In a piece of timeless cinema, when faced with the prospect of a strings-attached pardon for all the slaves courtesy of Marcus Licinius Crassus, Kirk Douglas has his admission usurped by a young Tony Curtis, who declares, “I’m Spartacus!” Indeed, so many of the soon-to-be pardoned men falsely claim to be the man in question that the question becomes moot. As the classified documents drama continues to unravel – and with former Vice President Mike Pence now also ensnared in the web – it seems that the question of who has these classified materials has become almost irrelevant. So what comes next?
Classified This, Classified That
Pence informed Congress on Tuesday, Jan. 24, that he had discovered a number of documents marked classified at his home in Carmel, IN. The records apparently date back to his time as VP for Donald Trump.
As Fox News noted, “although the documents bear classified markings, the Department of Justice or the agency that issues the documents will need to make a final determination on whether the documents are considered classified or not.” It appears that Pence’s team made the search directly in response to the latest revelations that President Joe Biden had at least four tranches of documents stored in his Delaware home and his office at the Penn Biden Center. And this begs the question: How many more officials have classified documents in private offices or homes?
The Classification Conundrum
Liberty Nation reported when news of the Biden situation broke:
“Since 1990, the number of documents deemed classified by federal agencies has increased exponentially, with some estimates suggesting this figure exceeds more than one trillion pages per year. In 2005, The New York Times reported that federal agencies were ‘classifying documents at the rate of 125 a minute as they create new categories of semi-secrets bearing vague labels like “sensitive security information.”‘ By 2017, when Biden stopped being VP, this number had only grown.”
A trillion pages a year? How likely is it that other members of Congress, government officials, and elected leaders have documents that have been subjected to some level of classification? To paraphrase the adage, if everything is classified, then nothing is classified. Pence’s admission – at least to some degree – shifts the paradigm in terms of how media on both sides of the aisle will have to portray recent events.
How Much Is Too Much?
The US government’s system of classification dates back to 1951. In 2009, the operational procedures for determining what was classified and to what degree were overhauled by former President Barack Obama under Executive Order 13526. Coming in at roughly 13,000 words of dense legalese, the order specified what shall be classified, to what level, who has access, exceptions to the access, procedures for sharing of such information, and a whole host of clauses and provisions that would take a skilled lawyer serious time to decode.
The over-classification of documents is, at heart, a bureaucrat’s fantasy. It appears that deciding what is classified and what remains classified is a job that only a few specialized individuals could fathom – if they were granted permission to review, that is. It is a system that fails to address the democratic necessity of transparency in favor of compartmentalized knowledge for the sake of exerting influence and power. And ultimately, assures that these documents will continue to be discovered ad infinitum.
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