Trump may be a special case, but others have paid for mishandling classified material

The U.S. Department of Justice has asked a judge to release the injunction authorizing an Aug. 8 FBI search, following reports that an unknown amount of White House data may have been incorrectly stored at former President Donald Trump’s estate in Florida.

No former US president has ever been charged with mishandling files, and in the two most high-profile cases tried in courts in recent years, the consequences have not been jail time.

There are multiple statutes with significant penalties for the illegal possession of classified material, and a range of other individuals ranging from intelligence analysts, federal law enforcement officers and federal contractors have paid a heavy price for their misdeeds.

Defendants have been prosecuted for offenses related to the three classifications of documents, in ascending order: confidential, secret and top secret. Top secret classification, according to the Department of Justice, represents the type of information where “unauthorized disclosure can reasonably be expected to cause exceptionally serious damage to the national security of the United States.”

Some cases appear to be characterized by extreme carelessness with no intention of sharing classified material. The motives for possession of the material were difficult to prove in other incidents.

VIEW l Warrant can provide insight, if not detailed: legal expert:

US law expert says unsealed warrant could provide insight into FBI investigation in Mar-a-Lago

Even a general list of material collected could provide insight into why a search warrant was issued to search former President Donald Trump’s residence in Mar-a-Lago, says Lawrence Douglas, a law professor at Massachusetts.

In one case, prosecutors believe an FBI agent in the Midwest had been in possession of classified material for nearly 13 years, while in another case, a colleague discovered classified material at a dinner hosted by a U.S. Department of Defense employee. . In yet another, a naval reservist came to his superiors to admit the wrong treatment.

Here’s a look at some of the most notable lawsuits of recent times:

Overall a mess

Former CIA director David Petraeus pleaded guilty in 2015 to giving away classified information and was sentenced to two years’ probation and a $100,000 fine.

The retired four-star army general who led US forces in Iraq and Afghanistan gave his mistress Paula Broadwell eight folders of classified material that he had mispreserved. The classified information included the names of secret agents, the Western coalition’s war strategy and notes about Petraeus’ talks with US President Barack Obama and the National Security Council, prosecutors said.

Petraeus resigned from the CIA in 2012 after the affair was exposed and had signed a form falsely stating that he had no classified material.

Broadwell’s biography All In: The Education of David Petraeuscame out in 2012, before the affair came to light.

While many pundits felt that Petraeus received a lenient sentence, the matter was in Trump’s mind when FBI Director James Comey announced in July 2016 that while Hillary Clinton had been “extremely careless” in handling emails as Secretary of State, she would not be charged .

“The system has been manipulated. General Petraeus got in trouble for a lot less,” Trump tweeted in an arguable statement.

Tucked away, scooped up

A decade earlier, Samuel (Sandy) Berger, a US national security adviser to former President Bill Clinton, pleaded guilty in 2005 to the unauthorized removal and retention of classified material from the National Archives.

Long after leaving the White House, Berger visited the National Archives in 2002 and 2003, seeking intelligence documents related to extremist activity in the years before the 9/11 attacks. After a visit, a archivist emailed a colleague that he may have seen something that looked like paper sticking out from below Berger’s trouser leg at the ankle.

Trump may be a special case, but others have paid for mishandling classified material
On November 13, 2012, news camera operators film an FBI agent using a computer after a house search in Charlotte, NC, the home of the author who was having an affair with former CIA director David Petraeus. (Street Lecka/Getty Images)

The report of an inspector general of the National Archives later revealed that Berger hid some documents under a construction trailer. They weren’t there when he went back, with Berger telling investigators he “tried to find the garbage collector, but had no luck.”

Berger was eventually fined more than $50,000, sentenced to 100 hours of community service and two years’ probation, during which he relinquished his law license. Berger, who died in 2015, said he was trying to re-educate himself with information he would need to testify before the 9/11 Commission.

Not your typical hoarding

Some cases stem from intense federal investigation, such as was the case in 2016 after a mysterious internet group calling itself the Shadow Brokers surfaced online to advertise the sale of hacking tools stolen from the National Security Agency (NSA).

As a result of the crisis, investigators uncovered a theft of material that prosecutors called “breathtaking.” Former NSA contractor Harold Martin was never associated with the Shadow Brokers but was sentenced to nine years in prison in 2019.

Martin owned nearly 20 years of top-secret email chains, handwritten notes describing the NSA’s secret computing infrastructure, and descriptions of covert technical operations.

Defense attorneys said he dealt with mental illness and was a collector, but a US attorney scoffed at that explanation.

“It’s not like walking into someone’s house and finding piles of newspapers or library books or junk,” Robert Hur told the Associated Press.

CIA sources compromised

The most serious case probably had fatal consequences. Jerry Chun Shing Lee, a former CIA agent, was sentenced to 19 years in prison in late 2019.

Prosecutors said Chinese intelligence officers gave Lee $840,000 over a three-year period beginning in 2010, and that Lee likely gave them information he built up from a 13-year career as a CIA agent beginning in 1994.

Trump may be a special case, but others have paid for mishandling classified material
Sandy Berger, President Clinton’s chief national security officer, leaves the US District Court House in Washington on April 1, 2005. It was determined that Berger had taken documents directly from the National Archives. (Kevin Wolf/The Associated Press)

After the CIA, Lee ran a tobacco company in Hong Kong with an associate associated with Chinese intelligence. Prosecutors said Lee could never come up with a good explanation for where and why he got so much money.

Lee, a naturalized American citizen, was arrested on American soil. He had classified information as classified in a notebook and USB stick, including the names of eight clandestine CIA human sources he had recruited and handled as a business agent.

According to later reports from the New York Times and Foreign Policy, as of 2010, China is said to have killed or disappeared a number of intelligence agencies there, although there are also a number of disruptions related to the US government’s processing and systems. cited.

Kidnapping, then Russia?

In 2021, Elizabeth Jo Shirley was sentenced to eight years in prison for unlawfully preserving documents containing national defense information.

Shirley had previously admitted to unlawfully holding an NSA document containing top-secret and classified-level information related to national defense and outlining information about a foreign government’s military and political issues.

The actions of Shirley, who had held various positions both with the US government and federal defense contractors, were entangled in a domestic kidnapping case, authorities said. Prosecutors alleged that she kidnapped her daughter to Mexico and wrote letters to the government of Russia — a country that is unlikely to easily extradite an American, as seen in the case of Edward Snowden, who remains there amid charges of espionage in the US for revealing classified information.

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