“Mishandling” Classified Information

According to the New York Times, the Washington Post, and others, former (thankfully) Attorney General Alberto Gonzales “kept classified material at his home and in an office safe.”  Inspector General Glenn A. Fine (who typically does a pretty “fine” (forgive me!) job investigating the messes created under Ashcroft and Gonzales) apparently referred the matter to the “Justice Department’s national security division for possible criminal action, but officials there declined to prosecute Mr. Gonzales.”  Not too surprising, that.

You might recall that Sandy Berger, former National Security Adviser to President Clinton, recently got in hot water for taking materials from the National Archives, to the tune of $50,000.00 (Of course, he was naff enough to also destroy some of them.)  And a few years ago, Larry Franklin pleaded guilty to giving classified date to a foreign official.

“Mishandling” classified information, is actually a pretty severe federal crime, punishable by up to ten years imprisonment.  The statute in play would be 18 U.S.C. § 793(f), which states:

(f) Whoever, being entrusted with or having lawful possession or control of any document, writing, code book, signal book, sketch, photograph, photographic negative, blueprint, plan, map, model, instrument, appliance, note, or information, relating to the national defense,

(1) through gross negligence permits the same to be removed from its proper place of custody or delivered to anyone in violation of his trust, or to be lost, stolen, abstracted, or destroyed, or

(2) having knowledge that the same has been illegally removed from its proper place of custody or delivered to anyone in violation of its trust, or lost, or stolen, abstracted, or destroyed, and fails to make prompt report of such loss, theft, abstraction, or destruction to his superior officer—

Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both.