As I read another letter (Sept. 26) by someone upset with the handling of apparently classified material by Hillary Clinton, I was reminded of my experience with classified items through the years.

I have held three separate clearances (up through secret) while doing work for the U.S. military and soon realized that the classification categorization of Defense Department material is an inexact, and often flawed, process.

While I was working in the Navy shipbuilding business, Tom Clancy published “The Hunt for Red October.” Clancy had gained access to information about 688-class submarines that was classified as secret at the time I was working on their construction in the 1980s.

There weren’t any consequences to those who accidentally declassified the 688 design in the 1970s and provided Clancy with his material. The system of determining classification of military information is a set of guidelines subject to interpretation – not a hard and fast science. It is not uncommon for information to be classified after the fact because of a change in interpretation of the guidelines or a change in the status of a government or group.

A more egregious mishandling of classified occurred recently when the Office of Personnel Management lost the classified information that I and millions of others provided as a prerequisite to holding a clearance.

This was far more damaging to national security than the current Clinton email furor in terms of providing a foreign government with a list of potential spies who have access to classified data.

We focus on the wrong aspects of the data-handling problem and, even then, only during election cycles. It’s too easy to yell “lock her up” and not have to confront the real issues.

Dave Kidder


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