WASHINGTON: Classified papers discovered from former US president Donald Trump’s Florida residence contained information about Iran’s missile programme and US intelligence data about China, The Washington Post reported on Friday.

The secret documents were recovered when the FBI raided Mr Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home in August.

“If shared with others, such information could expose intelligence-gathering methods that the United States wants to keep hidden from the world,” the report warned. One of the documents describes Iran’s missile programme while other documents have highly sensitive intelligence information about China.

Some of the most sensitive materials were recovered in the FBI’s court-approved search of Trump’s home on Aug 8, in which agents seized about 13,000 documents, 103 of them classified and 18 of them top secret, court papers seen by the paper revealed.

The Washington Post has previously reported that one of the documents seized in the FBI search described a foreign country’s military defences, including its nuclear capabilities. The people who shared the information would not say if that intelligence was related to Iran, China, or some other nation.

US intelligence agencies believe Tehran is close to having enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon but has not demonstrated its capabilities yet.

The documents retrieved by the FBI included top-level analysis papers about Iran’s nuclear programme. “Some of the seized documents detail top-secret US operations so closely guarded that many senior national security officials are not informed about them,” the Post reported. “Only the president, some members of his Cabinet or a near-Cabinet-level official could authorize government officials to know details of these special-access programmes.”

David Laufman, a former senior Justice Department official, told the Post that “the reckless exposure of invaluable sources and methods of US intelligence capabilities … will certainly influence the Justice Department’s determination of whether to charge Mr Trump or others with willful retention of national defence information”.

Mr Trump agreed in January to turn over 15 boxes of material. When archivists examined the boxes, they found 184 documents marked classified, including 25 marked top secret.

US officials, however, notified the Justice Department that Mr Trump had not turned over all the classified material in his possession. In June, Mr Trump’s aides handed over a sealed envelope containing another 38 classified documents, including 17 marked top secret. Security camera footage showed boxes being carried from the storage area after the subpoena was issued — and a key witness told the FBI that he moved the boxes at Trump’s instruction.

But the former US president insists that his actions were legal. “If you’re the president of the United States, you can declassify just by saying it’s declassified. You’re the president — you make that decision,” he told Fox News in a recent interview.

Published in Dawn, October 22th, 2022

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