Sen. Jerry Moran, a Kansas Republican, joined a bipartisan group of senators in introducing two bills to change how the U.S. government classifies its military secrets after a 21-year-old Massachusetts Air National Guardsman was able to access and leak classified documents to his friends on an instant messaging app.
One bill — sponsored by Moran; Sen. Mark Warner, a Virginia Democrat; Sen. John Cornyn, a Texas Republican; and Sen. Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat — would only allow documents to be classified if their risks to national security outweigh the public interest. Documents could only be classified for a maximum of 25 years and only heads of the agencies or the president would be allowed to extend the classification.
A second bill would require that the administration to evaluate its existing security clearances to see if there are any areas that need to be reformed.
Moran said the volume of documents that don’t need to be classified prevents the government from protecting the documents that really need protecting and that the system is outdated.
“In today’s environment, it is too great of a risk to have a circumstance in which so much information is classified that we fail to do the job of protecting the information that should be classified,” Moran said. “And we’ve seen it too many times and we’ve seen it most recently within the last month and the consequences to our country and its citizens’ well-being.”
Sen. Mark Warner, a Virginia Democrat and chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said the system needs to be reformed because of how many documents are now available digitally.
“We’ve got too many people with access to a system that is devoid of accountability and has grown increasingly byzantine, bureaucratic, and outmoded,” Warner said. “We need to protect our national security secrets, and then declassify those secrets when protections are no longer necessary. It’s time for Congress to take action and bring accountability.”
Moran joined the Senate Intelligence Committee earlier this year, providing him access to information about some of the country’s biggest national security threats.
The committee last month was briefed about Jack Teixeira, the guardsman who was charged with violating the Espionage Act for leaking highly classified documents to a group on Discord, an group chat app frequently used by people in the video game community.
The documents — which spilled from Teixeira’s group into other social media platforms — sparked international outcry and caused some of the country’s allies to question whether the U.S. can be trusted to keep government secrets.
The Air Force is actively investigating how Teixeira, a low-level guardsman who was tasked largely with IT work, was able to access and share some of the military’s most secret documents.
The classification system has also come under scrutiny after classified documents were found in the personal residences of former President Donald Trump, former Vice President Mike Pence and President Joe Biden. The Department of Justice is actively investigating Trump and Biden’s handling of classified documents.
One bill would address the issue of presidents and vice presidents taking documents by requiring a mandatory security review to ensure that classified documents are not improperly filed as personal records.
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