Let’s take a quick trip back to former FBI Director James Comey’s testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee on June 8. He had this exchange with Senator Roy Blunt:
“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.”
Comey insisted in his testimony he believed his personal memos were unclassified, though he hinted one or two documents he created might have been contained classified information.
“I immediately prepared an unclassified memo of the conversation about Flynn and discussed the matter with FBI senior leadership,” he testified about the one memo he later leaked about former national security adviser Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn.
He added, “My view was that the content of those unclassified, memorialization of those conversations was my recollection recorded.”
When Comey personal memos on meetings with Trump were made known, several observers, myself among them made two points. First, the memos were clearly government documents as defined by the Federal Records Act. You had one federal employee writing an aide memoire concerning a conversation he had with another member of the federal government about matters involving his official duties. The meeting took place while both officials were on duty. The meeting took place in a government office. The memo was written on a government provided computer while the individual writing it sat in a government card, driven by a government driver, and most likely with at government bodyguard. Some of the memos were discussed with subordinates of the author during duty hours in a government office. In short, if there was ever such a thing as a government document, Comey’s memos were that thing.
The second point was that the memos almost certainly contained classified information because of the nature of the discussions. They were certainly classified at the For Official Use Only level simply because they were private conversations between an agency head and the president.
This is just one of those I-told-you-so moments. Via 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.
This in not shocking. It was obvious at the time and, if you review the video of Blunt’s question, it was obvious to Blunt even as he asked the question.
Nothing here is a big deal beyond showing, again, that Comey played fast and loose with the rules whenever he wanted to. Comey passed government documents containing some classified information to a person not authorized to handle the documents with the intent that the documents be made public. That, common sense dictates, is wrong:
FBI policy forbids any agent from releasing classified information or any information from ongoing investigations or sensitive operations without prior written permission, and mandates that all records created during official duties are considered to be government property.
“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.
It adds that “all 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.”
All of the animals are equal, some are just more equal than others.