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Mar-a-Lago ‘Nightmare’ Place for Secret Documents: Former Intelligence Officer

  • Experts have weighed in on the difficulties of keeping top secret information safe at Mar-A-Lago.
  • The club saw major security breaches, possibly influencing the FBI’s urgency to take the files.
  • A former US intelligence officer told Reuters securing Mar-A-Lago was a “nightmare”.

Mar-A-Lago is a “nightmare” for keeping state secrets, a former US intelligence officer has said amid the political storm sparked by the FBI’s raid on the Florida resort to take them back.

The search was part of an FBI investigation into whether former President Donald Trump violated three federal laws, including the Espionage Act, by moving boxes of misplaced equipment, some top secret, from the White House at Mar-a-Lago.

And in a raid on August 8, FBI agents recovered much of this material, noting in a forensic file that there was a mix of confidential, secret and top secret records.

Trump supporters and activists say the FBI’s unprecedented search was politically motivated.

But the location of the materials at the Palm Beach home was an obvious concern for intelligence officials — a location where Trump has racked up a number of frustrating national security incidents.

Weeks before the raid, investigators told Trump to add a lock to the basement room where the documents were kept, CNN reported.

“It’s a nightmarish environment for the careful handling of highly classified information,” an unnamed former US intelligence officer told Reuters. “It’s just a nightmare.”

Another pundit, former CIA counterterrorism analyst Aki Peritz, called the sprawling 126-room club an obvious target.

Speaking to CNN, Peritz said, “Mar-a-Lago has been a porous place ever since Trump declared his candidacy and started winning the primaries several years ago.

“If you were any intelligence, friendly or hostile, worth their salt, they would focus their efforts on this incredibly porous place.”

Throughout his presidency, Mar-a-Lago has been home to security breaches — some carried out casually by Trump himself.

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Then-U.S. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump greet Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his wife Akie Abe at the Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida on April 17, 2018.


In 2017, when Trump hosted then-Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the club, he shocked security officials by casually discussing news of a North Korean missile test in front of impressed guests.

A defense policy expert told Insider at the time that the incident signaled to spies that it would be “much easier” to listen to the president.

At Mar-a-Lago, the Secret Service physically screened visitors, but had no control over who could visit – a fact the agency had to clarify in a rare public statement after a 2019 trespassing incident.

In March that year, a Chinese woman broke into the club with a USB drive and a hidden camera detection device, among other technologies that raised concerns that she was a spy. She had managed to gain entry after a Secret Service search revealed that the name on her passport partially matched that of a member of the club.

On Friday, Trump said all Mar-a-Lago documents had been “declassified” – a claim that House Intelligence Committee Rep. Jim Himes called “baloney.” Declassifying documents is a complex process that can take months, Himes said.