Yesterday we learned that Hillary Clinton’s very odd choice for computer services, a small company called Platte River Networks in Colorado, was not authorized to handle the classified and Top Secret material that has been discovered on Clinton’s illicit email server.
Now Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) is asking tough questions about whether Hillary Clinton’s lawyer, David Kendall, was cleared to handle the thumb drive full of email she gave him.
One important aspect of the fast-growing Clinton email scandal is that she appears to have exposed classified and Top Secret material to a number of individuals who were not cleared to see it. This is not a minor mistake, or a perk enjoyed by members of the Clinton Royal Family – it’s a federal crime, and for good reason.
Security dies in a viral fashion, and leaks are contagious. As soon as one unauthorized person gets a good look at classified information, a whole world of possible contagion is opened up: everyone they know, everyone they do business with, everyone they might inadvertently expose the intelligence to by handling it improperly, and every foreign agency that took the precaution of keeping people with suspicious relationships to power players under surveillance.
Top Secret clearance is not handed out like participation trophies at public schools. It’s a responsibility, and there is training involved. Individuals who lack such training are liable to make mistakes that create nightmarish security breaches.
Based on what we’ve seen so far, it’s likely that Russia, China, and other top-tier espionage players know more about how Hillary Clinton’s server was handled than the State Department did before last month… or at least, more than State is willing to admit. It’s simply astounding how so many basic questions about Clinton’s conduct, security profile, and server management elicit nothing but confused shrugs and blank stares from Obama Administration spokespeople. They act like she crept into the Secretary of State’s office in the dead of night and squatted there for a couple of years before anyone else in the Administration noticed she was there.
If you were reading mainstream media outlets which uncritically relayed Clinton spin about how the discovery of not just sensitive, but actively classified and Top Secret material on her server was no big deal – just part of a “food fight” between agencies over what should be classified, with Madame H taking it upon herself to discard a few silly and unnecessary Top Secret designations, you should know that in reality, the discovery of Top Secret material on the Secret Server was a game-changer. There is nothing ambiguous about the laws concerning the proper handling of such information, or the penalties assessed for creating a system that violates those procedures. Within a day of the Top Secret revelation, the FBI became noticeably less delicate about investigating Clinton, and began seizing hardware.
Senator Grassley notes these developments in his letter to Kendall, then sets about challenging the glib assurances from Clintonworld that Kendall was fully cleared and properly trained to handle the data placed in his custody:
In light of that particular classification, which generally requires advanced protocols such as a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility (SCIF) and other similar arrangements to possess and view, it appears the FBI has determined that your clearance is not sufficient to allow you to maintain custody of the emails. Consistent with that determination, the FBI is now in custody of not only the thumb drives previously in your possession that allegedly contain all of Secretary Clinton’s emails, but also Secretary Clinton’s personal server that was used to maintain the top secret emails outside of a government facility.
Further reporting indicates that Secretary Clinton may have provided you copies of her emails in December 2014 and that government officials realized that the emails contained classified information in May 2015 yet the Department of State did not deliver a safe to store the thumb drives until July 2015. Thus, since at least May 2015 and possibly December 2014, it appears that in addition to not having an adequate security clearance, you did not have the appropriate tools in place to secure the thumb drives. Even with the safe, there are questions as to whether it was an adequate mechanism to secure TS/SCI material. Given the importance of securing and protecting classified information, especially TS/SCI material, it is imperative to confirm when, how, and why you, and any of your associates, received a security clearance in connection with your representation of Ms. Clinton and whether it was active while you had custody of Secretary Clinton’s emails.
Grassley then asks 13 specific questions about Kendall’s security clearance, including when it was issued, which agency granted it, which other personnel at his law firm were granted clearance, and the precise date when Kendall and his associates took custody of the data from Clinton’s server.
Senator Grassley asks a few less obvious, but very interesting, questions beyond the basics. For example, he asks a straightforward question that the Administration has thus far been reluctant to answer: does Hillary Clinton still have an active security clearance?
As Grassley notes, Top Secret clearance is provided along strict “need to know” lines – an individual must demonstrate clear and continuing need to keep such credentials active. It’s debatable whether Clinton herself could prove such a “need to know” for very long after retiring as Secretary of State, and even more improbable that her lawyer and his associates could.
Grassley perceptively asks when the clearance Kendall was granted to represent former CIA director General David Petraeus was terminated. In fact, it’s the second question he asks. Perhaps the Senate Judiciary Chairman suspects Kendall is coasting on the credentials he was issued for the Petraeus case, which almost certainly would not cover Top Secret material, and might have expired in any event.
All of Grassley’s questions about the clearances granted to Kendall and his associates ask for the specific reason each credential was requested. This is important for several reasons, including the possibility that it will destroy Clinton’s talking points about how she didn’t know there was classified material flowing through her server.
She’s probably trying to set up a subordinate to take the fall for pumping such intel through her system. That will be very difficult to pull off if Clinton requested top clearances for Kendall and others at his firm years ago, because she knew they would be handling classified material. If the denials she issued at her ridiculous March press conference were true, and she honestly thought there was nothing sensitive passing through any account on her machine, why would she request high security clearance levels for her lawyer?
Grassley wraps up by asking a question many current and former members of the intelligence community have been asking since the bombshell Top Secret revelations last week: if Kendall, and Clinton, had active security clearances, have they been suspended? This would be standard procedure for nearly anyone else under investigation for violating protocols, with clearance possibly restored after the investigation was concluded, if no offenses were prosecuted.
Obviously the Clinton campaign doesn’t want headlines screaming that her security clearance has been revoked, but Hillary Clinton’s political needs should be completely irrelevant to this investigation. That’s not the America we live in today, of course – powerful politicians, especially if they have Democrat Party credentials, are simply immune to the laws governing most of us, even when those laws concern national security.
Grassley’s office notes that the Senator’s inquiries to the FBI and State Department about their efforts to “secure the top secret classified information on the clintonemail.com server and the thumb drives in Kendall’s possession” have been ignored so far, which is standard operating procedure for this utterly opaque and unaccountable Administration, but it might not be sustainable for much longer in the Clinton email scandal.