Affidavit for Search of Mar-a-Lago Cites Obama’s Executive Order on ‘Classifying…and Declassifying’ Staff | August 26, 2022 | 2:31pm EDT
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(Photo by Charles Mostoller/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
(Photo by Charles Mostoller/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

( The affidavit that the Biden Justice Department presented to a federal court in Florida in order to get a “warrant to search and seize” at former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home cites as part of the legal authority for this action an Executive Order issued by President Barack Obama.

The affidavit as released by the Justice Department is heavily redacted, but two references to the Obama Executive Order were not redacted.

"Under Executive Oder 13526," says the affidavit, "information in any form may be classified if it: (1) is owned by, produced by or for, or is under the control of the United States Government; (2) falls within one or more of the categories set forth in the Executive Order [Top Secret, Secret, and Confidential]; and (3) is classified by an original classification authority who determines that its unauthorized disclosure reasonably could be expected to result in damage to the national security."

(Screen Capture From the Affidavit)

“Pursuant to Executive Order 13526,” says this affidavit, “classified information contained on automated information systems, including networks and telecommunications systems, that collect, create, communicate, compute, disseminate, process, or store classified information must be maintained in a manner that: (1) prevents access by unauthorized persons; and (2) ensures the integrity of the information.”


(Screen Capture From the Affidavit)

Executive Order 13526—Classified National Security Information” was issued by then-President Obama on Dec. 29, 2009.

 “This order prescribes a uniform system for classifying, safeguarding, and declassifying national security information, including information relating to defense against transnational terrorism,” says its first sentence.

Acting as president, Barack Obama in his executive order delegated broad authority to his subordinates in the Executive Branch to declassify information.

The affidavit that the Justice Department submitted to the federal court asking for the “warrant to search and seize” at Mar-a-Lago included a May 25 letter written to an official in the National Security Division of the Justice Department by a lawyer representing Trump.

This letter noted that Trump had “readily and voluntarily” agreed to transfer documents to the National Archives and Records Administration and that the president “has absolute authority to declassify documents.”

“Under the U.S. Constitution,” said the letter from Trump’s lawyer, “the President is vested with the highest level of authority when it comes to classification and declassification of documents.”

Apparently acting on that authority, President Obama in his 2009 Executive Order delegated declassification power to subordinate officials in the Executive Branch. Obama’s Executive Order said:

“Sec. 3.1.  Authority for Declassification. (a) Information shall be declassified as soon as it no longer meets the standards for classification under this order.

“(b) Information shall be declassified or downgraded by:

“(1) the official who authorized the original classification, if that official is still serving in the same position and has original classification authority;

“(2) the originator's current successor in function, if that individual has original classification authority;

“(3) a supervisory official of either the originator or his or her successor in function, if the supervisory official has original classification authority; or

“(4) officials delegated declassification authority in writing by the agency head or the senior agency official of the originating agency.

“(c) The Director of National Intelligence (or, if delegated by the Director of National Intelligence, the Principal Deputy Director of National Intelligence) may, with respect to the Intelligence Community, after consultation with the head of the originating Intelligence Community element or department, declassify, downgrade, or direct the declassification or downgrading of information or intelligence relating to intelligence sources, methods, or activities.”

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