A retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Colonel whom the FBI learned in 2017 possessed highly classified documents accepted a plea deal Friday.
Robert Birchum, 54, pleaded guilty to one count of unlawul detention of national defense information in the agreement entered in Tampa, Florida’s federal District Court. The maximum penalty for that crime is 10 years imprisonment, according to federal prosecutors.
Investigators recovered a thumb drive with 135 classified files, including 31 marked “Top Secret,” according to the court filing. Birchum also retained 117 classified files on a personal hard drive from an overseas deployment and 28 classified paper documents in a storage unit, according to a report from The Daily Wire.
The Daily Mail further reported:
A former Air Force intelligence officer has agreed to plea guilty after prosecutors said he illegally kept hundreds of highly classified documents at his Florida home.
Robert Birchum, 54, agreed to plea guilty to one felony count of unlawful retention of national defense information, and faces up to 10 years in prison, according to a plea deal unsealed on Friday.
The agreement says Birchum served as an Air Force officer from May 1986 to July 2018, when he retired at the rank of lieutenant colonel after holding a variety of high-level roles, including chief of combat intelligence for an unnamed Air Force group.
Birchum’s attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment from DailyMail.com on Monday, and declined to comment when reached by the Daily Beast, which first reported the plea deal.
The plea agreement, signed in August but newly unsealed, comes as President Joe Biden, former President Donald Trump, and his VP Mike Pence all face questions about classified documents found in their private residences.
Prosecutors say that in January 2017, Air Force investigators received a tip that Birchum was storing classified information on a thumb drive at his private residence in Tampa.
Following a search of the home, investigators recovered a drive containing 135 files with classification markings, including 31 that were marked as ‘Top Secret’, according to the court filing.
Regulations governing classified information define ‘Top Secret’ as that information that, where it to be disclosed without authorization, could case ‘exceptionally grave damage’ to the national security.
Two of the documents were highly sensitive presentations on the National Security Agency, which the filings says ‘summarize the NSA’s capabilities, detail methods of collection, and identify targets’ vulnerabilities.’
The filing says that the documents were classified Top Secret/SCI and that their ‘unauthorized release could be expected to cause exceptionally grave damage to the national security of the United States.’
Searches also recovered 48 paper documents in the home marked Secret, and hard drives from the home and overseas temporary quarters that together had 127 additional files with classifications markings, though some of them were duplicates.
It’s unclear why Birchum had the documents at his home, or what he planned to do with them.
But the filing notes that as an experience Air Force intelligence officer, Birchum had entered into ‘various agreements with the United States regarding the protection and proper handling of classified information.’
Birchum’s roles in the military included assignments working with classified intelligence information at the Joint Special Operations Command (‘JSOC’), Special Operations Command (‘SOCOM’), and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
Due to his duties, he held a Top Secret security clearance with access to Sensitive Compartmented Information (SCI), which must be held in a secure facility on government premises, known as a ‘SCIF’.
For obvious reasons, the court filing does not detail the classified information found in Birchum’s home.
However, it notes that he routinely had access to information including ‘Department of Defense locations throughout the world, detailed explanations of the Air Force’s capabilities and vulnerabilities’ and the methods used for gathering intelligence.
Birchum is due to appear in court on February 21 to enter his guilty plea.
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