The dramatic events of the past few weeks were prompted by inspectors general reviewing a mere 40 emails out of the tens of thousands Hillary Clinton finally decided to hand over, to say nothing of the equally large volume of correspondence she deleted, in defiance of subpoena.
Of those 40 emails, five contained classified material, and two of those were Top Secret. Further review has discovered a total of sixty classified messages on Clinton’s server, with many thousands of emails left to review.
It will make months to examine everything Clinton handed over – not least because she provided the messages on paper, although now that the discovery of Top Secret material finally prompted the FBI to seize the thumb drive she gave her lawyer David Kendall, perhaps a speedier review will be possible.
Part of the problem is that someone – most likely the aide that will eventually be selected by the Clinton syndicate as a fall guy or gal – stripped the classification markings out of the secret intel before it passed through Clinton’s server, which is a federal crime. Since the markings have been stripped away, investigators have to review each message individually and check for sensitive material, which is a time-consuming process.
In this case, Clinton’s fabled stonewalling tactics might have worked against her. Instead of delaying disclosure until the story died of old age, she’s guaranteed a slow drip of damaging headlines during the crucial early months of the presidential primary season. Informed voters were still trying to process the blockbuster discovery of Top Secret material on Clinton’s server when word of another 50-odd classified messages broke.
The Washington Times reports that the count of 60 classified messages is “current through the end of July,” so investigators have doubtless discovered more already, and are trying to determine how much of the material must be redacted before they can discuss it:
The 60 emails are among those that have been reviewed and cleared for release under the Freedom of Information Act as part of a open-records lawsuit. Some of the emails have multiple redactions for classified information.
Among the first 60 flagged emails, nearly all contained classified secrets at the lowest level of “confidential” and one contained information at the intermediate level of “secret,” officials told the Times.
Those 60 emails do not include two emails identified in recent days by Intelligence Community Inspector General I. Charles McCullough III as containing “top-secret” information possibly derived from Pentagon satellites, drones or intercepts, which is some of the nation’s most sensitive secrets.
State officials and the intelligence community are working to resolve questions about those and other emails with possible classified information, a process that isn’t likely to be completed until January.
Which, as the Washington Times observes, will be right before the Iowa caucuses. It’s remarkable how badly Clinton bungled the timing of this particular spin-control effort. Was she somehow unaware of the inspectors general combing through her emails, on track to discover classified and Top Secret material at this particularly damaging moment? They’re finding too many classified emails to believe these are just a few odds and ends Hillary forgot to delete when she was busy nuking everything she considered “personal.”
The more of her current spin about the email crisis a Hillary fan buys (nobody else is buying any of it), the more puzzling it should seem to those doggedly loyal, uncritical folks that Clinton didn’t voluntarily comply with the protocols and hand everything over years ago, instead of sitting on her official correspondence until the Congress, the State Department, and federal judges demanded it. Full, voluntary disclosure right after she left State would have put all of the current unpleasantness behind her long ago – assuming, of course, one is prepared to believe she won’t face serious legal consequences for what she has done.
Of course, merely complying with the simple, logical protocols for using the State Department email system would have avoided this mess entirely. But remember, Clinton expects her supporters to believe she did all this for “convenience.”
Update, 12:00 EST: According to an update from the Washington Times late Monday morning, reviewers have now screened about 20 percent of the emails Clinton handed over – which means about 10 percent of the total, since she destroyed half of them – and flagged 300 of them for “potential secret information.” These flagged messages must still be reviewed by the intelligence community before it can be conclusively determined they contain sensitive, classified, or Top Secret material.
We learn this because the State Department was ordered to report on its progress by District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan, who has been handling several Freedom of Information Act lawsuits against the department. In response to a suit from reporter Jason Leopold of Vice, the judge set a timetable for State to release Clinton’s emails, and they’re already far behind schedule.
The reason why, according to the Washington Times, is amusing: the State Department says it “missed the July target by more than 1,000 pages of emails” due to “the need to screen out classified information as the reason for breaking the judge’s order.” They say they’ll be caught up by September, now that the intelligence community has been fully “integrated into the process.”
Remember, Clinton kicked off this scandal with an elaborately legalistic escape-clause-laden statement intended to convey the impression her homebrew server contained no classified information at all.