“I’ve been tasked with investigating whether you mishandled classified material.”
The voice at the other end of the line belonged to an Army officer that I had never met or even heard of until he called me just then. He made an appointment to interrogate, I mean interview, me and ended the call.
I immediately went to tell my boss, Allan Rosen, what was going on.
This was just a few weeks after I had started working in DISMS, and when I told Allan that I was under investigation for mishandling classified material, he didn’t look too happy. He asked if I knew what it was about.
I thought I did, but I wasn’t sure.
My previous job had been in the Management Support Office (MSO) of Clothing & Textiles, and I recalled that one day my boss, Charlie, had called me into his office. Someone was out sick and a TWX had come in that needed immediate attention. It wasn’t normally part of my duties, but it would only take a few minutes to clear up. He did mention that the TWX was classified.
So I took the TWX and did whatever needed to be done. At this point I no longer recall what that was, but it probably involved making a call or two and most likely firing off an IOM (that’s an Inter-Office Memorandum, what most other people would call a memo). As I say it wasn’t part of my normal job duties, and I remember being mildly annoyed by having to do it as it took me away from stuff I wanted to work on, but it didn’t take me long, maybe 15 minutes, and I was done. End of story. No big deal. Nothing to see here.
After I explained that to Allan, he looked somewhat relieved but did ask me to keep him informed.
Much later I found out what was going on, but I didn’t know this at the time. After I left MSO (oh, did I mention that I burned my bridges on my last day there? I made a few remarks to my boss Charlie and to his boss, John. I didn’t exactly tell them off, but I let them know that they were the reasons I was leaving)— Anyway after I left MSO, my job was taken by Ed Kapucinski (pronounced the way it’s spelled), and of course, he got my old desk. One day he was going through it and found that classified TWX and immediately took it to Charlie, who apparently called Security, and they opened an investigation. The Army officer that I had spoken to was called in specially to head the investigation.
The Army officer (sorry, I don’t recall his name or even his rank but probably mid-level like a Major) turned out to be a pretty level-headed guy as Army officers go, and the interview went pretty smoothly.
Did I remember the classified TWX? I pretty much gave him the same explanation that I wrote just a few paragraphs ago, although probably with a bit more detail.
Had I received any instruction or guidance in the handling of classified documents. “No.”
Had I ever been cleared to receive classified material? “Not to my knowledge.”
What did I do with the TWX after I was finished with it? “I really don’t remember.”
I don’t recall the interview lasting more than a few minutes because there really wasn’t very much to say. Charlie had given me the TWX, he had mentioned it was classified but hadn’t attached any special significance to it or given me any instructions as to how to handle it, and I had done what needed to be done as far as processing it. I just didn’t remember what I had done with it when I was finished—probably left it on my desk where it would quickly be buried under a pile of other papers.
Oh, one last thing. Did I recall the contents of the TWX? You’re probably wondering about that too. What was in that classified document? As a matter of fact I did recall the contents. Among other things it listed the locations of several Navy ships, which is presumably why it was classified.
After the interview I told Allan that I thought it had gone pretty well.
And then I waited.
Actually I don’t know how long it took for a decision to be made, but my sense is that it wasn’t too long, maybe a few days. After all, there really wasn’t much to investigate. I mean it wasn’t anything like Hillary’s emails. Oh, right. Yeah, I see what you mean. Well, in any case, it had a pretty reasonable guy doing the investigating, so it didn’t take too long.
I think he called me, but perhaps he came to see me in person, I’m not sure. Anyway the bottom line was I wasn’t being charged with anything.
He didn’t go into any detail, but he did say that he was recommending that C&T overhaul its procedures for handling classified materials. Or perhaps create some. Maybe some retraining. Or just training without the “re-”. I don’t think there was anything too stringent involved, as I still had friends in C&T, even in MSO, and they would have told me if there had been a big brouhaha over the incident. So I think whatever was done was done quietly.
Which leaves one question. How could I have been so stupid as to treat a classified document so cavalierly?
And all I can say is at that time it just didn’t occur to me. When Charlie mentioned it was classified, he might as well have been saying it was corduroy. The only thing that I think sort of registered on me was that I knew I shouldn’t show it to anybody else. As I said, I had not been cleared for viewing classified material, I had not received any training in handling it, nor had Charlie given me any guidance when he handed me the TWX.
That said, yes, I should have been savvy enough to return it to Charlie once I was done with it, but once I was finished with it, I probably just forgot all about it. (And for that matter, why didn’t Charlie follow up on it?)
Oh, one more thing. In case you’re wondering what a TWX is, it’s pronounced “twix”, and you can read all about them at this link.