by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
The more we learn about President Biden’s classified-documents scandal, the less credible are the White House’s claims that he “self-reported” any problems and has been completely “transparent.”
At the very least, Biden’s “self-reporting” claim is exaggerated. To self-report a violation, one would need to notify the agency responsible for regulating it. In this instance, given that mishandling classified information — which includes retaining it in an unauthorized location — violated federal criminal law, self-reporting would entail notifying the Justice Department or its principal police agency, the FBI, of such a breach. But that is not what Biden and his aides did.
To reprise the relevant facts, Biden, for reasons thus far unexplained — although reasons not hard to imagine for a Democratic president facing a new Republican House that has vowed to investigate his family’s lucrative influence-peddling business — decided to have his lawyers pack up his private Washington office at the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement. There, on November 2, they discovered a batch of classified documents, including some marked TS/SCI — meaning top-secret, sensitive compartmented information. The top-secret designation is reserved for intelligence whose unauthorized disclosure “reasonably could be expected to cause exceptionally grave damage to national security”; intelligence is branded SCI if its compromise could imperil sources and methods for gathering intelligence.
Biden did not self-report to law enforcement the discovery that this highly sensitive intelligence had been illegally retained in his private office — which, Attorney General Merrick Garland has since conceded, was not an authorized repository for classified information. Instead, Biden’s private lawyers notified the Biden White House. After some deliberations about which the public has not been informed, the White House notified not the Justice Department or the FBI but the National Archives and Records Administration.