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FBI’s Wray is fed up with classified document mishandling

By Sarah May
|
January 29, 2023

With President Joe Biden's classified documents scandal continuing to swirl and recent revelations that former Vice President Mike Pence also wrongly had sensitive government materials in his possession, FBI Director Christopher Wray is speaking out about what appears to be an even deeper problem than initially thought, as The Hill reports.

Though Biden has indicated that he has “no regrets” about anything he has done in relation to the documents found at the Washington office of his University of Pennsylvania-affiliated think tank and his Wilmington, Delaware home and said that there is “no there there” regarding the situation, Wray appears to disagree.

Wray speaks out

During a press conference appearance on Thursday, Wray explained, “We have had, for quite a number of years, any number of [document] mishandling investigations.”

“That is,” he added, “unfortunately a regular part of our counterintelligence divisions', counterintelligence programs' work.”

The issue of classified document handling protocols has taken on new urgency, however, given revelations in recent months that sensitive government materials were found not just in locations tied to Biden, but also at the homes of former President Donald Trump and former Vice President Mike Pence.

“People need to be conscious of the rules regarding classified information and appropriate handling,” said Wray. “Those rules are there for a reason.”

Pence concurs

The most recent emergence of a classified document handling problem centered around the announcement last week “a small number” of documents bearing classified markings were found at Pence's Carmel, Indiana home after having been “inadvertently boxed and transported” there when he left Washington in early 2021, as the Associated Press reported,

Rather than attempting to evade questions or shift blame, Pence said that he accepts “full responsibility” for the errors, and his attorney added that the former VP “understands the high importance of protecting sensitive and classified information” and would cooperate completely with “any appropriate inquiry.”

“Let me be clear: Those classified documents should not have been in my personal residence,” Pence said during a speech at Florida International University.:

“Mistakes were made, and I take full responsibility,” he added.”

Bipartisan concerning

It is not just Wray and Pence who have expressed alarm at the glaring issues that appear to plague classified document protocols at the highest levels of the federal government, as the Associated Press notes.

Florida Republican Sen. Rick Scott expressed incredulity at the frequency with which document mishandling or misappropriation appears to have occurred, saying, “I don't know how anybody ends up with classified documents. … I mean, every classified document I've ever seen has a big 'Classified' on it.”

Senate Intelligence Committee member Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) wondered whether recent discoveries point to a larger issue related to the system of classification used within the government, saying that things are “at the point where there is so much out there it is hard to determine what ought to be classified, and then it is hard to determine what should be declassified.”

Even Democrat Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-GA) had to concede that insufficient safeguards may have been observed when it comes to Biden and others. “Classified documents are to be taken seriously. And they are to be handled with a great deal of care. And no one is above the law.”

All talk?

Despite Wray's words of official consternation about the repeated instances of apparent mishandling of classified documents, Republican efforts to get to the heart of the matter, at least with regard to Biden's case, have hit something of a brick wall this week, as Fox News reports.

The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) has failed to respond to a request from the House Oversight Committee to provide information on its communications with Biden's lawyers as well as the Department of Justice since the time the classified documents were found in the president's possession.

That request was made by Republican committee chair James Comer (KY-01) on Jan. 10, and a deadline of Jan. 24 was given, but no response was forthcoming, according to the congressman.

A committee spokesperson said on Tuesday, “Chairman Comer's request still stands and anticipates moving forward with a transcribed interview with NARA's general counsel soon,” but whether cooperation to that effect will indeed be forthcoming, only time will tell.