Members of the Trump transition team were copying and removing “highly sensitive” documents from a secure room at their Washington headquarters, according to a report from Julie Pace of the Associated Press.
The report, which was based on interviews with 11 current and former US officials, said that Obama’s national security team became so concerned with the incoming administration’s handling of classified information that they decided to only allow Trump’s team to view documents at the White House.
The documents were presumably removed from a secure compartmented information facility, or SCIF — an enclosed room used to read and discuss intelligence matters of the highest sensitivity. Access to SCIFs is tightly-controlled and electronic devices are not allowed inside.
Concerns over a Trump White House’s handling of classified information were on full display in February. At a meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at Mar-a-Lago, President Trump and his advisors were photographed in an “open-air situation room” viewing documents about a North Korean missile launch.
Some aides even used their phone flashlights to help Abe and Trump view the documents.
At the time of the transition, retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn was leading Trump’s national security team. Though Flynn was ousted as national security advisor just weeks into Trump’s presidency, he had reportedly flouted rules regarding classified materials in his past at the Defence Intelligence Agency.
Flynn installed a secret internet connection into his office at the Pentagon even though it was “forbidden,” according to a profile in The New Yorker by Dana Priest.
The network connection was among other rules the former chief of the Defence Intelligence Agency broke because he found them to be “stupid,” including sometimes sneaking out of a CIA station in Iraq without authorization and sharing classified information with NATO allies without approval, according to The New Yorker.
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