Others wrote that Trump’s actions may be illegal and unjustified. But I think of the dishonor done to the memory of those who gave everything for this country, who volunteered, believing that their commander-in-chief would have their back. The least they can hope for is the preservation of their “sources and methods” that produce critical information and on which lives depend.
An edited version of the Mar-a-Largo search warrant affidavit released Friday confirms the worst fears of many in the intelligence community. The reference to “HCS” for the HUMINT control system alludes to intelligence gathered by covert operatives – men and women who are in danger. Such material, if it falls into the wrong hands, could endanger not only American operatives but also the legions of foreign nationals who provide them with intelligence.
Trump’s team said he has “absolute authority to declassify the documents.” He also shared an audio recording on his Truth Social website that “I didn’t do anything wrong.”
How did we come to this? Trump is not the answer, but simply the final expression of the slow and steady erosion of respect for state secrets, the routine mishandling of confidential documents, and the casual and uneven prosecution of those who willfully violate the laws governing classified documents – in particular, the nanny of the powerful and severe punishment of their subordinates.
Against this backdrop, Trump’s dangerous negligence state secrets seems almost inevitable, a natural extension of a broken system. Such actions cast a shocking light on a bureaucracy corrupted by power, arrogance and petty opportunism.
The accusations are not just violations of some mysterious bureaucratic rules governing documents. Trump may have betrayed those who risked their lives and, for example, opened the door to an even more liberal security environment.
For several years, criminal prosecution for such violations has not been determined. on what kind was taken, but on whom. From high-ranking officials to a four-star general, the unspoken mantra was “Do as we say, not as weThe system is rife with apologists and collaborators who are involved in promoting the double standards we now see in Mar-a-Largo. chief himself.
A key principle that is often lost in debates about whether a search of Trump’s Florida residence was justified and whether the president has the power to declassify it by executive order (a concept as dubious as it is dangerous): respect for state secrets is integral to the defense. American lives. The success of any intelligence operation, any military campaign, any diplomatic enterprise depends on the ability to keep secrets.
And the ultimate responsibility for keeping these secrets lies with the president. He, first of all, bears this burden and sets an example for others. The failure to live up to this trust sends a shudder through the entire national security apparatus and signals a kind of moral collapse that is echoing through all the ranks of those sworn to serve and protect.
Strict classification protocols, extensive training for those with initial classification authority, and severe criminal penalties — which, ironically, were made a felony under a law signed by Trump himself — cannot compensate for the widespread and systematic neglect these restrictions. Instead, an overly capricious system has emerged that allows individuals to replace private or political interests with national security interests.
Trump’s alleged disregard for laws and classifications speaks not only of his exorbitant ego, but also of a culture of secrecy that has inadvertently given the green light to such behavior over time, granting lawbreakers the right to get out of jail. higher echelons, punishing subordinates for the same or lesser offenses.
The list of those who have mistreated secrets is all too familiar and is a testament to the listless attitude that such babysitting has caused. The powerful and well-connected get a slap or a fine. For some, everything is wiped off the face of the earth by a presidential pardon.
Former Clinton national security adviser Samuel “Sandy” Berger illegally left the National Archives with classified material. He paid a $50,000 fine and faced community service. Former CIA director John Deutsch took home top-secret materials and placed them on his insecure home computer. President Bill Clinton pardoned him. Four-star general David Petraeus shared his secrets with a girl writing his biography. He paid a $100,000 fine and received two years’ probation. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, former chief of staff to then Vice President Dick Cheney, was convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice in connection with the exposure of undercover CIA operative Valerie Plame. President George W. Bush commuted Libby’s 30-month sentence and Trump later pardoned him.
While the likes of Berger and Petraeus were simply fined, junior officers were serving prison terms and were dishonorably discharged.
And think about the fate of these subordinates. Defense contractor Weldon Marshall was found to have kept classified material on his computer. In June 2018, he was sentenced to more than three years in prison. That same year, Reinaldo Regis, a former CIA officer accused of mishandling classified documents and making false statements, was sentenced to three months in prison. In February, Asia Janai Lavarello, a former Department of Defense civilian who carried classified material to an unauthorized location, was sentenced to three months in prison and fined $5,500.
Members of the public seem almost used to such revelations, selectively expressing their anger along strictly partisan lines. Trump condemned Hillary Clinton for using her personal email server to conduct State Department business as Secretary of State, allegedly endangering national security. “Lock her up,” his supporters chanted. But those same supporters appear to be more concerned about a search warrant issued at the former president’s Florida residence than the materials found there. And this discovery of secret documents at Mar-a-Largo caused an unpleasant measure of jubilation on the left.
Ultimately, the security of national secrets is not based on vaults or code words, but on the deep respect accorded to them by those responsible for their protection. The unceremonious attitude towards classification among commanders breeds contempt and cynicism among those who are asked to follow orders. And in a country that is already immersed in thousands of secrets, desensitization is inevitable. It is all too easy for high-ranking officials to justify keeping documents they consider erroneously classified or harmless. “If we guard our toothbrushes and diamonds with the same zeal, we will lose fewer toothbrushes and more diamonds,” warned McGeorge Bundy, former national security adviser to Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson.
But one can hardly argue about the confidentiality of the top secret documents reportedly found in Mar-a-Lago. Their exposure “can reasonably be expected to cause exceptionally serious harm to national security.” Materials labeled “Confidential classified information” may well disclose the sources and methods of intelligence gathering. They are designed to be tested in secure rooms impervious to intrusion.
Again, I’m thinking of those who work in secret ranks or in the military, whose lives depend on keeping secrets. They could hardly imagine that such records are kept in the basement of a Florida resort or residence regularly visited by foreigners.
The Mar-a-Lago documents are not trinkets with which to impress flattering visitors, foreign or local, and, unthinkable as it may be, materials that can be traded for some future monetary or political gain. It is a mistake to think of them as papers in a box. These are the lives of those who risk everything for us.
Stand like me in front of the CIA Wall of Honor, with its 139 stars etched into its marble façade, each representing a covert operative lost in the field, and you’ll get some idea of what might be stored in such boxes. Anyone found to have handled the country’s most secret secrets like a service trophy should be held accountable.