Donald Trump is not alone.
Since 2015, at least 13 people have also been charged with the “willful retention” of government documents under the broad Espionage Act, according to a search of the U.S. Justice Department website.
Former President Trump faces 31 counts of willful retention of national defense information, and six additional charges including conspiracy to obstruct justice, withholding and concealing documents or records, scheming to conceal documents, and making false statements.
The people who have been charged, found guilty, and sentenced for keeping secret documents have paid thousands in fines and served or are currently serving sentences in federal prison ranging from three months to 10 years.
In one case, Asia Janay Lavarello had top secret security clearance while working for the U.S. embassy in Manila, the Philippines om 2020. Lavarello took “certain classified documents’ from her office to her hotel room where she later hosted a dinner party with guests including two foreign nationals and three U.S. co-workers. One of the co-workers saw the document marked “secret” during the party.
Lavarello said she had no malicious intent and hoped to use the documents, which she said were academic theses, to aid in writing her own graduate thesis. She was fined $5,500 and sentenced to 90 days imprisonment.
In another case, Nghia Hoang Pho had top secret clearance at the National Security Agency and removed “troves” of classified documents and writings to his home from 2010-2015. Pho, then 64, said that he took the documents so he could work from home and try to earn a promotion as he neared retirement. He was sentenced to 5.5 years in prison.
While working for the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency from 2009-2015 Mohan Nirala took home more than 500 pages of classified documents. His attorneys argued that the took them home to work on a discrimination complaint against his employer. He was sentenced to a year and one day in prison.
Some of the cases involve thousands of pieces of illegally-taken documents and information that was never shared with anyone, taken for inexplicable purposes.
Reynaldo Regis, a CIA contractor, copied notes from classified searches at work by hand into 60 notebooks that he then took home over the course of a decade. His lawyer said he simply made a mistake and had “no nefarious purpose.” He was sentenced to 90 days in 2018.
Bryan H. Nishimura served as a U.S. Navy reservist and downloaded classified briefings and digital records to his personal devices and took them home after he returned from a deployment in Afghanistan in 2008. Nishimura was sentenced to two years of probation, was issued a $7,500 fine, and had to surrender his security clearance.
Some cases involve claims of hoarding disorders.
National Security Agency contractor Harold Thomas Martin III took 50 terabytes of data – equal to 500 million pages of material – to his home over the course of 20 years from the 1990s to 2016. Records were also found in his car. His lawyers argued that he was a hoarder with “undiagnosed autism” who “developed the belief that the material he worked with could fill the loneliness and emptiness he felt from a lack of social connection and the perpetual sense of rejection he felt at work.” He was sentenced to nine years in prison.
In another possible hoarding case, Kendra Kingsbury was an FBI employee and had taken home 386 classified documents in electronic format home over the course of 13 years from 2004-2017.
“The breadth and depth of classified national security information retained by the defendant for more than a decade is simply astonishing,” said Alan E. Kohler, Jr. Assistant Director of the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division of the case.
Kingsbury will be sentenced soon.
In a case that would later prove ironic, Kristian Saucier worked on a nuclear attack submarine and took and retained illegal photos inside a classified nuclear submarine on three occasions in 2009. Saucier was sentenced in 2016 to one year of prison time and three years of supervised release that included electronic monitoring for six months at home. He also had to perform 100 hours of community service.
In 2018, then President Trump pardoned Saucier and tweeted a congratulations to him on his newfound freedom. Trump had used Saucier’s case during his 2016 campaign as an example of someone who was punished while his then-opponent Hillary Clinton had classified information on a private email server and the Justice Dept. did not file charges.
The FBI found in 2016 that while Clinton and her staff “were extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information” there was no clear evidence that Clinton intended to violate laws on classified information. A later Justice Inspector General report found that there was no evidence that Clinton and her staff “believed or were aware at the time that the emails contained classified information”.
None of these 13 cases involved the additional charge of disclosing classified information to another person, journalist, or foreign government.
In a search of the Justice Department's website, CGTN America found 15 cases that included the transmission of classified information to someone else - including six involving sharing information with a journalist, and 5 related to sharing information with a foreign government or foreign national.
One high profile example is former CIA Director and General David Petraeus who shared classified information with his girlfriend. In a plea deal with the Justice Department, Petraeus pled guilty to one count of unauthorized removal and retention of classified material. In 2015, he was sentenced to two years probation and given a $100,000 fine.
Another recent classified transmission case is the arrest of U.S. Air Force National Guard employee Jack Douglas Teixeira who allegedly shared information to a chat group on the Discord platform in 2023.