More top-secret documents have been found, but this time it isn't linked to a former president or vice president, it is a top Air Force intelligence chief who had hundreds of them in his Florida home.
The Daily Beast reported the details about Robert Birchum, who spent 32 years in the Air Force and retired in 2018.
"During his career, Birchum served as the chief of combat intelligence for an unidentified Air Force group, and later worked with “classified intelligence information” at the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), Special Operations Command (SOCOM), and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), according to the plea deal, which was signed Aug. 26, 2022, but kept under wraps until now," said the report.
Prosecutors have explained in a plea agreement that was unsealed over the weekend that the files “could be expected to cause exceptionally grave damage to the national security of the United States."
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The court filings explained that the classified information he had “concerned Department of Defense locations throughout the world, detailed explanations of the Air Force's capabilities and vulnerabilities, and, among other things, the methods by which the Air Force gathers, transmits, and uses information observed by various Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) platforms."
The report explained that the Air Force and the NSA frequently work together on intelligence around the world.
They alleged in the filing that Birchum “abused a position of public trust and used a special skill in a manner that significantly facilitated the commission and concealment of the offense.”
The case began Jan. 24, 2017, the report explained, citing the Air Force Office of Special Investigations (AFOSI), which heard that Birchum had a thumb drive with classified information at his home. The tip came to AFOSI investigators, saying Birchum and “at least one other individual had access to, and actually accessed, classified information stored on the Thumb Drive."
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The same day, the federal agents came to his residence to get the drive and a Dell hard drive, along with “numerous paper documents containing classified national defense information,” the plea agreement says. They found 10 files on the hard drive marked Secret and 48 Secret-level paper documents. The week following, agents searched a "storage pod" where they found 28 other paper documents marked Secret.
It belonged to “various United States Government entities, including military components and intelligence agencies,” and it's clear Birchum was aware of that fact.
“A review of that hard drive revealed that the defendant had separately used that hard drive to willfully and unlawfully retain 117 additional files containing classified national defense information; 12 of those files contained information marked as Top Secret, some with ACCM, 98 files contained information marked as Secret, some with ACCM information, and 7 contained information marked as Confidential,” the plea deal continues
“Based on his intelligence-related official duties and, among other things, his execution of multiple NDAs throughout his Air Force career, the defendant knew that the information contained in the above-described files was classified national defense information and that he was not authorized to possess or retain those materials in his house,” the plea also said.
Birchum agreed to plead guilty to one count of willful retention of national defense information, which has a sentence of up to 10 years in federal prison. The Daily Beast noted that the date of the guilty plea was 18 days after the FBI executed a search warrant Mar-a-Lago for the documents Donald Trump stole from the White House and refused to return.
Conversations about classified documents have surfaced in recent weeks as President Joe Biden was found to have a few documents at the Penn Biden Center and in boxes in his garage. Former Vice President Mike Pence's aides had previously said that they worked diligently to collect the documents that needed to be sent to the National Archives. Still, once Pence settled in a home in Indiana, he too discovered classified documents mixed in with his belongings from the White House.
Read the full report from the Daily Beast.