Nature
Skip to content
Trump’s classified Mar-a-Lago documents, cataloged

When FBI agents arrived at Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort a month ago, they should have found no documents marked classified.

This is not simply an observation about the behavior of former presidents and the extent to which Trump appears to have flouted the rules governing document retention. Rather, it’s a legal observation: the feds had subpoenaed any document with classification marks (regardless of whether that document was still classified) and a Trump attorney allegedly claimed that all such documents had been turned over. . So when the FBI agents walked through the gates of Mar-a-Lago, they should have left empty-handed.

They do not have. Instead, they discovered about 100 documents bearing classification marks, as well as dozens of empty folders intended for classified documents. And at least one of the documents they recovered, the Washington Post reported on Tuesday, dealt with a foreign country’s nuclear capabilities.

Sign up for How To Read This Chart, a weekly data bulletin from Philip Bump

All of this is confusing to a layman. So, in an effort to clarify what was sought and what was obtained, we scoured government subpoena and search documentation to detail what the FBI was looking for — and what it found.

Technically, the government shouldn’t even have needed to subpoena Trump in May. Four months prior, he had received a number of boxes of documents that theoretically should have included all of the government’s presidential records. But after investigation, the Justice Department issued a subpoena for material with a wide range of classification marks.

The contents of the above box are less complicated than they appear.

First, it demands all documents “bearing classification marks” — again including any material that might have been declassified by Trump or any other government official. This is obviously important, as Trump and his allies insist (dubiously) that he has declassified everything: it doesn’t matter for subpoena purposes.

Then there are the multiple classification codes. Briefly, they detail three levels of classification – confidential, secret, and top secret – and then compartments or categories the intelligence might fall into. To use an admittedly odd analogy, it’s kind of like cars: “Top secret” is the brand, like Toyota, and “NOFORN” is the model, like Camry.

So what do all these codes mean? Here is.

  • FRD: Formerly Restricted Data (may include information related to nuclear weapons)
  • SCS: HUMINT Control System (human source intelligence)
  • HCS-P: HCS product (distributed information)
  • HCS-O: HCS operations (covert operations and methods not intended for dissemination outside the agency of origin)
  • NATO: NATO classified intelligence
  • NC: Not available to foreign nationals (also NOFORN)
  • CO: Originator Controlled (information source controls distribution, also ORCON)
  • SAP: Special Access Program (intelligence that requires even stricter access controls)
  • IF: Special Intelligence (intelligence from communications interceptions, formerly COMINT)
  • SI-G: SI GAMMA (sub-compartment of SI)
  • traditional knowledge: Talent Keyhole (intelligence from satellite observations)

It is likely that FRD jumped out at you, given recent Washington Post reporting. The “formerly restricted” descriptor can be confusing, since it implies that the restrictions no longer apply. But as the Department of Energy explained in a presentation, that’s not accurate. Material identified as FRD may include a range of obviously sensitive information.

To be clear: the Post did not report that the FBI obtained information marked FRD. We did, however, report that during its search, the FBI “came across extremely restricted records, so much so that even some of the top national security officials in the Biden administration were not authorized to review them.” .

We can start where we left off last week, with this photograph of documents on a floor at Mar-a-Lago. This one:

As we explained when we detailed the contents of this image last week, there is a lot of information included in this image that might not be obvious to a casual observer. For our purposes, this consists of two things: the classification markings shown and this “2A” plate.

The government often uses cover sheets to indicate the classification levels of different documents. Like the government, these are standardized forms, SF-703 to SF-705. Each color indicates a different classification level.

As you can see in the photo, however, cover pages may also include additional information. The document at the bottom center, for example, is labeled “SECRET/SCI”.

But this is just a photograph of a box – or more accurately, a box within a box. The “2A” refers to documents found in a container the government has identified as “Box 2”. In a separate filing, the Justice Department listed what it found in all the other boxes it removed from Mar-a-Lago, including various photographs and newspaper clippings. This list, however, gives us our clearest idea of ​​which documents with classification marks were found where – including dozens of empty folders marked as “confidential”.

The boxes were removed from two locations: Trump’s office at Mar-a-Lago and a storage room at the facility. Below is an index of what was found where. Since markings on “2A” documents are often legible, we have included compartment indicators where possible.

Importantly, the Justice Department’s interactions with Trump’s team prior to last month’s raid largely focused on the storage room. This is the room that government officials visited in June and the one they asked for additional security. Yet in August, about a quarter of documents with classification marks — and half of those marked as “top secret” — were found in Trump’s office.

Again, it is unclear what elements these documents included. It is not known what the nuclear-related document was or where it was found.

But it seems clear that the FBI found a slew of documents marked as classified at Mar-a-Lago last month – documents that should have been turned over to the government two months earlier.

washingtonpost

Not all news on the site expresses the point of view of the site, but we transmit this news automatically and translate it through programmatic technology on the site and not from a human editor.