How harmful was Mar-a-improper Lago’s handling of sensitive documents?

Despite the fact that the government has known since January that highly sensitive material had been improperly stored in former President Donald Trump’s golf club and residential compound, the nation’s top intelligence officials do not appear to have started a formal damage assessment in relation to the classified documents discovered at Mar-a-Lago, four current U.S. officials told NBC News.

A policy of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, or DNI, which is responsible for the CIA, the National Security Agency, and 16 other agencies, states that whenever there is an actual or suspected unauthorized disclosure or compromise of classified national intelligence that could harm U.S. national security, a damage assessment must be carried out. An actual or suspected loss, misuse, illegal access to, or modification of classified national intelligence that might have a negative impact on national security, according to The 2014 policy, may also warrant damage assessments.

DNI, CIA, and other intelligence agency spokespeople as well as those from the FBI and Justice Department declined to comment.

Both current and past authorities remarked that they were perplexed by the apparent absence of a damage assessment. Due to the delicate nature of the subject, they agreed to speak on the condition of anonymity. Some have said that this indicates the Biden administration is worried about the appearance of involvement in the contentious inquiry that resulted in the FBI searching Trump’s house outside of the Justice Department.

According to a former senior intelligence officer, I believe the Biden administration is currently taking great care to avoid appearing to be involved beyond the independent FBI and Justice Department.

According to Elizabeth Goitein, a specialist in intelligence policy at the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law, highly classified material discovered at Mar-a-Lago is so sensitive that viewing it normally requires a special facility, making a damage assessment required by DNI regulations.

She stated it was inevitable that the intelligence community would determine whether or not national security was endangered if SAP (special access programs) or Top Secret TS/SCI information was compromised.

Officials went on to say that other members of the intelligence community besides the FBI had likely studied the secret materials discovered at Mar-a-Lago and that it was likely done a quick informal damage assessment. The NSA would want to know whether any program to intercept communications had been compromised, and the CIA would need to know whether it needed to be concerned about the safety of any human sources, for instance.

According to a current U.S. official with knowledge of intelligence matters, it is incomprehensible that DNI is not conducting an evaluation to see if classified information was compromised. However, I’m not aware of any.

When asked on Wednesday if the National Security Council was looking into the information in the documents or making a damage assessment, White House spokesman John Kirby responded, “I know of no such investigative operations here at the National Security Council and direct you to the DOJ on this.”

Two congressional representatives who received intelligence briefings claimed they were not informed that any damage assessments had been made. Despite formal requests from both the House and Senate intelligence committees, neither has received a response, according to authorities.

In records Trump turned over to the National Archives in January, archivists discovered more than 100 instances of material with classified markings, totaling 700 pages, according to an letter to Trump lawyers in May that was published by the National Archives and Records Administration on Tuesday. The New York Times reported reported on Monday that the total number of documents with classified markings has increased to 300, including the find from the Mar-a-Lago search on August 8. That reporting has not been corroborated by NBC News.

According to the May letter, the archives had been requesting approval from Trump to give the FBI the first batch of classified material in accordance with federal policy. The Justice Department’s National Security Division reportedly informed Trump lawyers in April that it would be in the interests of important national security for the FBI and other members of the Intelligence Community to have access to the classified materials in order to conduct a damage assessment. This is according to the May letter from acting National Archivist Debra Wall.

According to the Justice Department, which is quoted in the letter, some of the items in the boxes were classified with the highest classifications, including Special Access Program (SAP) information. This label is given to covert initiatives that are accessible only to a select group of government officials who have been cleared.

According to the Justice Department, access to the materials is required not only for the ongoing criminal investigation, but also so that the Executive Branch can assess any potential harm brought on by the way these materials appear to have been transported and stored, and take any necessary corrective action.

As a result, we are asking for quick access to these documents in order to facilitate the evaluations that must be carried out inside the Executive Branch, it stated.

The espionage services would want to know promptly if any sources or techniques had been compromised, according to a former national security officer.

According to the official, if any classified material is compromised, an evaluation or investigation is conducted. It establishes the origin of the information and whether anything that might have an effect on human sources or reveal sources and techniques was revealed. And whoever caused the disclosure will be held accountable, which may include retraining in handling classified material, losing clearance, or possibly facing criminal charges. Even during an investigation, the source of the information may be shut down.

While some damage assessments take years, a second former senior intelligence officer said that with something like this, it’s probable the IC’s “intelligence community” would try to undertake a triage so they could conduct a preliminary damage assessment.

According to the first former senior intelligence official, intelligence agencies will be watching for indications that this material appears in international reporting, particularly in communications intercepts.

They will begin searching even if there is no complaint or supposition of loss, the official said.

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