Crime, Punishment, and Classified Documents

Lawyers discussing documents.
Lawyers discussing documents.

Today I am going to stray from our normal content and comment on something that has little implication on prepping or survival, but a broader implication on the state of our government and the media: the misappropriation and improper storage of classified materials by senior government officials.

First, I think this happens far more often than we know. Presidents and senior government officials are simply used to being treated like royalty and think they are bulletproof. They stuff a bunch of documents in a box or briefcase without a second thought because when you handle classified documents every day, the secrecy loses its meaning. I expect Obama did it, too, but no one is lining up to raid his house.

I want to know why the government isn’t putting tracking chips on top secret documents. My dog has a chip. Shipments to Walmart have chips. If you have a document that shouldn’t leave the White House, put an RFID tracking chip on it and sensors in the doorways. Problem solved.

Second, I know that in corporate America, laptops and briefcases stolen from top executives while traveling can be sold for tens of thousands of dollars. I would not be surprised if there are active efforts by Chinese, Russian and possibly even spies who work for our allies to obtain classified documents that are taken home or otherwise mishandled by senior government officials. To that regard, I expect documents locked in a safe in a private club guarded by Secret Service officers were safer than documents left in an office in a closet in a building not guarded by the secret service. They are definitely safer than documents in cardboard boxes dumped in a garage behind a parked Corvette.

Third, we have little or no privacy. We are surveilled, tracked, have our phone calls intercepted and our metadata analyzed. Why do we think anything is a secret, regardless of what you print on the outside of the folder? Information is leaked to the media left and right. One story I read about the second cache or documents quote two confidential sources. Those confidential sources who do not wish to be named are also known as “leakers.”

We no doubt have numerous ways to get secret data from our enemies. Why do we expect our secret data is safe? Especially when people are the weakest link and some elected officials are, well, let’s face it, pretty weak links.

Lawyers, Guns and Money

Fourth, the documents in President Biden’s old office were reportedly found by his lawyers when they cleaned out his office three years after he resigned the position to run for president. Who waits three years to clean out their office? And who hires a lawyer to do so? Movers are expensive enough without paying a D.C. lawyer $400 or more an hour to review files.

This leads me to believe someone in the Biden administration knew there were classified documents there and sent the lawyer to that location with instructions to avoid a problem like the one that ensnared Trump. Oops, easier said than done.

Also, the Biden Center for Diplomacy and Engagement didn’t open its doors until a year after he left office. Where were those documents during that year?

Fifth, Trump’s enemies claim we will never know what documents Trump might have destroyed or even sold to un-named bad guys. Well, the same could be said for Biden.

After Trump left office, the Secret Service goes pretty much everywhere with Trump. If Trump was meeting with enemy agents, they would know. But there was a lengthy period after Biden was VP in which he had no Secret Service coverage. He could have met with anyone with relative anonymity. I am not saying he did, only that he had more opportunity to misuse secret documents than Trump did. But that’s not the impression you get from the media.

Sixth, this is where we can see the difference in the way the government and the media are treating the two men in what are surprisingly similar cases. Almost every article I have read has someone saying how these are a different situation. I think the difference isn’t in the crime but in its treatment. The Left argues Trump didn’t cooperate. The Right argues Trump had the legal authority to declassify documents and Biden, as VP, didn’t. Either way, no one is debating that both men had possession of classified documents in violation of the law. If you don’t think the differences in how the cases are being handled is problematic, then you are part of the problem.

Just don’t expect the media to take an objective look at this, or any, issue. If a news outlet isn’t slanted one way, you can bet it is slanted the other. I see very little objectivity in the media anymore. That’s bad for the country, as is the lack of bipartisanship in the congress. Too many people are out for themselves.

The Rule of Law

For a couple of centuries, the rule of law meant something in this country and we had justice. Today, justice is likely to depend not on what law you broke or whether it was intentional, but on where you live, how much money you make, and who you voted for. That’s the path to corruption. Getting justice today depends on who your enemies are, whether you are liked or disliked, and whether you are a member of a privileged class or minority group. The collapse of the rule of law is one of the straws that may someday break this country’s back.

The lack of punishment is also a problem. No one is held responsible, so they act irresponsibly. There are no consequences for bad actors, and no one at the top is punished as an example to the rest of us.

Sometimes I miss the days when if you ran from the police, they would beat you when they caught you.  That was an immediate consequence that taught people a lesson.  We could use more of those.