information to China or other nations? We may never know, but the special counsel investigating Biden’s illegal possession of classified documents should find out.

One final note. There is a report that a long 2014 email authored by Biden’s son Hunter and sent to his business partner, Devon Archer, was found on Hunter’s laptop and contained classified information on Ukraine.

Did Hunter Biden get that information from the documents carelessly stored in Joe Biden’s house and garage? If so, the statute of limitations has probably run out on punishing that crime. Nevertheless, the special counsel investigating Biden’s reckless handling of government secrets should find out.

Government secrets have always been too vulnerable to discovery by foreign spies. Joseph Stalin, according to The Mitrokhin Archive — a compilation and explanation of documents stolen from KGB files — knew about the Manhattan Project’s development of the atomic bomb before Harry Truman did. There are too many other examples — the Walker spy ring, Edward Snowden, China’s relentless cyber espionage, and many others — to catalog here.

But foreign spies are only half of the problem. As long as presidents, vice presidents, their cabinet members, and their staffs are careless with our nation’s most closely held secrets, those secrets will never be safe.

Reporting from The American Spectator.