Every administration since President Reagan has mishandled classified information under the Presidential Records Act, according to officials from the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) who spoke to lawmakers earlier this year.
The officials made the revelation when they spoke with the House Intelligence Committee behind closed doors in early March, according to a transcript of the meeting that was released Wednesday.
The release comes as President Biden and former President Trump are both under investigation over their handling of White House records after classified documents were found on their private property.
NARA Chief Operating Office William Bosanko told lawmakers that with every presidential administration from Reagan on forward, the agency has found classified information that was stored in unclassified boxes. Bosanko said those boxes were in the agency’s custody when the documents were found.
Officials also revealed that the issue of mishandling classified documents extends beyond the White House — Mark Bradley, who directs the agency’s Information Security Oversight Office, told lawmakers that since 2010 he has received over 80 calls from libraries that have found classified documents in papers belonging to members of Congress.
Bradley said when members of Congress retire, they sometimes give materials to libraries. Bradley said late Sen. Edmund Muskie (D-Maine), who left the chamber in 1980, gave 98 classified documents to Bates College.
“When these records are being processed, librarians know to call us,” Bradley said. “We dispatch a team to go retrieve them and bring them back to Washington.”
In a statement, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Turner (R-Ohio) said “Testimony from the National Archives and Records Administration officials makes clear that the handling and mishandling of classified documents are a problem that stretches beyond the Oval Office.”
“We need a better way for elected officials who are leaving office — in both the Executive Branch and Legislative Branch — to properly return classified material and protect the integrity of our national security,” Turner said.
Within the past year, classified documents have been found in the private possession of Trump, Biden and former Vice President Mike Pence, prompting lawmakers and federal officials to investigate. Trump is facing additional scrutiny over his apparent efforts to avoid returning White House records to NARA.