Oopsies! CNN Excuses Biden Docs Scandal, Happens ‘Literally Every Day’

News & Politics

During Thursday’s newscast, CNN This Morning host Kaitlan Collins helped her viewers wake up with a big steaming cup of gaslight. That was the goal when Collins brought on intelligence and national security reporter, Katie Bo Lillis to downplay President Biden’s mishandling of classified information as something that happens “literally every day” and doesn’t rise to the need for prosecution.

“Experts in this matter say it’s known as classified spillage, and in most cases, they’re simple mistakes that are not typically charged as crimes,” Collins proclaimed as she led into the segment. Lillis agreed, noting that “this kind of classified spillage happens almost literally every day. And most of the time it’s completely accidental.”

Describing what the consequences could be for those who mishandled our nation’s secrets and put them in danger, Lillis said they were “dealt administratively, internally with a simple conversation with the security officer at the agency in question,” with the more stringent punishments resorting to “losing your security clearance or even being fired.”

This rundown of potential consequences that didn’t include prison time was a sort of priming of the pump to explain away any wrist slap Biden could receive.

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Attempting to excuse how common mishandling classified intelligence is, Lillis chalked it up to “simply the law of large numbers” and over-classification. “There are over 4 million security clearance holders floating around out there and some national security officials will also acknowledge that the U.S. government has a big problem with over-classification,” she reported.

Collins played into the over-classification angle, recalling: “I’ve heard that from so many officials, Democrats and Republicans talking about that. The idea of basically everything being classified.”

“There are just millions and millions and millions of pieces of classified information, not all of which are exquisite,” Lillis added.

She makes it sound as though a tourist in D.C. can pick up a piece of classified material blowing around on the National Mall and it’s normal.

Lillis also recounted a ridiculous story told to her about an unnamed person who “accidentally” brought home classified information and hid it under his pillow for safekeeping:

In one example that we were told, the employee found a classified document that had been accidentally attached to an unclassified travel itinerary, he slept with it under his pillow for a night, returned it the next day, and that was that.

Trying to contrast Biden and former President Trump, Collins suggested that “intent … plays a massive role in how these things are handled.” “And the answer is there’s no hard and fast rule,” Lillis explained. “the decision for agencies to make that referral to DOJ it’s more art than science.”

In other words, what or who should be prosecuted is in the eye of the one pressing the charges not an equal application of the law.

The transcript is below, click “expand” to read:

CNN This Morning
January 19, 2023
8:17:33 a.m. Eastern

KAITLAN COLLINS: All right. This morning we’ve got new CNN reporting about how just common it could be for classified documents to be outside of the protected places and spaces they’re supposed to be in. Experts in this matter say it’s known as classified spillage, and in most cases they’re simple mistakes that are not typically charged as crimes.

CNN’s Katie Bo Lillis has been looking into this and she joins us now. Katie, this has been a big question, of course, not in light of what happened with Trump’s documents, but also now with Biden. You know, is it an accepted thing? How common is this? What has your reporting found?

KATIE BO LILLIS: Yeah, Kaitlan, this kind – This kind of classified spillage happens almost literally every day. And most of the time it’s completely accidental. An employee accidentally takes home a classified document in a briefcase.

In one example that we were told, the employee found a classified document that had been accidentally attached to an unclassified travel itinerary, he slept with it under his pillow for a night, returned it the next day, and that was that.

Most of these cases are dealt administratively, internally with a simple conversation with the security officer at the agency in question. Now, of course, in more severe cases there can be penalties such as losing your security clearance or even being fired.

But part of the reason this is so common, Kaitlan, is simply the law of large numbers. There are over 4 million security clearance holders floating around out there and some national security officials will also acknowledge that the U.S. government has a big problem with over-classification. There are just millions and millions and millions of pieces of classified information, not all of which are exquisite.

COLLINS: Yeah. I’ve heard that from so many officials, Democrats and Republicans talking about that. The idea of basically everything being classified.

Okay. But you talk about this one person who accidentally took something home, they slept with it under their pillow to basically guard it and make sure it was okay. But, when it comes to the president and now two presidents being looked into this, intent I imagine plays a massive role in how these things are handled.

BO LILLIS: Yeah. The question is, when does it go from something that’s handled administratively to something that the agency refers to the Justice Department for investigation and possible prosecution. And the answer is there’s no hard and fast rule. It really depends on the cases, the case itself, the facts and circumstances.

What we’ve seen in some of these more high-profile cases of prosecution is that intent to mishandle the information is really the key factor here. Did you intend to hoard it, sell it, leak it? But as one CIA lawyer that we spoke to – or former CIA lawyer that we spoke to said, the decision for agencies to make that referral to DOJ it’s more art than science, Kaitlan.

COLLINS: I can think of a few lawyers and prosecutors who have intent on their mind these days when it comes to classified documents.

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