Home Editorials Is our national security being compromised?

Is our national security being compromised?

by William T. Robinson, Jr
William T. Robinson, Jr.

As Americans, we take for granted that our government (specifically the executive branch) is on top of securing and protecting our national security. We automatically assume that we have capable and knowledgeable people guarding top secrets and making decisions in the best interests of the security and safety of the American people. Looking at past incidents where our past and present presidents have been found fraudulent in handling classified documents, we as Americans should be highly concerned. Where are the checks and balances necessary when handling such vital documents that could jeopardize the security of our nation?

Many are more concerned with which political party the ‘offending’ presidents caught with classified documents belong to—or whether they were cooperative and sorry, or uncooperative and defiant. But the fact remains that they were both wrong. Finding unreturned, documented classified information in one’s home or office is problematic. The issue should be: how was this allowed to occur without a national, regulated operation of checks and balances? Is this standard practice, allowing presidents to review classified documents without securing their return? Or were there some illegal practices usurping standard protocol? Law dictates that all classified material be returned to the National Archives and Records Administration, and that doesn’t seem to be happening.

Probing minds are wondering about the importance of some of these classified documents that don’t warrant an immediate return to the proper authorities.  Is the labeling of classified documents more subjective than objective? This could explain why some classified documents are so loosely distributed with no urgency in seeking their return. Can you dismiss anyone from honestly questioning how classified documents (possibly top-secret documents jeopardizing our national security) can go unnoticed for any length of time without looking at the effectiveness of departments and agencies within our government?

While one could argue which one of the presidents was more guilty and how they responded when classified top documents were exposed at their residence or business, the issue is that it should have never occurred or gone unnoticed for any length of time. Maybe the Dept. of Justice and that part of the public ‘fueled by the media’ are the only ones really concerned—because most Americans don’t truly understand the importance of classified, sensitive material. Should all classified documents really be considered classified? 

The classification system categorizing sensitive national information was established under Executive Order 13526 breaking down national sensitive information into three categories: Confidential, Secret, and Top Secret. The severity of information dictates the category of classification it may be assigned, considering its sensitivity and the damage it could render. No doubt, confidential and secret documents may be sensitive and discretionary information open for interpretation. But that does not necessarily warrant these documents being considered a threat to our national security. These are categories that may later be reclassified and made known to the public. However, top-secret documents should definitively be guarded and kept private at all times to protect and secure our national security. 

While fingers may point at both Trump and Biden, weighing the degree of complicity they may have had in harboring classified documents, the real culprit is the incompetency of government agencies or departments that allowed classified documents to go unchecked and not returned within a specific time period. Maybe these documents were not as sensitive and secretive as the public is being led to believe. Regardless, we have gross mismanagement and a lack of transparency and accountability on a national level in regulating the containment of classified information. This would be unacceptable when you consider that by law individuals or groups must pass a formal security clearance to even have access to classified documents. The mishandling of these documents could bring about criminal penalties.

As it stands now, Congress has been dismissive in passing a law that generally outlaws disclosing classified information. Just look at the constant leaking of classified information. Some may see this as embarrassing or even technically illegal—but not as a threat to our national security. When all is said and evaluated, maybe classified information labeled as ‘confidential’ and ‘secret’ are diversions used by some politicians to rile the public—when only classified, top secret documents that jeopardize our national security should be of the greatest concern. But regardless of how one may evaluate classified information, our government must do a better job regulating it. Our nation’s security may depend on it.

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