First Trump. Then Biden. Then Pence. Now Carter.
I’m betting that if the FBI went down to Mt. Vernon and did a search they’d find George Washington put a batch on the back of his horse as he trotted through Old Town Alexandra, Virginia.
Except Washington died in 1799 and the U.S. Capital didn’t move from Philadelphia to what is now Washington, DC until 1800, but you get my meaning.
One of the things about classified materials is this: A lot of them never needed to be classified in the first place and a lot more should have been DE-classified years ago.
I have been in meetings – not, as you might expect, recently – where folders of classified material were handed out to each attendee. Each folder was numbered and, as I remember, each page had a corresponding number so the people who did this stuff could tell, after the meeting, if a page was missing from anyone’s folder.
Not all of the pages included tasty details like “Agent Galen, Richard reported that a villain named “Goldfinger” is loose in the EU and has requested permission to, as he put it, “melt him down.”
In fact, it was not unusual for one of those classified, numbered pages to be a photo copy of an article that had been published in the New York Times, or the Washington Post, or the LA Times.
What? A Xerox of a published document was marked “Classified?” (or “Secret” or “Top Secret”)?
Yep. Here’s a true story – or as true as any story I tell.
Let’s say the document was, for example, a summary of the situation on the ground in, say, Iraq near, say Thanksgiving of, say 2003 and a certain President was planning a surprise trip to visit the troops there. The bad guys would have paid dearly to know George W’s itinerary.
On its own, it was just a survey piece from the Baghdad bureau of a major US newspaper. In context, it would have been extremely valuable intel.
In fact, President Bush DID visit Baghdad on Thanksgiving, 2003 and it WAS secret, and, by the way, the troops DID think it was swell.
I had been in Baghdad for, maybe a week or 10 days at that point. In my usual way I was stumbling around trying to understand why DFAC meant “cafeteria” (Dining Facility) and why BIAP meant the airport (that took a little longer to figure out that it stood for Baghdad International Airport and when it dawned on me it was one of those times I looked around to see if anyone knew I had just decoded it.
About five people in Baghdad new the President was coming. The cover story, as I remember it, was Shania Twain was coming in to do a USO show.
The deal was very nearly blown when a General demanded to know why one of the requirements was a “mobile bunker.”
Why did Shania Twain need a mobile bunker? She just did. But at least we didn’t have to pick out the brown M&Ms, from the bowl in the green room, so we were ahead of the game.
As a side teaching point, after the event some people were puffed up around the Palace in the Green Zone pretending they knew all about it but were sworn to secrecy.
Someone asked me if I knew. “No,” I said. “There was no reason for me to have known.’
When the word got around that I hadn’t known in advance that the President was coming, it became OK not to have known,
All that to demonstrate how a weather report about expected weather at BIAP might have a classified marking when it was freely available information to anyone with the “WeatherBug” app on their smartphone.
As I wrote to wonderful high school friend of mine (who is very much pro-Trump) when the Biden materials were discovered, “There is a difference between shoddiness and malice,” or words to that effect.
The only reason President Jimmy Carter would have knowingly possessed classified documents post-Presidency was so he could burn them in his fireplace in Plains, Georgia to save on wood.
By the way, Shania Twain never did show up, but we got David Letterman for Christmas and he was pretty good.
See you next week.