The US Department of Justice asked a judge to release the warrant authorizing an FBI search on August 8 after reporting that an unknown amount of White House records were allegedly improperly stored at the former president’s property. Donald Trump in Florida.
No former US president has ever been criminally charged for mishandling records, and in the two most high-profile cases in recent years that have gone through the courts, the aftermath did not result in jail time.
There are several laws with significant penalties for illegal possession of classified material, and a range of other people ranging from intelligence analysts, federal law enforcement agents and federal contractors have paid a high price for their wrongdoing.
The defendants were prosecuted for offenses related to the three classifications of documents, in ascending order: confidential, secret and top secret. The top secret classification, according to the Justice Department, represents the type of information for which “unauthorized disclosure could reasonably be expected to cause exceptionally grave harm to the national security of the United States.”
Some cases appear to be characterized by extreme negligence with no intent to share classified documents. The motives for possessing the material have been difficult to prove in other incidents.
In one case, prosecutors believe an FBI employee in the Midwest was in possession of secret material for almost 13 yearswhile in another, a colleague spotted secret documents during a dinner hosted by an employee of the US Department of Defense. In yet another, a Navy reservist introduced himself to his superiors admit mishandling.
Here’s a look at some of the more notable court cases of recent times:
A mess, usually
Former CIA Director David Petraeus pleaded guilty in 2015 to leaking classified information and was sentenced to two years probation and fined US$100,000.
The retired four-star army general who led US forces in Iraq and Afghanistan gave his mistress Paula Broadwell eight binders of classified documents he had improperly kept. Among the secret information was the names of secret agents, the Western coalition’s war strategy and notes on Petraeus’ discussions with US President Barack Obama and the National Security Council, prosecutors said.
Resigning from the CIA in 2012 after the affair came to light, Petraeus had signed a form falsely stating that he had no classified documents.
Broadwell Biography All In: The Education of David Petraeuscame out in 2012, before the affair came to light.
While many experts believed Petraeus had received a lenient sentence, the case was on Trump’s mind when FBI Director James Comey announced in July 2016 that while Hillary Clinton had been “grossly negligent” during managing emails as Secretary of State, she would not be charged. .
“The system is rigged. General Petraeus got in trouble for much less,” Trump tweeted, in a questionable claim.
Pushed down, picked 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 documents from the National Archives.
Long after leaving the White House, Berger visited the National Archives in 2002 and 2003, looking for intelligence documents related to extremist activity in the years leading up to the 9/11 attacks. After one visit, an archives staff member emailed a colleague to say he may have seen what looked like paper sticking out from under Berger’s pant leg near the ankle.
A National Archives inspector general’s report later revealed that Berger had hidden documents under a construction trailer. They weren’t there when he returned, Berger telling investigators he “tried to find the waste picker but had no luck.”
Berger was eventually fined over $50,000, served 100 hours of community service, and two years probation, giving up his law license. Berger, who died in 2015, said he was trying to familiarize himself with the information he would need to testify before the 9/11 commission.
Not your typical hoarding
Some cases stem from an intense federal investigation, as was the case in 2016 after a mysterious internet group calling itself the Shadow Brokers surfaced online to advertise the sale of stolen hacking tools to the National Security Agency. (NSA).
In the wake of the crisis, investigators uncovered a theft of equipment that prosecutors called “mind-boggling” in its scale. Former NSA contractor Harold Martin was never linked to the Shadow Brokers, but was sentenced in 2019 to nine years in prison.
Martin had in his possession nearly two decades of top-secret email chains, handwritten notes describing the NSA’s classified computing infrastructure, and descriptions of classified technical operations.
Defense attorneys said he suffered from mental illness and was a hoarder, but a US attorney scoffed at that explanation.
“It’s not like wandering around someone’s house and finding stacks 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 at the end of 2019.
Prosecutors said Chinese intelligence agents gave Lee $840,000 over a three-year period beginning in 2010, and that Lee likely gave them information he had accumulated over a 13-year career. years as a CIA agent which began in 1994.
After the CIA, Lee ran a tobacco company in Hong Kong with an associate linked to Chinese intelligence. Prosecutors said Lee was never able to come up with a good explanation for where and why he made so much money.
Lee, a naturalized US citizen, was arrested on US soil. He had classified information in a notebook and a thumb drive, including the names of eight CIA covert human sources he had recruited and handled as a case agent.
Beginning in 2010, according to subsequent New York Times and Foreign Policy reports, China killed or disappeared a number of intelligence assets there, though a host of failures related to processing and US government information systems were also cited.
Abduction, then Russia?
In 2021, Elizabeth Jo Shirley was sentenced to eight years in prison for illegal possession of documents containing information relating to national defence.
Shirley had previously admitted to illegally possessing an NSA document containing classified top secret and secret national defense information that describes intelligence information regarding military and political issues of a foreign government.
The actions of Shirley, who had held various positions in the US government and with federal defense contractors, were related to a domestic kidnapping case, authorities said. Prosecutors alleged she kidnapped her daughter in Mexico and wrote letters to the Russian government – a country likely not to easily extradite an American, as seen in the case of Edward Snowden, who resides there in the midst of espionage charges he faces in the United States for revealing information.