Biden document viewing: What is a SCIF?

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Pages from the affidavit by the FBI in support of obtaining a search warrant for former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate are photographed Friday, Aug. 26, 2022. U.S. Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart ordered the Justice Department to make public a redacted version of the affidavit it relied on when federal agents searched Trump’s estate to look for classified documents. Jon Elswick/AP

Biden document viewing: What is a SCIF?

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House Oversight Committee members will step inside one of the country’s most secure rooms for viewing classified documents, a privilege held by only those with top-level security clearance.

On Thursday, committee members will view an FBI FD-1023 form subpoenaed by Chairman James Comer (R-KY), a document that he says provides proof of an alleged criminal scheme on behalf of President Joe Biden and his family. Members will have to view the document in a SCIF.


A SCIF, or sensitive compartmented information facility, is an ultrasecure room that does not allow technology inside. It is used by officials and government contractors to review highly classified documents and information.

SCIFs are not used for confidential or secret documents, only top-secret information. Examples of top-secret information are weapon designs, war plans, or any information that, if released, is a danger to national security. Confidential and secret documents can be kept in a government office as long as it’s properly locked after viewing.

It is unclear if the FD-1023 form is considered “top secret” or if special circumstances require a SCIF.

Top-secret materials must be stored and handled in a SCIF in mostly all circumstances. There are thousands of SCIFs in Washington, D.C., used for these purposes, located in federal buildings, embassies, military installations, and other government buildings.

The walls are layered with gypsum board and plywood, sheathed in materials that prevent electronic eavesdropping, according to a Washington Post analysis. Soundproofing and acoustic sealant prevent people from listening. Cellphones and other unsecured devices are barred from the room.

Mesh and metal studs in the walls are used to protect against forced entry. Combination locks, special deadbolts, and other access control systems are used that require an employee badge and personal ID numbers for entry.

At times, a guard will stand outside to protect the stored documents or must be within a five-minute response time from the SCIF.

The goal of the SCIF is to provide “security in depth,” Steven Aftergood, a classified-information expert, told the Washington Post. Highly classified materials, including top-secret documents and information collected from intelligence sources, are never supposed to leave a SCIF.


The security of SCIFs has come under scrutiny in the wake of finding classified documents in former President Donald Trump’s home in Mar-a-Lago and Biden’s home in Delaware and the Penn Biden Center in Washington. Documents were found at former Vice President Mike Pence’s home in Indiana.

Accused Pentagon leaker Jack Teixeira, who allegedly leaked top-secret documents on a private Discord chat, had a top-level security clearance as a Massachusetts Air National Guardsman. He received “top secret” and “sensitive compartmented information,” or TS/SCI, security clearance in 2021.

© 2023 Washington Examiner

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