Safeguarding Classified Information Essay

As citizens of the United States one of the greatest expectations of the government is that it will provide safety from those wishing to inflict harm. This expectation of the government is becoming increasingly more difficult as the enemy become less obvious. With the latest acts of terrorism against the United States by unremarkable jihadists the goal of complete safety is nearly impossible. What makes this task even slightly attainable is the ability to collect information against the enemy and convert it into actionable intelligence.

An important aspect of utilizing intelligence is keeping the nature of the information and the manner in which it was obtained classified form anyone who does not need to know. In 2009 President Obama signed Executive Order 13526, Classified Security Information, dictating three levels of classification ranging from confidential, secret and top secret (n. p). Not all information if labeled by one of the three classification levels. In order for the information to warrant a classification level the information, if leaked, must have certain consequences for the government.

Release of confidential information has the reasonable expectation to cause harm to United States, release of secret information could reasonably cause serious damage to the United States and the release of top secret information could reasonably expect to cause grave danger to national security (Obama, 2009, n. p). Due to the importance of keeping information classified only a number of people are authorized to make the decision to classify.

The classification authority lies in the President of the United States, the Vice President of the United States, designated agency officials designated by the President, and some other officials who are permitted to classify at lower levels (Obama, 2009, n. p). One important aspect of safeguarding classified information is to keep the information out of the hands of people who do not need to know. Classified information is regulated by on a need to know basis.

Unless there is a need for an individual to know the information it is against the law to share the information regardless of the person’s clearance. According to Brian Fung (2014), the United States had approximately 5. 1 million security clearances issued to government employees and contractors, of which approximately 1. 5 million were classified top secret (n. p). With such a large amount of people having access to some of the national’s most classified information there is always risk for mismanagement.

It is true that no one is exempt from the procedures of safeguarding classified information. Recent events have shown that the level of the position of an individual who mishandles the information plays a large part in the punishment of the individual. The military serves as one of the most important functions to keeping the United States safe. The military is comprised of thousands of people, not all of which have access to classified information. Those who move up through the ranks of the military are trusted with exposure to information that is classified.

An example of an individual who accomplished rising through the ranks is Davis Petraeus. Mr. Petraeus is a retired military general and former director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) who resigned amid scandal of an extramarital affair (Knickerbocker, 2015, n. p). Though the end of Mr. Petraeus’s career was tarnished with scandal, the accomplishments of the retired general were notable. After graduating from West Point Military academy in 1974 Mr. Petraeus enrolled in the nine week ranger school which he finished with top honors (Biography, 2015, n. ).

After completion of the ranger school Mr. Petraeus moved his way up the ranks. In 2007 Mr. Petraeus rose to the rank of General and was sent to Iraq where he successfully oversaw new implementation of new counter insurgency operations (Biography, 2015, n. p). After Mr. Petraeus’s success in Iraq he continued to move upward an onward until 2011 when he was pegged by President Barack Obama to serve as the head of the Central Intelligence Agency (Biography, 2015, n. p. ). Mr. Petraeus’s time at the CIA was short lived when word of an extramarital affair.

Due to the high level of security clearance, as part of his resignation from the CIA Mr. Petraeus signed a document affirming that he did not have a classified information as required by his exit from government (Knickerbocker, 2015, n. p). A career full of accomplishments served as a natural path to writing an autobiographical book outlining the success of his career. Charged with the task of writing the book was a biographer named Paula Broadwell. The relationship between Mr. and Miss Petraeus Broadwell was more than professional and ultimately turned romantic.

As the relationship between the two became public so did the nature surrounding some of the content of the book. According to Knickerbocker (2015) Mr. Petraeus was in possession of, and allowed Miss Broadwell access to, classified information containing information about his time as commander in Afghanistan, meetings with the President, names of covert operations and war strategy (n,p). The extramarital affair was unbecoming of man in such a distinguished position but not illegal in it of itself. The possession of and mismanagement of the classified information however, is in fact illegal.

In March 2015, Mr. Petraeus reached a plea agreement with the Justice Department admitting he shared classified governmental information with Miss Broadwell via his personal notebooks for which he received two years of probation and fines of 100,000 dollars (Biography, 2015, n. p). The punishment for Petraeus was thought by some to be too lenient, whereas other found the punishment to be satisfactory. There are other examples of people who mismanage classified information who receive much stiffer consequences.

Working in concert with varies governmental agencies to keep America are those who work in the private sector as government contractors. Government contractors are able to obtain classified security clearances and are expected to accept the conditions associated with the clearance. One, now infamous, government contractor with a high level security clearance is Edward Snowden. Snowden is known all around the world as the employee of a National Security Agency (NSA) contract company who leaked thousands of classified documents exposing illegal electronic surveillance by the United States.

Mr. Snowden worked as a computer professional for the NSA and NSA contractors before he stockpiled classified information he discovered during the course of his duties (Biography, 2016, n. p. ). The access granted to Snowden enabled him to see a tremendous amount of classified information. The particular access he had as a system administrator allowed his to view information without leaving a digital print, allowing him to mine information without raising red flags (Harding, 2014, n. p. ). What Snowden did with the information is made him an overnight villain to the United States and an aver night hero to others.

In June of 2013 the information Snowden leaked was published in the Guardian newspaper prompting a manhunt for Snowden (Gidda, 2013, n. p. ). The information exposed by Snowden caused for much debate and backlash against the United States for violating the rights of millions of Americans. The blanket statement of national security does not supersede the constitution of the United States. Since the release of the classified information Snowden has been on the run from United States authorities.

Michael Kelley (2015) reports Snowden is currently facing three felonies in the United States to include espionage charges, however Snowden is currently in Russia where he was granted temporary asylum (n. p. ). The release of information by Snowden was done to expose the United States for violating the constitution, however he is being charged as if he was a spy for a foreign nation. Perhaps the reason for the severity of the charges stem from the fact that Snowden did not hold a political office or did not wield some powerful position.

Whether Snowden ever comes back the United States to face prosecution he will live with consequences of his actions without a conviction. Holding a position of power can lead to bending or even breaking the rules. The Executive Order 13536 signed by president Obama outlined the procedures of what classified information is, who can classify it and how to manage it among other directives. The position of Secretary of State is not exempt from the guidelines listed in the executive order. Before Hilary Clinton became Secretary of State she had quit a lot of esteemed accomplishments.

Obtaining her law degree from Yale University, becoming first lady to the man she marries from law school, to the United States Senate then her appointment to the position of Secretary of State by President Obama (Biography, 2016, n. p). Regardless of the opinions of Mrs. Clinton by those from opposing parties it is undeniable that she has served the United States in some capacity for decades. Due to her duration of service it is inexcusable to say she was unaware of the legality of conducting official governmental business by sending and receives classified information over a personal server.

The reason there is an issue with Mrs. Clinton utilizing her personal email to conduct business is the possibility of a hacker gaining access to her account and stealing the classified information (Voorhees, 2015, n. p. ). Currently there are more than 100 Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) special agents investigating Hillary Clinton and her email controversy (Herridge, 2016, n. p. ). Due to the ongoing investigation by the FBI there is not a definitive violation that has been forwarded to the Attorney General, however should one be sent it will be to the discretion of Attorney General to issue charges.

Until that time the only consequence Hillary Clinton will face is the one of public opinion. The three aforementioned cases share similar underling similarities. Mr. Petraeus lied and allowed classified information into the hands of someone without the proper clearance. Mr. Snowden, arguably more serious than the others, relayed classified information to the world which lead to a black mark on the reputation of the United States.

Hillary Clinton may have put classified information in jeopardy by utilizing an unauthorized computer server to send and receive classified information but there has yet be a case in which that information was compromised. There will always be a number of opinions about any particular incident. Some will say Mr. Petraeus was let off too easy, whereas others will say Snowden was treated too harsh. The Decision on how Hillary will be treated will be for the future to know. Regardless, it is hard to say look at each situation and think that there is a fair equal application of the law for everyone.