A Question for Ricochet’s ‘Classified Documents’ Experts

 

Recently I heard someone discuss an aspect of the Biden classified documents matter that I was hoping people “in the know” around here could clarify, verify, and/or rebut.  FWIW, I believe what I heard was on the Commentary podcast, but I don’t recall for sure.

The commenter noticed that the Biden documents (or at least some of them) were “loose” and in an envelope that indicated they had been removed from their proper folder.  The commenter interpreted this fact to indicate an intention on Biden’s part to “hide” the documents.  In any event, this prompted several questions in my mind that I hope some could answer:

  1. Is there a standard “packaging” for classified documents to be enclosed in?  For example, will they ever be loose/uncovered, or should they be in an opaque folder or envelope?  Will the documents be clipped into the folder or will they lie loose?
  2. Assuming that question 1 above is answered that the documents come with special “enclosures”, is the reader permitted to remove the documents from the folder?  Is it permissible for the documents to ever be out, for example, lying on a desk?
  3. Do classified documents come in large packets (say, 20 pages or more), such that a person could remove a few pages without it being easily noticed?

I’m mainly trying to figure out whether the mere fact that some documents were loose in an envelope marked “personal” is per se evidence of intentional wrongdoing, or if classified documents (for a VP or President, at least) are so common that they can easily be separated from the normal enclosures without it meaning anything special about the handler.

Thanks in advance for your insight.

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  1. Bishop Wash Member
    Bishop Wash
    @BishopWash

    I work in a SCIF. We are authorized for open storage. That means that we are allowed to store classified material in our desks and not in a GSA approved safe. Other secure locations on base can work on classified material, but have to put everything away when closing up the room.

    There’s no standard way to store them. I print out reports and emails and it’s loose paper. A cover sheet is needed when moving between offices or when sitting on your desk. When going between buildings, the material is placed in a courier bag, inside another courier bag.

    Some higher classified material is under tighter control. If it’s printed, it is under the control of a control officer. It has a cover sheet sheet people sign that they’ve read it and if shredded, the cover sheet is retained.

    Material leaving a secure location almost always had to be a conscious decision. They could get mixed in with unclassified papers but we work hard to make sure guests don’t accidentally walk out with classified material.

    • #1
  2. Justin Other Lawyer Coolidge
    Justin Other Lawyer
    @DouglasMyers

    Bishop Wash (View Comment):

    I work in a SCIF. We are authorized for open storage. That means that we are allowed to store classified material in our desks and not a GSA approved safe. Other secure locations on base can work on classified material, but have to put everything away when closing up the room.

    There’s no standard way to store them. I print out reports and emails and it’s loose paper. A cover sheet is needed when moving between offices or when sitting on your desk. When going between buildings, the material is placed in a courier bag, inside another courier bag.

    Some higher classified material is under tighter control. If it’s printed, it is under the control of a control officer. It has a cover sheet sheet people sign that they’ve read it and if shredded, the cover sheet is retained.

    Material leaving a secure location almost always had to be a conscious decision. They could get mixed in with unclassified papers but we work hard to make sure guests don’t accidentally walk out with classified material.

    Excellent comment–exactly the kind of information I was hoping to learn.  Thanks!

    • #2
  3. Dan Campbell Member
    Dan Campbell
    @DanCampbell

    I’m doing this from memory because it has been a few years since I had a clearance.

    There is no standard “package” or envelope that classified docs come in.  The only constant is that it must have a “cover page” over the top that is brightly color coded for the overall classification (confidential, secret, or top secret). e.g., red is TS.  Pages are stapled together or bound if there are enough of them.  A classified doc can be only one page or a whole book-sized volume.   

    The answer to 1. is that they can be loose, but must be covered.  The coversheet stays with the doc and is usually stapled to it 

    The answer to 2 is that individual sheets of a multi-page doc should not be removed from the original stapled or bound doc.  You can have classified docs out without being covered if you are in a secure facility (called a SCIF) and if you are physically present to control them.  Don’t go to lunch with classified out on your desk, covered or not.

    The answer to 3 is that classified docs don’t come in large packets.  As I said, docs can be just one page or can be a book.  Individual pages can be pulled out, but each page will be stamped top and bottom with the overall doc classification.  Each paragraph must have its own classification stated at the beginning of the paragraph (i.e., (S) Blah blah blah or (U) Blah blah blah [U is Unclassified].  This is so that if you quote a paragraph in include in another doc, you know what its individual classification is.  Thus, you can quote unclassified paragraphs from a TS doc and put them in an unclassified doc and that doc will be unclassified even though the source material is from a classified doc.  You can pull a page out, but it will have stamps top and bottom with the classification, and the individual paragraph markings.

    Finally, all classified docs are accountable items, so if you check one out or are issued one, you better be able to check it back in or certify with witnesses that it was destroyed.  This is the part I don’t get about docs being in the wild.  Whoever gave classified docs to Trump or Biden or whoever is responsible to get them back.  There should be a chain of custody.  The last person on this written chain is responsible if something goes missing or is found without an authorized owner.  

    • #3
  4. Bishop Wash Member
    Bishop Wash
    @BishopWash

    Justin Other Lawyer (View Comment):

    Bishop Wash (View Comment):

    I work in a SCIF. We are authorized for open storage. That means that we are allowed to store classified material in our desks and not a GSA approved safe. Other secure locations on base can work on classified material, but have to put everything away when closing up the room.

    There’s no standard way to store them. I print out reports and emails and it’s loose paper. A cover sheet is needed when moving between offices or when sitting on your desk. When going between buildings, the material is placed in a courier bag, inside another courier bag.

    Some higher classified material is under tighter control. If it’s printed, it is under the control of a control officer. It has a cover sheet sheet people sign that they’ve read it and if shredded, the cover sheet is retained.

    Material leaving a secure location almost always had to be a conscious decision. They could get mixed in with unclassified papers but we work hard to make sure guests don’t accidentally walk out with classified material.

    Excellent comment–exactly the kind of information I was hoping to learn. Thanks!

    You’re welcome. I work out in the hinterlands and we follow the regulations. I can’t comment on how things work in the National Capitol Region. Plus we are primarily consumers of intel and not producers. 

    • #4
  5. Justin Other Lawyer Coolidge
    Justin Other Lawyer
    @DouglasMyers

    Dan Campbell (View Comment):

    I’m doing this from memory because it has been a few years since I had a clearance.

    There is no standard “package” or envelope that classified docs come in. The only constant is that it must have a “cover page” over the top that is brightly color coded for the overall classification (confidential, secret, or top secret). e.g., red is TS. Pages are stapled together or bound if there are enough of them. A classified doc can be only one page or a whole book-sized volume.

    The answer to 1. is that they can be loose, but must be covered. The coversheet stays with the doc and is usually stapled to it

    The answer to 2 is that individual sheets of a multi-page doc should not be removed from the original stapled or bound doc. You can have classified docs out without being covered if you are in a secure facility (called a SCIF) and if you are physically present to control them. Don’t go to lunch with classified out on your desk, covered or not.

    The answer to 3 is that classified docs don’t come in large packets. As I said, docs can be just one page or can be a book. Individual pages can be pulled out, but each page will be stamped top and bottom with the overall doc classification. Each paragraph must have its own classification stated at the beginning of the paragraph (i.e., (S) Blah blah blah or (U) Blah blah blah [U is Unclassified]. This is so that if you quote a paragraph in include in another doc, you know what its individual classification is. Thus, you can quote unclassified paragraphs from a TS doc and put them in an unclassified doc and that doc will be unclassified even though the source material is from a classified doc. You can pull a page out, but it will have stamps top and bottom with the classification, and the individual paragraph markings.

    Finally, all classified docs are accountable items, so if you check one out or are issued one, you better be able to check it back in or certify with witnesses that it was destroyed. This is the part I don’t get about docs being in the wild. Whoever gave classified docs to Trump or Biden or whoever is responsible to get them back. There should be a chain of custody. The last person on this written chain is responsible if something goes missing or is found without an authorized owner.

    More great information–thanks!

    • #5
  6. Justin Other Lawyer Coolidge
    Justin Other Lawyer
    @DouglasMyers

    Bishop Wash (View Comment):

    You’re welcome. I work out in the hinterlands and we follow the regulations. I can’t comment on how things work in the National Capitol Region. Plus we are primarily consumers of intel and not producers.

    This raises another question for me then–wouldn’t it be the case that the Pres. and VP are also ordinarily NOT producers of classified stuff?  That they are normally consumers of it to make policy decisions, instruct subordinates, etc.?

    If that’s the case, then in both Trump’s and Biden’s cases they probably exposed a subordinate to record-keeping violations by keeping documents, correct?  You would think this would cause heartburn in those subordinates, unless such a practice of “losing” documents on the Pres. or VP desk is an extremely common occurrence.

    • #6
  7. Full Size Tabby Member
    Full Size Tabby
    @FullSizeTabby

    Justin Other Lawyer: The commenter noticed that the Biden documents (or at least some of them) were “loose” and in an envelope that indicated they had been removed from their proper folder.  The commenter interpreted this fact to indicate an intention on Biden’s part to “hide” the documents. 

     

    It’s been decades since I handled government classified documents, but it seems to me everything we are seeing can be explained by extreme carelessness and incompetence. And we certainly have ample evidence that people around Biden are often quite incompetent, and that some of the people around Trump might also be incompetent. I don’t think mishandling of classified documents by a United States Vice President or President is per se evidence of bad intent. 

     

    • #7
  8. Justin Other Lawyer Coolidge
    Justin Other Lawyer
    @DouglasMyers

    Full Size Tabby (View Comment):

    Justin Other Lawyer: The commenter noticed that the Biden documents (or at least some of them) were “loose” and in an envelope that indicated they had been removed from their proper folder. The commenter interpreted this fact to indicate an intention on Biden’s part to “hide” the documents.

     

    It’s been decades since I handled government classified documents, but it seems to me everything we are seeing can be explained by extreme carelessness and incompetence. And we certainly have ample evidence that people around Biden are often quite incompetent, and that some of the people around Trump might also be incompetent. I don’t think mishandling of classified documents by a United States Vice President or President is per se evidence of bad intent.

     

    Sounds right to me–thanks!

    • #8
  9. EODmom Coolidge
    EODmom
    @EODmom

    Justin Other Lawyer (View Comment):

    Bishop Wash (View Comment):

    You’re welcome. I work out in the hinterlands and we follow the regulations. I can’t comment on how things work in the National Capitol Region. Plus we are primarily consumers of intel and not producers.

    This raises another question for me then–wouldn’t it be the case that the Pres. and VP are also ordinarily NOT producers of classified stuff? That they are normally consumers of it to make policy decisions, instruct subordinates, etc.?

    If that’s the case, then in both Trump’s and Biden’s cases they probably exposed a subordinate to record-keeping violations by keeping documents, correct? You would think this would cause heartburn in those subordinates, unless such a practice of “losing” documents on the Pres. or VP desk is an extremely common occurrence.

    I suggest that these are not serious people and they do not take the principles of National sovereignty and security seriously. I also believe this casual behaviour is commonplace among a (rarified) rank of officials – those in a position to do something with the content, either before or after it ripened. Those below those ranks would be unlikely to challenge it. 

    • #9
  10. Full Size Tabby Member
    Full Size Tabby
    @FullSizeTabby

    I assume:

    The President and the Vice President of the United States see a lot of “classified” material in the course of their regular workdays, so “classified” documents become part of the normal workflow.

    The regular work locations (offices) of the President and the Vice President are authorized locations in which they can review “classified” material. Otherwise they’d spend a significant amount of time each day moving back and forth between their regular offices and a separate “secure” location, which movement would be disruptive to their work (must refrain from commenting on how much of a distraction interruptions present for Joe’s thought processes). 

    Based on those assumptions, the likely scenario that plays in my head is that the President or VP sees something in a “classified” document that he wants to compare with something else, or talk to one of the Cabinet Secretaries. He pulls out the page of interest. If the low-ranking staff member who brought the “classified” material into the office is present, is that staff person really going to object, or is the staff member going to assume the President or VP knows what’s he’s doing, and will return the removed page(s)? But on a small number (relative) of occasions, the removed page(s) does not get reunited with the document from which it came, and gets mixed in with other materials. 

    • #10
  11. Mackinder Coolidge
    Mackinder
    @Mackinder

    Bishop Wash (View Comment):

    I work in a SCIF. We are authorized for open storage. That means that we are allowed to store classified material in our desks and not in a GSA approved safe. Other secure locations on base can work on classified material, but have to put everything away when closing up the room.

    There’s no standard way to store them. I print out reports and emails and it’s loose paper. A cover sheet is needed when moving between offices or when sitting on your desk. When going between buildings, the material is placed in a courier bag, inside another courier bag.

    Some higher classified material is under tighter control. If it’s printed, it is under the control of a control officer. It has a cover sheet sheet people sign that they’ve read it and if shredded, the cover sheet is retained.

    Material leaving a secure location almost always had to be a conscious decision. They could get mixed in with unclassified papers but we work hard to make sure guests don’t accidentally walk out with classified material.

    I’d add just a couple of things. If you are moving classified material from one secure location to another, in addition to having it properly packaged, you also must possess a “courier card”, which acts as proof that you are authorized to be in possession of the material outside of a secure location.

    I also worked in an open storage SCIF a few years back, and just to provide context to folks about how securely some of this material must be treated, the SCIF itself required multiple steps just to enter (to over-simplify, the SCIF was like a large office with entry security similar to a safe, plus an alarm, plus a device to detect cell phones), and even in that secure location, some of the material inside had to be locked up in a safe INSIDE the SCIF at the end of the day.

    • #11
  12. Justin Other Lawyer Coolidge
    Justin Other Lawyer
    @DouglasMyers

    Mackinder (View Comment):

    Bishop Wash (View Comment):

    I work in a SCIF. We are authorized for open storage. That means that we are allowed to store classified material in our desks and not in a GSA approved safe. Other secure locations on base can work on classified material, but have to put everything away when closing up the room.

    There’s no standard way to store them. I print out reports and emails and it’s loose paper. A cover sheet is needed when moving between offices or when sitting on your desk. When going between buildings, the material is placed in a courier bag, inside another courier bag.

    Some higher classified material is under tighter control. If it’s printed, it is under the control of a control officer. It has a cover sheet sheet people sign that they’ve read it and if shredded, the cover sheet is retained.

    Material leaving a secure location almost always had to be a conscious decision. They could get mixed in with unclassified papers but we work hard to make sure guests don’t accidentally walk out with classified material.

    I’d add just a couple of things. If you are moving classified material from one secure location to another, in addition to having it properly packaged, you also must possess a “courier card”, which acts as proof that you are authorized to be in possession of the material outside of a secure location.

    I also worked in an open storage SCIF a few yeasts back, and just to provide context to folks about how securely some of this material must be treated, the SCIF itself required multiple steps just to enter (to over-simplify, the SCIF was like a large office with entry security similar to a safe, plus an alarm, plus a device to detect cell phones), and even in that secure location, some of the material inside had to be locked up in a safe in the SCIF at the end of the day.

    I think I saw that entry process in the opening credits scene of Get Smart.  Am I close?

    • #12
  13. Mackinder Coolidge
    Mackinder
    @Mackinder

    Justin Other Lawyer (View Comment):

    Mackinder (View Comment):

    Bishop Wash (View Comment):

    I work in a SCIF. We are authorized for open storage. That means that we are allowed to store classified material in our desks and not in a GSA approved safe. Other secure locations on base can work on classified material, but have to put everything away when closing up the room.

    There’s no standard way to store them. I print out reports and emails and it’s loose paper. A cover sheet is needed when moving between offices or when sitting on your desk. When going between buildings, the material is placed in a courier bag, inside another courier bag.

    Some higher classified material is under tighter control. If it’s printed, it is under the control of a control officer. It has a cover sheet sheet people sign that they’ve read it and if shredded, the cover sheet is retained.

    Material leaving a secure location almost always had to be a conscious decision. They could get mixed in with unclassified papers but we work hard to make sure guests don’t accidentally walk out with classified material.

    I’d add just a couple of things. If you are moving classified material from one secure location to another, in addition to having it properly packaged, you also must possess a “courier card”, which acts as proof that you are authorized to be in possession of the material outside of a secure location.

    I also worked in an open storage SCIF a few yeasts back, and just to provide context to folks about how securely some of this material must be treated, the SCIF itself required multiple steps just to enter (to over-simplify, the SCIF was like a large office with entry security similar to a safe, plus an alarm, plus a device to detect cell phones), and even in that secure location, some of the material inside had to be locked up in a safe in the SCIF at the end of the day.

    I think I saw that entry process in the opening credits scene of Get Smart. Am I close?

    I left out the part about your shoe doubling as a telephone. 😂

    • #13
  14. EODmom Coolidge
    EODmom
    @EODmom

    Mackinder (View Comment):

    Bishop Wash (View Comment):

    I work in a SCIF. We are authorized for open storage. That means that we are allowed to store classified material in our desks and not in a GSA approved safe. Other secure locations on base can work on classified material, but have to put everything away when closing up the room.

    There’s no standard way to store them. I print out reports and emails and it’s loose paper. A cover sheet is needed when moving between offices or when sitting on your desk. When going between buildings, the material is placed in a courier bag, inside another courier bag.

    Some higher classified material is under tighter control. If it’s printed, it is under the control of a control officer. It has a cover sheet sheet people sign that they’ve read it and if shredded, the cover sheet is retained.

    Material leaving a secure location almost always had to be a conscious decision. They could get mixed in with unclassified papers but we work hard to make sure guests don’t accidentally walk out with classified material.

    I’d add just a couple of things. If you are moving classified material from one secure location to another, in addition to having it properly packaged, you also must possess a “courier card”, which acts as proof that you are authorized to be in possession of the material outside of a secure location.

    I also worked in an open storage SCIF a few years back, and just to provide context to folks about how securely some of this material must be treated, the SCIF itself required multiple steps just to enter (to over-simplify, the SCIF was like a large office with entry security similar to a safe, plus an alarm, plus a device to detect cell phones), and even in that secure location, some of the material inside had to be locked up in a safe INSIDE the SCIF at the end of the day.

    I never worked in such a secure environment. But we regularly managed workflow that was confidential or somehow legally protected. There was no meeting with such material that copies were not taken back and shredded or stored to maintain their status. Serious companies took retention and confidentiality seriously, even individual non-disclosure agreements meant business. You disclose the wrong stuff and you’re sued – by the SEC or a competitor or someone. These are not serious people who believe they are not responsible to anyone and for whom there are no boundaries. It’s not new to them.
    I’m in the crowd believing the Joe’s time has been used up. Kamala – if she’s still considered useful – can run twice after what? 20 January? 

    • #14
  15. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    Justin Other Lawyer: The commenter noticed that the Biden documents (or at least some of them) were “loose” and in an envelope that indicated they had been removed from their proper folder. 

    One of the most improtant things about classified documents (besides security clearance and need-to-know) is chain of custody.  If you have classified documents in your personal possession, you are responsible for everything about them – where they are stored, who gets to see them, having positive control over them – everything.

    There are some general use classified documents.  For example, on my submarine, we had several sets of Reactor Plant Manuals located in multiple areas of the ship – mostly in the engine room.  However, everyone was responsible for them.

    The bottom line?  You never remove classified documents from its container (be it a folder, bound manual, or whatever).  The folder is used to alert people the documents inside are classified, and if you find some lying around and do not have the need to know?  Do not open the folder.  Take possession and contact security (or ships’ personnel) and say, “I found this lying around.  I didn’t open it, but took control as soon as I saw it was unattended.”

    I could go on, but I just got back from my football weekend at Myrtle Beach.  Still unwinding . . .

    • #15
  16. Justin Other Lawyer Coolidge
    Justin Other Lawyer
    @DouglasMyers

    Stad (View Comment):

    Justin Other Lawyer: The commenter noticed that the Biden documents (or at least some of them) were “loose” and in an envelope that indicated they had been removed from their proper folder.

    One of the most improtant things about classified documents (besides security clearance and need-to-know) is chain of custody. If you have classified documents in your personal possession, you are responsible for everything about them – where they are stored, who gets to see them, having positive control over them – everything.

    There are some general use classified documents. For example, on my submarine, we had several sets of Reactor Plant Manuals located in multiple areas of the ship – mostly in the engine room. However, everyone was responsible for them.

    The bottom line? You never remove classified documents from its container (be it a folder, bound manual, or whatever). The folder is used to alert people the documents inside are classified, and if you find some lying around and do not have the need to know? Do not open the folder. Take possession and contact security (or ships’ personnel) and say, “I found this lying around. I didn’t open it, but took control as soon as I saw it was unattended.”

    I could go on, but I just got back from my football weekend at Myrtle Beach. Still unwinding . . .

    Excellent–thanks.

    • #16
  17. Justin Other Lawyer Coolidge
    Justin Other Lawyer
    @DouglasMyers

    Thanks to all those who’ve contributed.  After listening to quite a few podcasts discussing Biden’s classified documents, it just felt like most of the commenters did not know what they were talking about (or at least barely did).  I made that judgment, in part, based on the fact that they seemed to never get to the bottom of the questions that seemed relevant to me (a layman of the highest (lowest?) sort).

    Then compound it with comments from people who were familiar with classified documents that were nearly contradictory to each other–Andy McCarthy: classified documents are a big PITA, having periodically remembered he had classified documents in a briefcase on his way to court that should have been left in the SCIF.  David French: it’s super easy NOT to mishandle classified documents.

    I think I’m coming to a two-pronged conclusion:  rank and file consumers/creators of classified documents generally take care to follow the rules and rarely violate the rules, much less flout them.

    People in the highest levels of government (esp. in the executive branch) routinely flout classification rules, perhaps, in part, because of overclassification.

    **Edit:  I am also frustrated how quickly outlets like the Commentary Magazine podcast and the NR Editors podcast credulously accepted the initial story about Biden’s documents as being factually correct.  Thus, they would say “here’s what we know about the Biden documents at this time”, rather than “here’s what we’ve been told about the Biden documents at this time”, and all were quick to concede that “what Trump did appears worse at this point”, etc.  When will we learn to be skeptical of the factual predicate of pretty much every story coming out of the MSM?

    • #17
  18. Mackinder Coolidge
    Mackinder
    @Mackinder

    Stad (View Comment):

    Justin Other Lawyer: The commenter noticed that the Biden documents (or at least some of them) were “loose” and in an envelope that indicated they had been removed from their proper folder.

    One of the most improtant things about classified documents (besides security clearance and need-to-know) is chain of custody. If you have classified documents in your personal possession, you are responsible for everything about them – where they are stored, who gets to see them, having positive control over them – everything.

    There are some general use classified documents. For example, on my submarine, we had several sets of Reactor Plant Manuals located in multiple areas of the ship – mostly in the engine room. However, everyone was responsible for them.

    The bottom line? You never remove classified documents from its container (be it a folder, bound manual, or whatever). The folder is used to alert people the documents inside are classified, and if you find some lying around and do not have the need to know? Do not open the folder. Take possession and contact security (or ships’ personnel) and say, “I found this lying around. I didn’t open it, but took control as soon as I saw it was unattended.”

    I could go on, but I just got back from my football weekend at Myrtle Beach. Still unwinding . . .

    Great points. Also, it should be pointed out that unless you are very, very careless, it is actually very difficult to “accidentally” remove classified info, especially Top Secret and “above,” to someplace where it should not be.

    • #18
  19. Dotorimuk Coolidge
    Dotorimuk
    @Dotorimuk

    I just assumed they had been put into Hunter’s old Trapper Keepers….the ones with the Van Halen and Aerosmith logos drawn on with a blue Bic ball-point.

    • #19
  20. Justin Other Lawyer Coolidge
    Justin Other Lawyer
    @DouglasMyers

    Dotorimuk (View Comment):

    I just assumed they had been put into Hunter’s old Trapper Keepers….the ones with the Van Halen and Aerosmith logos drawn on with a blue Bic ball-point.

    Lol. 

    • #20
  21. Chuck Thatcher
    Chuck
    @Chuckles

    Just an observation based upon experience: Some of the most hazardous documents aren’t classified straight away.

    • #21
  22. Old Bathos Moderator
    Old Bathos
    @OldBathos

    I don’t think politicians are generally trusted to take possession of sensitive documents that other people will summarize for them anyway.  There are usually staffers with clearance in charge of handling and storage (based on what hill staffers told me years ago).

    Biden and Trump are precisely the kind of procedure-oblivious types who should never be entrusted with docs without assistance/supervision.  I also strongly suspect that none of the documents found in their unsecured personal possession were of a truly sensitive nature (nuclear codes, sources, war planning) because people who handle such things know better than to let them have such documents in their personal possession.  You make the monkey leave the machine gun at the shooting range. I would be surprised if any POTUS leaves super secret stuff on his desk while he does off on other meetings and activities without some designated aide re-securing them.

    On the other hand, I think it is generally true that higher-ranking people are less likely to be sanctioned for casual violations than underlings even though they have wider access.  That is what made the political hit on David Petreus so conspicuous.

     

     

    • #22
  23. Justin Other Lawyer Coolidge
    Justin Other Lawyer
    @DouglasMyers

    Old Bathos (View Comment):

    I don’t think politicians are generally trusted to take possession of sensitive documents that other people will summarize for them anyway. There are usually staffers with clearance in charge of handling and storage (based on what hill staffers told me years ago).

    Biden and Trump are precisely the kind of procedure-oblivious types who should never be entrusted with docs without assistance/supervision. I also strongly suspect that none of the documents found in their unsecured personal possession were of a truly sensitive nature (nuclear codes, sources, war planning) because people who handle such things know better than to let them have such documents in their personal possession. You make the monkey leave the machine gun at the shooting range. I would be surprised if any POTUS leaves super secret stuff on his desk while he does off on other meetings and activities without some designated aide re-securing them.

    On the other hand, I think it is generally true that higher-ranking people are less likely to be sanctioned for casual violations than underlings even though they have wider access. That is what made the political hit on David Petreus so conspicuous.

     

     

    Makes sense to me.  Thanks!

    • #23
  24. Western Chauvinist Member
    Western Chauvinist
    @WesternChauvinist

    Old Bathos (View Comment):
    On the other hand, I think it is generally true that higher-ranking people are less likely to be sanctioned for casual violations than underlings even though they have wider access.  That is what made the political hit on David Petreus so conspicuous.

    In my first job as a systems engineer on a software project I was called on the carpet by our security officer with some of my colleagues because I had two computer printouts in my office which, by themselves, were unclassified, but together were TS. There were index numbers which could have been cross-referenced giving away information to those with nefarious purposes. The “incident” went on my record. 

    Turning to Biden. . . I read this morning of a *reporter* and his photographer who interviewed Biden in his VP office where TS documents were sitting out. A grunt like me would have lost her clearance and possibly worse for exposing secrets to someone who not only did not have the “need to know” but whose job is to inform to the public!!

    I never once had a reporter in my office. . .

    And in my current job working in an area requiring a badge for entrance, we handle “Export Controlled” materials which must remain covered. We route any visitors who are foreign nationals (very few, if any so far) around the perimeter of our cubes in case anyone is working on EC materials. We don’t even want anyone walking by!! And these are not Top Secret materials!

    We’re living in a two-tiered system where elites are utterly unaccountable and the rest of us have to worry about committing six felonies a day. 

    • #24
  25. JAW3 Coolidge
    JAW3
    @JohnWilson

    Bishop Wash (View Comment):

    I work in a SCIF. We are authorized for open storage. That means that we are allowed to store classified material in our desks and not in a GSA approved safe. Other secure locations on base can work on classified material, but have to put everything away when closing up the room.

    There’s no standard way to store them. I print out reports and emails and it’s loose paper. A cover sheet is needed when moving between offices or when sitting on your desk. When going between buildings, the material is placed in a courier bag, inside another courier bag.

    Some higher classified material is under tighter control. If it’s printed, it is under the control of a control officer. It has a cover sheet sheet people sign that they’ve read it and if shredded, the cover sheet is retained.

    Material leaving a secure location almost always had to be a conscious decision. They could get mixed in with unclassified papers but we work hard to make sure guests don’t accidentally walk out with classified material.

    I’ve wondered if there is only one copy of a classified document, or is there a master digital document stored somewhere?

    • #25
  26. Mackinder Coolidge
    Mackinder
    @Mackinder

    JAW3 (View Comment):

    Bishop Wash (View Comment):

    I work in a SCIF. We are authorized for open storage. That means that we are allowed to store classified material in our desks and not in a GSA approved safe. Other secure locations on base can work on classified material, but have to put everything away when closing up the room.

    There’s no standard way to store them. I print out reports and emails and it’s loose paper. A cover sheet is needed when moving between offices or when sitting on your desk. When going between buildings, the material is placed in a courier bag, inside another courier bag.

    Some higher classified material is under tighter control. If it’s printed, it is under the control of a control officer. It has a cover sheet sheet people sign that they’ve read it and if shredded, the cover sheet is retained.

    Material leaving a secure location almost always had to be a conscious decision. They could get mixed in with unclassified papers but we work hard to make sure guests don’t accidentally walk out with classified material.

    I’ve wondered if there is only one copy of a classified document, or is there a master digital document stored somewhere?

    They are created and managed on computers on a secure network that is not connected to the public internet. The user interface, including creating, saving, editing, e-mailing, printing, etc, is very similar to what you’re used to, with some additional features to deal with the whole classified thing. There are versions of most Microsoft products that are designed to live/operate on the classified network.

    • #26
  27. J Ro Member
    J Ro
    @JRo

    My experiences also dated.

    (edit: So dated that they are a reminder that the tech boom has solved old and created new problems. We have gone from hand written documents, typed up by clerks because they had typewriters and THE word processor and THE copy machine, to everyone has a laptop and a copier/printer at home and in offices.)

    Classified documents (manuals, investigative reports, daily mail from deployed detachments, administrative messages, etc) were kept in designated offices in the hangar. Classified messages addressed to the unit were received at the base message center and were routinely picked up by clerks or late night by the duty officer and carried to the squadron offices where they were read for possible immediate action and properly put away. Later some clerk could organize and distribute them, generally on a fairly portable ‘message board’ which was passed around for department heads and others qualified to view but not retain them.

    The people running these operations may or may not be experienced professionals. One night when I was duty officer I went to get our messages. The squadron mate I had relieved had briefed me that the message center was under a new supervisor who was determined to make a name for herself by implementing an overly aggressive interpretation of ID card protocol. Because my buddy had grown a mustache which was not on his ID photo, the midnight clerk would not hand over our classified messages to him. My colleague had solved this issue with the electric razor he had in the overnight bag in his car to be used during his 24 hour shift.

    I was determined to keep my stash, so when I picked up the messages and was told my handsome face did not quite match the handsome face on my ID, I told the clerk he could either give me our messages or call security and inform them that someone with a fake or stolen ID was attempting to pick up classified messages. He chose wisely. I had also prepared myself by talking with the ID folks who informed me that unless your new stash (or new hairdo, in the case of the female LTJG causing all this trouble) makes you unrecognizable you don’t need a new ID. After all, the same ID got us through the security gate every day, mustachioed or not!

    Aboard ship there was a much expanded level of need for highly classified documents. Generally speaking, the carefully controlled space known as the Combat Information Center (CIC) acts as a SCIF. If ship is off the coast of Korea and one wants to read up about, say NorK military flight operations, it was all kept in Combat.

    For more routine classified messages, there was a natural tendency to loosely follow protocol while on a long operational deployment. This tendency resulted in an open campaign to clean up classified messages scattered around the ship as the deployment wound down. Homeward bound! Burn bags for all!

    • #27
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