Congress deserves classified documents answers


President Biden has had, in his possession, classified documents for at least six years and potentially much longer. The documents found in his private office reportedly included material related to Iran, Ukraine and the United Kingdom. Congress deserves answers and accountability on how our national security secrets are kept safe when in the hands of our nation’s top executives.

Classified documents have now been found at the homes of President Joe Biden, former President Donald Trump and former Vice President Mike Pence.

How did these documents end up outside of secure locations in the first place? In the case of Pence and Biden, why didn’t the National Archives come looking for them long ago?

Documents found in Biden’s possession, reportedly clearly marked at the highly classified “Top Secret/Sensitive Compartmented Information” (TS/SCI) level, ended up mixed in with Biden’s personal possessions and stored in multiple locations, including his garage. A garage? Seriously?

Biden says that storing the documents in his locked garage shows he takes seriously his responsibility to safeguard the nation’s secrets. But anyone who had access to the home could have had access to the garage.

Classified documents cannot just walk off or end up in someone’s garage without someone placing them there, so it’s puzzling as to how this has occurred.

As a member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, I know that we always view classified information within a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility (SCIF), and we take the utmost care to ensure no classified materials ever leave the secure briefing rooms. We have to leave our phones outside the SCIF. A designated and cleared staff person counts all the documents to ensure that they are all within the room before we can leave so as to verify our nation’s secrets remain secure.

I agree with the chairman of the House Oversight and Accountability Committee, Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.), that we need to reform how these documents leave the office of the president and vice president, and define and assign oversight, possibly through the National Archives, to ensure that classified documents at the executive level are treated with the high level of security they deserve.

I also believe that it is important that the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence be briefed. Chairman Mike Turner, who leads the Committee, has formally requested that Avril Haines, the Director of National Intelligence, review and assess any damage caused by the discovery President Biden’s inappropriate possession of classified documents and that she provide us with a classified briefing on the findings. We made the same request in August concerning the Mar-a-Lago document raid. Neither request has received a response.

The law requires the intelligence community to respond to Congress, as required by 50 U.S.C. § 3091(a)(1) and (e.) Agencies are answerable to us; we are a government of the people, yet Congress’ requests for information and transparency have been repeatedly stonewalled. Congress created these agencies, and we fund them. We have the power to defund or withhold funding from the agencies if they do not answer to the people’s representatives.

We deserve honesty and transparency from our nation’s executives, from the law enforcement agencies like the DOJ and FBI, and from the entire Intelligence Community. We have a duty to conduct oversight of these agencies and follow the facts wherever they lead us. This is how a free country works! We will work to get answers for the American people.

Brad Robert Wenstrup is an American politician, U.S. Army Reserve officer, and doctor of podiatric medicine, who has been the U.S. representative for Ohio’s 2nd Congressional District since 2013.

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