Senators introduce bills to curb mishandling of classified documents & stop leaks

Classified documents have been found at the homes of Joe Biden, Donald Trump and Mike Pence
Published: May. 11, 2023 at 10:28 AM CDT
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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - Presidents and vice presidents will have new checks and balances when it comes to handling classified documents under a pair of bills proposed by a bipartisan group of Senators. The measures come after officials revealed that they discovered classified documents at the properties of President Joe Biden, former President Donald Trump, and former Vice President Mike Pence.

“We would require a security review of presidential and vice-presidential records in order to ensure that records that are being classified are not marked improperly and that there is a process in place before presidents and vice presidents take those documents as they leave office,” said Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), who chairs the Intelligence Committee.

The additional oversight is one of many reforms that bipartisan lawmakers claim are needed in order to protect sensitive material. They have now introduced two bills: the Classification Reform Act of 2023 and the Sensible Classification Act of 2023. The Senators said the bills address two key issues: that too many documents are classified and too many people have access to them.

“Every single day, more and more classified documents are created. They then build into a digital tsunami that basically overwhelms the declassification system,” said Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).

In addition to implementing a security review for presidential & vice presidential records, the Classification Reform Act would crack down on how long a document can be classified. It would enforce a maximum 25-year-period for classification, which only agency heads or the president could extend. Additionally, it would create a financial incentive for agencies to lessen the number of documents they mark as classified by essentially implementing a ‘tax’ on the documents. Other measures of the bill include a new system for accountability. Plus, it would define classified documents as only those ‘where the harm to national security reasonably expected from disclosure outweighs the public interest.”

“We are moving this Congress and this administration towards the right size balance of what should be classified, what is classified, and what should be declassified,” said Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kansas)

The Senators’ second bill, called the Sensible Classification Act of 2023, would force agencies to take a hard look at how many people have security clearances. It further directs the federal government to develop better technology to handle classification and declassification. Additionally, it requires more training for workers on ‘sensible’ classification and it establishes a hierarchy of authority to oversee classified documents.

Underscoring the importance of protecting classified documents, the Senators noted that last month an Air National Guardsman was accused of leaking confidential Pentagon documents. The Pentagon is conducting an internal review.