Classified Information is Not A Political Weapon

Classified Information is Not A Political Weapon

Classified Information is Not A Political Weapon

A few days ago, President Trump issued a massive, rather ignorant and unethical (in my opinion), threat to the Democrats. He publicly said that he would “declassify” documents that would be “devastating” to his opponents if Democrats go after him next year when they control the House. This is a disgusting threat to use classified information as a political weapon, and it’s a no-go in my book.

Now, for the record, I support holding anyone who is engaged in wrongdoing accountable for their actions – whether Democrat or Republican. I also haven’t seen any evidence of Russia collusion, but rather some naïve talk from a candidate who was doing his job for his business. I have written extensively on Russia’s meddling in our (and other countries’) elections, so I know it does exist. But I don’t believe Trump or his campaign had anything to do with it.

That said, the threat is ill-advised.

In response, some of the more derpy elements on social media began to cheer.

STOP TALKING AND DO IT!

COME ON! LET’S GET IT DONE!

I find it appalling that people who purport to understand national security and respect it would cheer the release of classified information as revenge against one’s political opponents. What the hell are they thinking?

The more ignorant cheerleading I saw on this issue, the more I realized something: it’s entirely possible that in their froth-flecked zeal to see the President get even with the Democrats, some people a) don’t understand what information is classified and what “classified” really means, and b) only care about classified information when it’s Hillary Clinton committing the crime of improper disclosure.

Some of the arguments I’ve seen rather absurd.

If you don’t support the President, you don’t want transparency, because you’re part of the swamp! Um, what? Now, I’ve railed both publicly and privately against not just the tendency to overclassify in the intelligence community, but the government’s refusal to release information about wrongdoing in Washington, such as the Congressional Complaint office refusing to release data on sexual harassment settlements! But national security data is something different. This is not information that the average citizen needs to see. It can reveal scores of data–including sources and methods that need to be protected at all costs–to our enemies. This is not a swamp issue, but a human lives one.

Our intelligence collection relies on our ability to protect our sources, who would otherwise not bother giving us information if they knew we were not able to ensure their safety. That is partially why classification exists. It also exists to protect collection platforms.

What do you think happens when a terrorist group discovers a bug or an ISR platform in the area? They take measures to mitigate it and increase their operational security. What do you think happens when pernicious slime like Robert Hanssen or Aldrich Ames reveal the identities of sensitive sources? The sources die. This is also why classifications exist.

The lowest level, confidential, designates information that if released could damage U.S. national security. The other designations refer to information the disclosure of which could cause “serious” (secret) or “exceptionally grave” (top secret) damage to national security.

At the top secret level, some information is “compartmented.” That means only certain people who have a top secret security clearance may view it. Sometimes this information is given a “code word” so that only those cleared for that particular code word can access the information. This is often used for the most highly sensitive information.

There are several other designators that also indicate restricted access. For example, only those holding a secret or top secret clearance, and the critical nuclear weapon design information designation, are allowed to access information related to many aspects of the operation and design of nuclear weapons.

Classifications certainly do not exist for any individual, including the President of the United States, to use as a weapon against his domestic political adversaries!

President can do what he wants, so if he wants to declassify the information, he can! No one has said otherwise. The President is the highest classification authority. Ultimately, if he decides to declassify information, he can. Question is: do we want any President – whether Trump, or Clinton, or Obama – using national security information as a bludgeon against the opposition party? As a political tool?

Yeah, well, wouldn’t you want to know who has been paid off with taxpayer dollars to settle sexual harassment claims in Congress? And what about the Steel Dossier against President Trump? That was classified information that was used in a FISA court and leaked!  Um… no. The ridiculous dossier was opposition research. It wasn’t classified in any way. The intelligence community’s assessment regarding that dossier is classified, because it contains… ASSESSMENTS. The dossier wasn’t obtained through classified channels, and it wasn’t classified. Hell, BuzzFeed published the entire thing, while the rest of us scoffed at the stupid.  The information about sexual harassment payoffs is not classified either. It may contain PII or other personnel data that shouldn’t be released to the wind, but that’s not classified information and has nothing to do with national security.

Words have meaning, and actual classified information – information that a government or agency deems sensitive enough to national security that access to it must be controlled and restricted – should never be used as a political weapon! Ever.

Courtesy of: US Army via Wikimedia Commons

When Chelsea Manning decided to get even with the Army by releasing classified information to WikiLeaks, the Taliban were only too happy to use those releases to put together information to help them hunt down and “punish” those who cooperated with Coalition forces. That’s what Manning’s release of classified information did.

By stealing classified information from the NSA and its collection platforms and strategies, Edward Snowden helped destroy international relations with quite a few countries and forced us to remove assets from countries that were critical to the national security mission. It also provided insight about our collection platforms to adversaries such as Russia and China.

The President has been in office long enough to know that even threatening to declassify national security information could have severe ramifications for the United States, and classified information should never be casually waved around like a toy gun for political expediency.

Featured photo courtesy of the Air Force.

Written by

Marta Hernandez is an immigrant, writer, editor, science fiction fan (especially military sci-fi), and a lover of freedom, her children, her husband and her pets. She loves to shoot, and range time is sacred, as is her hiking obsession, especially if we’re talking the European Alps. She is an avid caffeine and TWD addict, and wants to own otters, sloths, wallabies, koalas, and wombats when she grows up.

19 Comments
  • scott says:

    Marta,
    I’d hope that the President was just threatening over the top, or misusing the word “classified”, but if he truly did mean that he’d declassify info just to get the dims, I agree with you 100%. There are plenty of ways to burn them down without endangering National Security

    • Marta Hernandez says:

      And therein lies the problem, Scott. If he was misusing the word or “being over the top,” this is no different than Hillary claiming she didn’t know what (C) meant on a document or being a dumbass about “wiping the server.” The President of the United States should NEVER fuck around with classified.

  • Russ Wood says:

    Back in the 50’s a British political reporter, Chapman Pincher, listed his ‘effective’ Government secrecy classifications as: Confidential, Restricted, Secret, Top Secret, and finally, Politically Embarrassing. It’s quite likely that stuff that DT wants to declassify lies in that last ‘secrecy’ class!

    • Marta Hernandez says:

      The Brits have a much different classification system than we do. “Politically embarrassing” to Democrats will almost certainly NOT be classified. The definition of “classified” is very specific, as I explained in the post.

  • Tracy Coyle says:

    In the most general sense I agree with you. However, it is clear that ‘classified’ information has been weaponized against Trump and if fully exposed would expose the hypocrisy on the Left and the true nature of the swamp. I think it is interesting that ‘allies’, in this case the UK most likely, have asked that it be kept undisclosed. It would probably hurt May more with her people than it would the UK with us…but the depth of the issues is unplumed at this point.

    I support Trump’s disclosures. He gets to make that determination – about Executive Branch misuse of it – opening the door to the rest COULD be a problem, but he gets to make that determination and right now, I think it is a 50/50 whether it meets the “british” classification or the Snowden/Manning classification.

    The Dems have no trouble playing with fire….I for one have no problem letting them get burned once in a while.

    • Marta Hernandez says:

      So what you’re saying is “the other side did it, so it’s OK if Trump does.”

      ABSOLUTELY NOT!

      Everyone needs to stop using “THE SWAMP” to justify the inexcusable. It wouldn’t be exposing the hypocrisy on the left, it would be highlighting our own.

      And since you seem to have missed it in my post – yes, he does have the authority to make that determination as the highest classification authority. It doesn’t make it moral or right.

      • Tracy Coyle says:

        Yea, I am. I dislike the idea that because someone punches me that I can’t punch back because it was wrong to get punched in the first place. Now, before ‘self defense’ gets in the ring, it IS self defense. People are breaking the law to use classified info for political gain. Trump, the arbiter of what is ‘classified’ in the Executive Branch can say the harm being caused by the illegal can be mitigated, in part, by disclosing.

        I didn’t use ‘the swamp’, I don’t need to – there is a political bent in the bureaucracy that is damaging this country and getting rid of the political hacks at the top isn’t enough. My family comes from Ireland where my family’s original name in Gallic was ‘peat maker’. We took part of the bog and made ‘bricks’ that people burned like coal. Trump can take some of the bog and make useful coal – I’m all for it….

        No, it makes it political. That is the field we are playing in. I didn’t miss the point, I IGNORED it. You don’t bring moral purity to a knife fight, bring a gun.

        • Marta Hernandez says:

          You don’t seem to understand that there are secondary and tertiary order effects to such releases. National security effects. Why is it that some on our side only care about national security when it suits their political interests?

          Thanks for IGNORING the point. There’s no use having a discussion of you arrogantly IGNORE the points being made.

          Have a nice night.

          • Tracy Coyle says:

            I fully understand the secondary and tertiary order effects – and I believe Trump has acknowledged such, and I fully expect he, and his staff will continue to consider them in their actions. But there is no level playing field here…only one side is playing by the rules, and getting hammered for it. Gee, it was a moral and just loss that cost us our freedom.

            So, yea, I ignored it. I DO appreciate the post, and your reply. Thank you and to you also a good night.

            • Andrew Smith says:

              I respect your opinion Marta but I agree with Tracy. It is long past time the gloves came off. You should have some faith that The Don is smart enough to selectivey pick and choose what to declasify. We have all seen documents with black blocks and sections redacted. And honestly, at this point, to argue collateral damage is Nero fiddling while Rome burns. The leftist deep state actors are operating on a take no prisoners footing and it is beyond foolish not to recognize that fact and respond appropriately.

              • Marta Hernandez says:

                Here’s the thing, guys. I’ve been personally impacted by leaks, as have friends of mine. I have seen firsthand what happens when classified information is disclosed. Using this critical information as a political weapon is inexcusable. It’s inexcusable when the Obama administration did it, and it’s just as inexcusable if the Trump Administration does it. If we are going to condemn it on one side, and claim to respect national security, we need to condemn it on the other.

                I know you guys disagree with me, and that’s fine. But I’ve seen the effects firsthand, and I’m horrified st the thought.

                That’s all.

  • GWB says:

    Marta, while I agree with you about using classified material as a political weapon, this is neither the first time (and I’m talking WAY before our modern system) nor a fair fight.

    If Trump were more measured (and less tweety), he probably could have said “There are loads of things within our IC that seem classified purely to hide the political baloney and the mistakes. I will certainly expose those things if they are inappropriately classified – especially if the Dems are going to use that info as a political weapon.”

    But, yeah, Trump.
    So, not good.

    • GWB says:

      Oh, and the secondary and tertiary impacts to our nation’s security also fall on the other side. Politicizing our IC has significantly harmed our nation. BOTH parts need to be resolved.

    • Marta Hernandez says:

      You’re probably dead on there too, GWB. He needs to understand that words have meaning.

      Classified information – real classified info, not the stuff some agencies keep as sensitive – isn’t classified to cover up mistakes. There’s a ton of stuff that you have to account for when classifying a document, and it has to be diligently documented.

      If he wants to spend time trying to figure out what’s being concealed to cover up wrongdoing, I think he needs to look at places like that Congressional Accountability Office and some of the info DOJ is hiding.

  • Trutherator says:

    Brennan, Clapper, Comey, Weinstein, Ohr, Page, Sztrok, McCabe, Rosenstein, it is now common knowledge that each one had a part in a significant operation to find anything possible on Team Trump that could be used against him. The Intel agencies were weaponized against what became clear was the choice of the electorate.

    Also. They tried to get Carter Page to give a talk at some energy setup in London for some $10,00 & he declined. S Hal]Eric was set upon him to try to find a way to get at him. Funny, the FBI had used him before as an informant in Russia related matters. So maybe he was already hep to their tricks & didn’t trust them.

    They got Migsud to whisper to Papadapolous that the Russians had hacked the DNC emails.Mifsud had worked with the FBI and CIA before. WHY WOULD THE FBI OR CIA USE AN ASSET TO PUT A BUG IN PAPADOPOLOUS EAR LIKE THAT?

    ESPECIALLY SINCE A BUNCH OF FORMER U.S. INTEL AGENTS & OFFICERS SAID COMPUTER FORENSICS ON THE FILES SHOWED IRREFUTABLY THOSE DNC EMAILS HAD TO, –HAD TO– HAVE BEEN LEAKED BY AN INSIDER!

    Smoking gun, s”shredded” disappearing emails destroyed after the court order to keep.

    Many felonies, in plain sight. No justice. Clinton crime family, Obama deep in Spygate (“WH wants to be kept informed”). Hillary screamed it to campaign staff: Don’t you realize, if that SOB gets elected, we’re all going hang from nooses?”

    God is not mocked, sow and reap. END THE FED. AUDIT THE FED! Bring the soldiers home! Make peace not war!

  • ArtJ says:

    Unfortunately, from my time in US government service, I can say that many, many, documents are marked classified for no real reason. And others have one or two classified sentences in a large document, and the entire document is then classified. I have seen items classified, including at the highest levels, for no reason other that to protect budgets and “rice bowls”. I have seen highly classified information shared with people without proper need to know for political gain. I caution against jumping to the conclusion that just because something is marked “classified” it would cause damage if released. The president has the ultimate statutory authority to determine what is and what isn’t classified and even if classified, the decision to release the information still rests with the president.

    • Marta Hernandez says:

      Hi, Art. Yes, if a sentence is classified at a certain level, the entire document is classified at that level. Any document’s overall classification is whatever the highest classification of its components is.

      As for budgets – ALL are classified for very specific reasons. In another life, my entire job consisted of analyzing the defense budget of a specific country. The budget tells you how much they spend on military equipment, what their priorities and vulnerabilities are, and whether they’re preparing for… something. That’s no joke. Budgets are a huge thing.

      Nothing is marked “classified.” As I mentioned in the article, there are three levels of classification. “Classified,” in and of itself is not a marking.

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