Some 31 classified documents are at the epicenter of the Trump indictment.
We can glean a lot about what Trump kept from the prosecutor's descriptions and the classification marks.
But some of the documents are so sensitive that even their classifications were redacted.
Former President Donald Trump didn't keep just any secret records. He stashed away what look to be some choice souvenirs — classified maps of a foreign country, high-resolution imagery likely from US spy satellites, and even more highly sensitive ones about nuclear secrets, his indictment alleges.
There are 31 classified documents recovered by FBI agents that are at the epicenter of the case. The federal indictment alleges Trump "willfully" retained and then failed to return those documents back to the government after his presidency ended.
Trump, for his part, has claimed he was legally entitled to keep these records via the Presidential Records Act, which says an administration's documents belong to the government with exceptions for personal notes and journals.
The charging documents summarize each document — without revealing its secrets — and also include their classification marking, which provides clues to how each record was collected and who could view it.
Some of these documents are so sensitive, however, that even their classification markings were redacted.
The fifth document listed by prosecutors, for example, is top secret, and bears two additional rules: it can not be shared with US allies (NORFORN) and is revealing enough of spying methods that the originating agency controls its further dissemination (ORCON). But right after the TOP SECRET classification level, two other access codes were redacted by prosecutors. All we are able to surmise comes from the description offered: "Document dated June 2020 concerning nuclear capabilities of a foreign country."
Seven other documents listed have these classification markings removed. Secrets like these are so potentially damaging that only officials, service members, and contractors with the appropriate clearance level and need-to-know can view them, and only then in a secured vault known as a sensitive compartmented information facility, or SCIF.
The SCIF system is hardly foolproof.
In the recent Discord leaks case, an airman who worked in one is accused of printing and copying what could be hundreds of classified files and sneaking them out to share them with his gamer buddies.
That said, the SCIF is the authorized space to view these and much more secure than the ballroom, storage area, or shower where Trump allegedly kept the classified documents at his private Mar-a-Lago club in Florida.
Prosecutors note that Mar-a-Lago wasn't an authorized area to view these secrets — potentially risking their exposure to inadvertent discovery by the club's thousands of visitors or to discovery by foreign spies.
Despite the redactions, we can still glean a lot about what Trump kept.
Many items come from presidential briefings. There are also numerous files based on signals intelligence, whose methods range widely from measures like electronic eavesdropping to detecting foreign missiles and radars, and are denoted SI.
A number of them are marked, TK, shorthand for TALENT KEYHOLE, a catch-all for satellite-based intelligence, including high-resolution imagery. Others bear the code, HCS-P, a compartmentalization mark meant to safeguard intelligence whose exposure could compromise spy operations or endanger the lives of the spies who collected it.
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