Legal Expert Explains Why A Viral Photo From The Mar-A-Lago Raid Is So Concerning

Once an American president leaves office, they get a number of privileges and perks. Each year, they get paid the same salary a Cabinet Secretary would make, which is upwards of $200,000, via Reader's Digest. They also get money to pay for staff, funeral costs are covered, and they get Secret Service protection for life. Another thing they traditionally get is access to intelligence briefings; however, that is determined by the current president. President Joe Biden banned former president Donald Trump — who has called for a redo of the 2020 election — from receiving the briefings former presidents Barack Obama, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush are currently on the list to receive, per The New York Times. Biden told CBS News part of the reasoning behind the decision: "What value is giving him an intelligence briefing? What impact does he have at all, other than the fact he might slip and say something?"

It would seem that decision and the reasoning behind it has been shown to be a good one after the FBI seizure of classified documents from Mar-a-Lago in August 2022, via The Wall Street JournalTrump's team filed to have a special master look over the documents taken from Mar-a-Lago, via NPR.  The Justice Department for its part has responded with a court filing that contained new information about the documents they found at Mar-a-Lago, via CNN.

Donald Trump reportedly had documents related to human intelligence sources

The last page of the 54-page filing by the Justice Department is a redacted photograph of some of the documents found by the FBI; spread on the floor and with an evidence marker labeled 2A, there are documents labeled as Secret and Top Secret. This isn't the way that the documents were stored, it was part of the evidence collection.

Politico senior legal affairs reporter Kyle Cheney pointed out on Twitter that some documents included "the HCS marking for human source intelligence." And that is a big deal. "HCS information is tightly controlled because disclosure could jeopardize the life of the human source," John B. Bellinger III, a former National Security Council legal adviser during George W. Bush's administration told The New York Times. Documents like that, lawyer and senior CIA officer George Jameson explained, are "among the most sensitive information relating to human intelligence sources and very tightly held at the CIA."

For his part, Trump posted to Truth Social about the photo: "​​Terrible the way the FBI, during the Raid of Mar-a-Lago, threw documents haphazardly all over the floor (perhaps pretending it was me that did it!), and then started taking pictures of them for the public to see. Thought they wanted them kept Secret? Lucky I Declassified!" per CNN. There aren't any markings on the pictured documents that denote declassification.