Politics in America

“‘Classified’ still conjures images of top-secret government plots, but, in Trump’s Washington, it’s more often used to describe information that the president would prefer to keep quiet”

Trump has been merciless toward anyone else in government who reveals his administration’s secrets, tweeting that ‘‘the real story that Congress, the F.B.I. and all others should be looking into is the leaking of Classified information.’’ This summer, after the former F.B.I. director James Comey produced what he said were unclassified personal notes on their meetings, Trump complained that ‘‘Comey leaked CLASSIFIED INFORMATION to the media. That is so illegal!’’

This marks a shift from the Obama years, when the debate over classified information focused on military and intelligence revelations, from the likes of Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden. Under Trump, things are more personal. ‘‘What’s new,’’ says the Columbia University historian Matthew Connelly, author of a forthcoming history of government classification, ‘‘is the volume and sensitivity of what’s being leaked and the fact that at least some of these leaks seem intended to show Trump is unfit to be president.’’ ‘‘Classified’’ still conjures images of top-secret government plots, but, in Trump’s Washington, it’s more often used to describe information that the president would prefer to keep quiet, from allegations of collusion to reports of White House infighting. What started out as a way to safeguard national security has also become a means of protecting — or destroying — the president himself.

Beverly Gage, “Hidden Agenda”, The New York Times Magazine (27 August 2017), 16.