LEWISTON — Squirreled away in the reams of documents that former U.S. Secretary of State Edmund Muskie left to Bates College were 98 classified documents that somehow wound up among Muskie’s personal papers.

Then-Secretary of State Edmund Muskie in 1980. U.S. National Archives photo

The archivists who found the documents while cataloguing the papers donated by Muskie, a former Maine governor and U.S. senator, notified federal authorities, who acted quickly to retrieve them more than a decade ago.

Jay Bosanko, who later served as director of the Information Security Oversight Office, told the U.S. House Intelligence Committee this year that he flew to Maine to go through the materials and carry back to Washington papers that should never have left government hands.

The improper retention of classified material has become a hot topic nationally in the wake of the indictment this week of former President Donald Trump in violation of the federal Espionage Act and related charges.

Trump, who has proclaimed his innocence, is due in court Tuesday in Florida.

But both Trump and his supporters have insisted that he didn’t do anything that many other government officials have done over the years in hanging on to documents by mistake.


Though Trump has never mentioned Muskie, some of his allies have, including U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, a New York Republican who has served on the House intelligence panel since 2017.

The House committee said this spring that the retention of classified documents is a problem broader than just the former presidents and vice presidents found to possess secret material that ought to have remained under lock and key.

It said officials from the National Archives testified that members of every administration since Ronald Reagan have mishandled classified documents and improperly commingled secret and unclassified paperwork.

The committee specifically pointed out just one example: when Muskie “inadvertently sent 98 classified documents to Bates College.”

Mark Bradley, the current Information Security Oversight Office director, told members of Congress in March that when librarians processing donated papers come across ones marked as classified, they “know to call us. We dispatch a team to go retrieve them and bring them back to Washington.”

President Jimmy Carter signs the Maine Indian Claims Settlement Act. Shown in the photo are, from left, Maine Gov. Joseph Brennan; U.S. Secretary of State Edmund Muskie of Maine; Secretary of the Interior Cecil Andrus; Maine Sen. George Mitchell; and Terrance Polchies of the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians. Associated Press file

Most and perhaps all of the paperwork that Bosanko scooped up at Bates dated to Muskie’s time as secretary of state during the administration of President Jimmy Carter and from his service on the Tower Commission that delved into President Ronald Reagan’s controversial, secret initiative to sell arms to Iran to secure funding for a right-wing militia fighting in Central America.


After a review in Washington, most of the 98 documents were declassified because the secrets they contained no longer needed protection.

Information Security Oversight Office records indicate that records were taken from the Muskie Archives in 2007 and 2010, stored at the U.S. State Department and reviewed. Those that were declassified were ready to return to Bates in 2011, though there appears to have been an appeal that delayed the release of at least some until 2013.

Pat Webber, director of the Muskie Archives at Bates, said he only knows of a few that retained their classification after the review. They were removed from the archive’s material and are kept in a secure facility by the National Archives and Records Administration.

One document among them is specifically cited in National Archives’ records. Written about 1987 and titled “Arms Sales to Iran,” it is apparently still classified and off-limits.

That classified material wound up among Muskie’s papers is not unusual, federal officials have said.

Bradly told the House Intelligence panel in March that his office has received more than 80 calls from different libraries around the country since 2010 about potentially classified documents they had run across.


Most of them came from papers donated by members of Congress, Bradley said.

Muskie’s papers were deposited at Bates, where he graduated in 1936, after he was tapped by Carter in 1980 to serve as secretary of state.

Five years later, the college said, some of Muskie’s friends and former staff members raised enough money, with assistance from Bates, to renovate the former women’s gymnasium to create the Edmund S. Muskie Archives building on Campus Avenue.

Muskie gave the college intellectual property rights in any of his unpublished writings in 1989.

Muskie also sent more records to the college in 1994 and 1996, the year he died. The college received another group of papers from the estate of Jane Muskie in 2005.

Muskie’s archives take up 2,346 linear feet. That’s nearly half a mile’s worth of paper.

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