What is “Classified Material”?

Candid Commentary CJ Clarkby CJ Clark, Columnist & Featured Contributor

[su_dropcap style=”flat”]T[/su_dropcap]HERE ARE TWO VERY IMPORTANT THINGS I learned from my time in the military. First, handling classified material is a very big deal. Second, while “rank has its privilege,” rank also has its responsibilities. Listening to the pundits in our current political race, I am continually shaking my head. I realize not everyone has been exposed to these military details but, come on, isn’t this common sense?

Let’s talk about classified material first. In the military, a young lieutenant becomes the SLJO. Translate: Sh***y Little Jobs Officer. It’s a rite of passage and a serious learning process for these young men and women who need to gain as much experience as possible as quickly as possible. Many of the SLJs provide visibility for the young lieutenant with senior leaders and substantial (and sometimes painful) “coaching” from their Staff NCOs (the wise senior enlisted who are nominally “subordinate” to the lieutenant).

ClassifiedOne of my SLJs as a lieutenant was the CMS Officer. CMS stands for Classified Material Storage. That meant that I was in charge of the handling and storage of everything classified that came in or went out of our unit. Part of my job was making sure that every single individual, regardless of rank knew the rules about handling classified material. Short of having them sign in blood, this education was pretty intense.

Now, I happened to be stationed stateside in a time of peace in a unit where we saw “top secret” communications come in once in a blue moon, and even then they probably didn’t have security repercussions that threatened our country.

So even in a small battalion in peacetime, we took this role VERY seriously, knowing that there could easily come a time when the material we handled could threaten our country’s security.

If security is taken so seriously in this instance, doesn’t it make sense that departments and organizations that handle really sensitive information that could easily bring our country to its knees would have a protocol to make sure that everyone….everyone….understands their responsibility?

Ah, responsibility – my second lesson from my time in the military. As an officer, you are taught that you hold the fate of those in your unit in your hands. Even in peacetime, military officers are responsible for the safety and security of everyone in their unit. They carry this responsibility in their hearts and in their minds, and could never get away with putting blame on someone in their unit for a failed mission. They take responsibility.

So we have a potential commander in chief who by all indications, has not been given the briefing about classified material in her role as the head of the State Department, but who, by any measure of leadership, is actually the one who must take responsibility for whether material is classified or not.

Forget the private server. Forget the jokes about “wiping the server” and a new account on SnapChat where texts automatically disappear. Let’s simply talk about accepting responsibility. How could we ever trust a leader who does not accept personal responsibility for a potentially serious breach of protocol to be up front and honest with us about those decisions she would make as commander in chief?

Folks, the Secretary of State MAKES State Department policy! Yes, the Secretary is a diplomat with global outreach, but don’t forget that the Secretary is also the “CEO” of the State Department. Please don’t ask me to believe that anyone in this position would not have a heightened sense of awareness about issues dealing with national security, because if so, the only conclusion I can draw is that the individual is in the position for herself, not for the greater good of the country.

I’m sorry. I just cannot believe that we are even having this conversation.


CJ Clark
CJ Clark
EXPLORING issues beyond the sound bites of today’s news coverage and challenging the status quo. It’s about questions, issues and answers. And it’s about time …

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