By Nathan Worcester
Mishandling of classified documents by recent presidents has been the norm, not the exception, according to newly declassified testimony from a House Intelligence Committee hearing with National Archives’ staff.
William Bosanko, the agency’s chief operating officer, told Rep. French Hill (R-Ark.) during the March 1 hearing that every “administration from Reagan forward, we have found classified information in unclassified boxes.”
Director Mark A. Bradley, who heads the Archives’ Information Security Oversight Office, also provided some perspective on the frequency with which classified documents end up where they shouldn’t.
“Since about 2010, we have gotten over 80 calls from different libraries where mostly Members of Congress have taken papers and deposited them in libraries for collections, their own papers,” he said, later clarifying that all of those calls concerned the discovery of “classified information” by the librarians receiving those materials.
He said his office takes guidance from both the Archives and the National Security Council.
“We are kind of an odd body,” Bradley said.
Declassified testimony from the hearing can be read here (pdf).
Former President Donald Trump, former Vice President Mike Pence, and, from his vice presidency, current President Joe Biden have all come under the microscope for alleged or confirmed mishandling of classified documents from their time in the White House.
In the case of documents found at the Penn Biden Center, House Democrats have drawn attention to the role of Bidens’ executive assistant Kathy Chung.
The longtime Biden aide told the House Oversight Committee she did not identify classified documents in the materials she handled while packing boxes at the end of his vice presidency.
The recent outsized interest in classified documents began with a conflict between the National Archives and Trump over classified documents from the former president’s time in office.
The agency ultimately referred the case to the Department of Justice, which executed a high-profile search warrant on Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence in August 2022.
In an April 2023 letter to the House Intelligence Committee, Trump’s legal team offered an explanation for how classified documents ended up mixed in with unclassified materials–a mishandling that, as Bosanko testified, was a problem across multiple presidential administrations.
“White House institutional practices for the handling of classified materials—including declassification procedures—are inconsistent with how the intelligence community and military handles classified materials. This is indicative of the staff’s packing processes and not any criminal intent by President Trump,” their letter reads.
Bosanko told Rep. Hill that in the 80 cases since 2010 “and the 3 we are dealing with now, it appears that classified were inadvertently–presumably inadvertently—commingled with unclassified documents prior to packing.”
The Senate confirmed the Archives’ newest director, Colleen Shogan, on May 10.