USA: National Archives ask presidents and vice presidents to review documents in their possession

The National Archives has asked former US presidents and vice presidents to re-check their personal files for classified documents following news that President Joe Biden and former Vice President Mike Pence had unauthorized documents in their possession.

The Archives on Thursday sent a letter to representatives of former presidents and vice presidents dating back to Ronald Reagan to ensure compliance with the Presidential Records Act, said two people who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to comment on the matter.

The law states that all records created or received by the president and vice president are the property of the United States government and will be managed by the Archives at the end of each term.

The Archives sent the letter to representatives of former Presidents Donald Trump, Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George HW Bush, and Ronald Reagan, and to former Vice Presidents Pence, Biden, Dick Cheney, Al Gore, and Dan Quayle.

Classified documents found in former Vice President Mike Pence’s home

Biden’s lawyers found classified documents from his time as vice president in a locked cabinet while packing up an office he no longer uses.

Since then, searches by the FBI and Biden’s lawyers have turned up more documents. Former Vice President Pence also discovered documents this week and turned them over after previously saying he did not believe he had any.

Handling classified documents has been an eventual problem for decades, from presidents to cabinet members to staff from multiple administrations dating back to Jimmy Carter. But it has grown in importance since former President Donald Trump deliberately withheld classified material at his Florida property, prompting the FBI’s unprecedented seizure of thousands of pages of records last year.

More classified documents found in President Biden’s house

Officials at all levels of government discover they are in possession of classified material and turn it over to authorities at least several times a year, another person familiar with the matter said.

Current and former officials involved in handling classified information argue that while there are clear policies on how that information should be reviewed and stored, those policies are sometimes sidelined at the highest levels.

Teams of national security officials, secretaries, and military aides who share responsibility for keeping top-level executives informed—and the executives themselves—can bend the rules for convenience or sometimes out of simple oversight.

While much of the focus has been on classified information, the Presidential Records Act actually requires that everyone records must be transferred to the Archives, regardless of classification.

It is against federal law to have classified documents in an unauthorized location, but it is only a crime if it was done intentionally.

Associated Press/Washington Post/OnCuba.

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