Hundreds of classified documents found in Tampa home of retired Air Force officer
TAMPA, Fla. - As several investigations are underway over classified documents found at the homes of President Joe Biden, former President Donald Trump and former Vice President Mike Pence, a retired Air Force Intel boss was caught with hundreds at his home.
This investigation dates back to January 24, 2017 when the Air Force's Office of Special Investigations (AFOSI) received information indicating that Robert Birchum had been storing classified information on a thumb drive at his home in Tampa.
A search of his home that same day found a thumb drive containing 135 files that were marked as containing Top Secret, Top Secret/ACCM, Secret, and/or Confidential classified information.
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Documents filed in the Middle District of Tampa show some of the documents contained information "discussing the NSA's collection of information" and that "their unauthorized release could be expected to cause exceptionally grave damage to the national security of the United States."
During that search, officers also seized the hard drive of a Dell computer and found more files containing information marked as secret as well as 48 paper documents.
Another search on January 30, 2017, a hard drive from temporary quarters overseas revealed 117 additional files containing "classified national defense information." A final search on February 3, 2017, of a storage pod at his Tampa home for 28 paper documents marked as Secret.
According to court documents, Birchum served on active duty as a commissioned officer in the United States Air Force from May 1986 to July 2018, when he retired at the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.
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The documents go on to state, throughout his time in the Air Force, Birchum worked in various jobs in intelligence, including as an Intelligence Officer and because of his job duties, he held a Top-Secret security clearance with access to classified information. Court documents show Birchum signed an NDA as a condition of access to those documents.
A plea agreement states Birchum’s "residence was not a location authorized to store classified information, and the defendant knew as much."
Greg Holder is a retired military judge and retired Colonel for the Air Force where he served for 29 years. He says he handled a lot of classified documents during that time.
"The rules are extremely clear, and we are all instructed and signed policy letters with respect to our handling of classified material. At no time is this a let's take our homework home and do it at home. Classified documents need to be secured," Holder said.
When asked about the case, Department of the Air Force Spokesperson Rose Riley said, "It’s department policy that we don’t comment on ongoing litigation."
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Birchum’s attorney Eric Roper told FOX13, "while not at liberty to discuss details of this matter at this time, we look forward to presenting a full picture of Lt. Col. (Ret) Birchum’s nearly 30-year military career at the appropriate time."
According to a plea deal filed, Birchum entered a guilty plea to one count of unlawful retention of national defense information charges. It carries up to 10 years in prison and potential fines.
There’s an Initial Appearance and Change of Plea Hearing set for February 21 in Tampa.