At some point, it seems to me that the agency which "loans out" or "authorizes the use of" or sends classified documents to particular individuals or departments ought to be held accountable for not tracking/ tracing/retrieving them.
When the dinosaurs still roamed the earth, I would occasionally rent movies from Blockbusters, et al, for my children's viewing pleasure. If I was even one day late, I would get reminders, escalating to phone calls or mailed demands, and ultimately a bill for the unreturned videos or a ban from any future renting/borrowing their property which they paid for and which they controlled.
There is a finite number of classified documents at any point in time.
Just like a library (or Google Play) when I "borrow" or "rent" a document, the document owner/custodian ought to know who I am before they loan or rent it to me, and set a date and time for its return, and then contact me on that date to see if I need it longer, or what the status is, and require me to sign something either extending the period of time, or swearing under oath that it was "lost" or "unlocatable."
When I was the security manager of a major car rental company, you can bet that we tracked our vehicles which were not returned on time. They had an average value of tens of thousands of dollars each. We knew when each was due back, and how to contact the person who rented/borrowed it, and notified the authorities if they failed or refused to return it.
Some classified documents are more valuable than a $40,000 car. Especially national security related documents. So how could our government "loan" them out to any person or department without setting a specific date and time and place where they would be returned, or if digital, plant a "time bomb" in the digital copy that "explodes" the document (alters the encryption code rendering the document unreadable until and unless the authorized person requests an extension of time, and obtains a new code.
My daughter financed a junk car at a tote the note lot, and, if she missed a payment, they would disable the ignition remotely. If she still didn't pay, the built in GPS unit would track the car down until a repo man arrived with his tow truck.
Doesn't each agency that possessed confidential records have a "records custodian" who is legally charged with keeping those records secure, loaning them out only to authorized individuals, and then tracking to ensure the documents are returned or rendered unusable digitally. The "old" way of tracking document destruction via a certificate of having met a certain fate in the borrower's "burn barrel" or "shredder" is simply too easily defeated by those who are sociopaths or spies or simply hoarders.
I count on our federal officials to devise a reliable way of allowing authorized individuals or teams to access necessary confidential documents in a way that assures those documents will actually be returned or destroyed or rendered "unforwardable."
What if a former recipient of classified documents were allowed to "monetize" the documents by selling each to Russia/North Korea/Saudi Arabia, etc. in order to "pad" his retirement portfolio. That would be criminal, wouldn't it. But if those documents are specifically retained for that purpose, and then held for an indeterminate amount of time until the "possessor" is sure that no one has even noticed the missing documents, that person might be tempted to sell the documents to the party willing to pay the most for them, or to use them as blackmail material.
I recall a certain director of the FBI who had his "longevity" assured by virtue of his "mud files" accumulated over the decades which were used to blackmail elected officials, candidates for office, political opponents, human rights activists, etc.
It seems to me that if the government is loaning out documents which can be easily "stolen" or diverted or misused or sold, it ought to have a staff in place at the point of origin (the records custodial's office) and another staff in the office of the borrower/user/trustee whose sole jobs entail ensuring the public that no confidential documents will go astray.
Which brings me to the documents "missing" from the files of the records custodians and intel agencies relating to JFK's assassination. That was an inside job orchestrated and carried out by outsiders with cooperation from the inside, most particularly the aforesaid FBI director. Do you doubt that those documents and records that contained evidence were not destroyed by those "government and mob officials" who hated JFK for whatever reason (he wouldn't bomb Cuba, sic'd Bobby on the organized criminal enterprises, etc.)
Now, the rest of the story (about JFK) will never come out for the same reason that we face today. The people charged with responsibility for "preserving the integrity of the documents" failed in their duty to the public (then and now), and the people charged with returning or destroying the documents entrusted to them failed or refused to exercise their obligation to the public then as well now.
We boast about our track record in prosecuting spies who steal and sell documents or, like Edward Snowden, divulge the secrets to the public, but what about prosecuting those who (like J. Edgar Hoover) misused documents and abused the trust of the people of this country. What was Donald Trump's intent? Dunno. It would be easier to determine if the "missing documents" which he never returned were tracked. Have they already been sold or "given" to unauthorized people (inside or outside this country?) We may never know, thanks to the lax tracking efforts of the "records custodians" of many disparate agencies who "loaned" them to Trump.
The situations of Biden and Pence are a bit different since they asserted no claim or "right" to do what they wanted to with those documents owned by the public which were entrusted to them. They each cooperated with the proper officials. But still there is the negligence of the "records custodian's" dereliction of duty in not "reminding" each of those folks of their duty to return the documents in a timely manner. What good is it to have classification procedures in place when officials and their minions can so easily procure and divert documents. Intent is important in determining criminality, but negligence is also an issue that needs to be discussed. The negligence of the lender/agency custodians of documents is clear. There does not seem to be intentional negligence on the part of Pence or Biden. But there sure does seem to be a mountain of evidence that Trump intended to do something nefarious with "his" documents.
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I completely agree with your issues that the “records custodians” should be responsible for tracking of all classified documents (physical and/or digital) and recovery of such. I do not know if every item you reference, such as the JFK document losses, is correct but have no disagreement against them and accept your statements.
The problem I have with your letter is the political bigotry you show in the last two paragraphs. First you state that you “Dunno” what Trump’s intent was, but then state “a mountain of evidence” that Trump's intentions were “nefarious” but you have given not a single item backing that statement. Neither has the FBI, DOJ, etc. You also state that there was no intentional negligence by Biden or Pence, which goes against the evidence about Biden.
Trump’s storage of the documents was in a single private area (not public part of Mar-a-Lago), under Secret Service protection, in a locked room. When the issue came up, the FBI was given full access to the documents to review what was there and could have documented anything at that time. When the FBI requested a second lock on the room, Trump gave pushback and had it done. Instead, an armed raid was later done, with Trump’s lawyers not allowed to see what was being done at all. Trump never hid that he had the documents. He disputes whether he is allowed to have them and if there are any still classified documents in them.
But Biden is completely different. He had hidden that he had documents, including documents from when he was in Congress. It is still unknown how he smuggled those documents out of the SCIF when he was in Congress.
Documents have been located at four different locations so far. Documents at the “Biden Center” were not under any government security at all and in an office with no records of personal who had access, including a Chinese government linked person (spy?) Hunter’s business partner, who had a key, thanks to Hunter Biden “business” relationships. And where were the documents before the Biden Center was opened in 2018?
You seem to gloss over the cover-up that Biden, his lawyer and the biased federal employees tried to do before someone leaked to CBS. Biden’s lawyer have full access with no FBI involvement, but Trump’s lawyers were excluded even though they had never hidden anything. Remember that Trump never hid that he had them. He asserted that he had the right to have them. That is a legal question that no court has decided. I don’t endorse Trump’s decision, but he never hid anything.
The other three locations are now under Secret Service protection, but were not for years after Trump was elected over the other Democrat who was allowed to destroy documents without prosecution, Hillary Clinton. The first place documents were found was in a garage which is in pictures wide open at multiple times and no restricted access to Hunter or others. The second place was in a closet off of the garage (locked/unlocked?). The third place is very interesting in that it was Biden’s home office, on his desk, which would indicate they were used for something. Hunter’s emails seem to include information that probably came for classified documents. Of course, those emails and the rest of his laptop were covered up by corrupt government employees (FBI, other) and the Democrat party propaganda department (i.e. main stream media and social media). The Republicans would do the same I am sure if they had that position.
Trump’s storage was one place, Biden’s was multiple places with no explanation of why they were separated. Dr. Jill’s underwear was not explored, but Melania’s and the son Barron’s were.
Media bigots have tried to excuse Biden saying that he did not pack the documents as Biden throws an assistant under the bus, so it is not Biden’s fault. But somehow you must believe that Trump packed them himself. I don’t think so.
Corruption and political bigotry has resulted from the “two party system” idea in our national government and media. That has also driven the hatred and bigotry across the nation. It is especially strong in Washington, DC where 92 percent are Democrat.
There is no such thing as the “two party system” in the Constitution and the laws and regulations that the two sibling parties have created should be all repealed where they give special privileges to any political party. Democrats and Republicans should have no special privileges that independents or (so called) minor parties do not have. One simple example is the Federal Election Commission. Only Republican and Democrats allowed. The other 1/3 of Americans do not count and have no representation. As George Washington stated “Permanent political parties will be the death of the republic.”
I have voted for both Democrats and Republicans but as more and more corruption in the Federal government is entrenched, I find it very, very hard to consider voting for national Democrats. I still have hope (maybe mistakenly) that local Democrats and Republicans may not be that bad.
I will agree 100% that the National Archives should keep better information of who has what when it comes to classified documents. I served three years on one of the top 10 top secret bases and my office and my barracks room were searched on a daily basis. Although I had the Top Secret clearance, the most I dealt with was only Confidential and those all related to personnel situations.
Interestingly, there has been little attention paid to the fact that a Lt. Colonel, now retired, who worked with classified materials had over 100 classified documents on a thumb drive. That was reported in The Daily Beast in the last couple of days but I have not seen in in the Washington Post of the New York Time, both of which I read. Of those classified documents were many Top Secret and Secret. One of the problems with the news today is that you get yesterday’s news the day after tomorrow on some of it and news from a month ago in others. Is it “all the news that. Is fit to print” or “all the news that fits, we print.” One of them has a Chattanooga origin.