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BUSTED: Comey memos on Trump/Russia contained classified information

Either we have actionable, enforceable laws against mishandling of classified information – or we don’t

(National SentinelIntelligence: Revelations surfaced Monday that former FBI Director James Comey may have broken his own agency’s rules by writing personal memos regarding President Donald J. Trump that contained classified information.

What’s more, Comey may have shared at least some classified information with a friend who summarily leaked it to the press.

As reported by The Hill:

More than half of the memos former FBI chief James Comey wrote as personal recollections of his conversations with President Trump about the Russia investigation have been determined to contain classified information, according to interviews with officials familiar with the documents.

This revelation raises the possibility that Comey broke his own agency’s rules and ignored the same security protocol that he publicly criticized Hillary Clinton for in the waning days of the 2016 presidential election.

Comey testified last month he considered the memos to be personal documents and that he shared at least one of them with a Columbia University lawyer friend. He asked that lawyer to leak information from one memo to the news media in hopes of increasing pressure to get a special prosecutor named in the Russia case after Comey was fired as FBI director. 

“So you didn’t consider your memo or your sense of that conversation to be a government document?,” Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) asked Comey on June 8.  “You considered it to be, somehow, your own personal document that you could share to the media as you wanted through a friend?”

“Correct,” Comey answered. “I understood this to be my recollection recorded of my conversation with the president. As a private citizen, I thought it important to get it out.”

All communications, no matter what form they take, made by government employees — are government property, and subject to federal record-keeping requirements. Comey’s memos would most likely qualify under these federal statutes, as well as those governing the handling of classified material, if they contained as much.

For his part, Comey told Congress he believed his personal memos were just that — personal — and not subject to open records and archiving rules.

“My view was that the content of those unclassified, memorialization of those conversations was my recollection recorded,” he said.

More from The Hill:

But when the seven memos Comey wrote regarding his nine conversations with Trump about Russia earlier this year were shown to Congress in recent days, the FBI claimed all were, in fact, deemed to be government documents.

While the Comey memos have been previously reported, this is the first time there has been a number connected to the amount of the memos the ex-FBI chief wrote.

Four of the memos had markings making clear they contained information classified at the “secret” or “confidential” level, according to officials directly familiar with the matter.

As for the FBI’s rules, the bureau forbids any agent or employee from releasing classified info or other information related to ongoing investigations or operations deemed to be sensitive without written permission. In addition, the bureau considers all records created during the course of official business to belong to Uncle Sam.

“Unauthorized disclosure, misuse, or negligent handling of information contained in the files, electronic or paper, of the FBI or which I may acquire as an employee of the FBI could impair national security, place human life in jeopardy, result in the denial of due process, prevent the FBI from effectively discharging its responsibilities, or violate federal law,” states the agreement all FBI agents sign.

In addition, it says “…[A]ll information acquired by me in connection with my official duties with the FBI and all official material to which I have access remain the property of the United States of America” and that an agent “will not reveal, by any means, any information or material from or related to FBI files or any other information acquired by virtue of my official employment to any unauthorized recipient without prior official written authorization by the FBI.”

Comey told Congress the memos were in his possession when President Donald J. Trump fired him earlier this year, leaving him the ability to leak one of them via a lawyer friend and Columbia University professor to the media. He says he has since given the remainder to another good friend and former FBI director — Robert Mueller, the Democrat-hiring special counsel now looking into “Trump-Russia collusion,” among other things.

The Hill reported that congressional investigators had already begun looking into whether Comey violated FBI rules in the creation, storage and sharing of the memos. However, now that it’s been determined four of seven memos contained classified information, that opens a new door of investigation into whether the former FBI director has now done what he earlier accused Hillary Clinton of doing: Mishandling classified information.

“Although we did not find clear evidence that Secretary Clinton or her colleagues intended to violate laws governing the handling of the classified information, there is evidence that they were extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information,” Comey said during a year ago during a highly unusual press conference, in which he stated she would not be recommended for prosecution.

For the record, the statutes governing the handling of classified materials say nothing about “intent;” the standard is “gross negligence.” So either you mishandle classified info or not and if you do, you’re subject to prosecution, period. Americans who have done far less than Clinton or, now it appears, Comey, have gone to prison for a number of years for this.

In the age of Trump, it seems as though the federal system of checks and balances regarding any information that may be politically or legally damaging to him has completely broken down. When Clinton was let off the hook for her gross violations of 18 U.S.C., there was righteous outrage and indignation that the rules of the game had been purposely changed (as in, ignored) by the Obama administration because she was deemed the heir apparent to the Oval Office.

Now we have the man who was the public face of letting her off the hook potentially guilty of the very same violations of law.

We have statutes governing the handling of classified information for a reason, but if the government and Congress aren’t prepared to enforce them, then for all practical purposes those statutes don’t exist.

Part of Trump’s “draining the swamp” will have to include prosecutions of those who have willfully disregarded those statutes, no matter how high up those prosecutions go. Otherwise, the abuses will continue, and that puts all of us at risk.

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