Did You Know? Classified Documents

  • Monday, March 20, 2023
  • Jerry Summers
Jerry Summers
Jerry Summers

The ongoing Washington circus arising out of the search of ex-president, Donald Trump’s palatial estate, Mar-a-Lago, by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the voluntary surrender of various papers by President Joseph Biden’s attorneys in January 2023 has brought up the subject of what are “classified documents”!

(The political and legal maneuvering of the Democrats and Republicans prior to the 2024 elections will be left to the non-partial experts on Fox News and CNN, newspapers, and other media geniuses):


1. Classified information, or classified national security information, refers to documents or other mediums of intelligence that the government has deemed sensitive and therefore a potential threat to national security if released in an unauthorized way.

2. According to the United States Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, the three main levels of classified information are:

a. Top Secret: information would cause “exceptionally grave damage to the national security” if there were an unauthorized release.

b. Secret: information that would, with unauthorized release, be expected to cause “serious” damage to the national security.

c. Confidential: information that is determined to have the potential to cause danger to the national security with unauthorized release.

3. The current topic of public interest was enumerated in an Executive Order signed by President Barack Obama in 2010 (since allegedly invalidated), but the most famous example of a release of a group of documents, the Pentagon Papers, dealt with the unauthorized release in the 1970s by Daniel Ellsberg, an analyst for the Secretary of Defense, that upended the American political climate and was ultimately decided by a decision of the United States Supreme Court.

(No less is expected in the current political atmosphere in Washington between the Democrats and Republicans. The legality of the seizure/surrender of any documents will be a dual publicity bonanza to the media and financial benefits to the legal profession).

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You can reach Jerry Summers at jsummers@summersfirm.com

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