“I take classified information seriously,” Hillary Clinton declared on CNN. “People are selectively leaking and making comments that have no basis in anything I’m aware of.”
Doubling down on this is shrewd politics, because Clinton’s guilt has been laid bare by the latest round of email revelations.
Her hope now is for pure political immunity, making herself too big to prosecute by sewing up the Democratic presidential nomination. Her highest priority is to reassure nervous Democrat voters and power brokers that she’ll survive the email scandal.
There is no real question that she violated security protocols, repeatedly, and a strong case to be made that she put lives in danger by doing so.
Former NSA analyst John Schindler makes that case forcefully at The Observer, noting that Clinton did exactly what caused the involvement of a special prosecutor in the 2003 Valerie Plame case… except that with Clinton, multiple real field operations were put in jeopardy, not a fame-hungry desk jockey looking to cash in on liberal media’s Bush Derangement Syndrome:
Discussions with Intelligence Community officials have revealed that Ms. Clinton’s “unclassified” emails included Holy Grail items of American espionage such as the true names of Central Intelligence Agency intelligence officers serving overseas under cover. Worse, some of those exposed are serving under non-official cover. NOCs (see this for an explanation of their important role in espionage) are the pointy end of the CIA spear and they are always at risk of exposure – which is what Ms. Clinton’s emails have done.
Not only have these spies had their lives put in serious risk by this, it’s a clear violation of Federal law. The Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1982, enacted due to the murder of the CIA’s station chief in Athens after his cover was blown by the left-wing media, makes it a Federal crime to divulge the true identity of any covert operative serving U.S. intelligence if that person has not previously been publicly acknowledged to be working for our spy agencies.
People really go to jail for breaking this law. John Kiriakou, a former CIA officer, recently emerged from two years in prison for unauthorized disclosure of classified information, including exposing the identity of an Agency colleague who was serving under cover.
Furthermore, Schindler cites intelligence officials who say Clinton’s emails include the names of foreigners working for the CIA. “It’s a death sentence,” a senior intel official said about the very high probability that foreign operatives hacked Clinton’s unsecured server. “If we’re lucky, only agents, not our officers, will get killed because of this.”
Schindler portrays the intelligence community as being in “panic mode right now, trying to determine which of our intelligence officers and agents have been compromised by EmailGate.”
This is the very opposite of taking national security seriously, especially since Clinton’s stated reason for unleashing this chaos was a trifling matter of her own personal convenience – she thought it would be confusing to carry two cell phones around, one for her personal mail and one for the State system she was supposed to be using.
No one seriously believes that story, especially not red-faced Clinton defenders screaming that it’s all a big nothingburger. They know Clinton’s real purpose was to keep her private correspondence secret from the hellish Republicans and their damnable investigative subcommittees. They’re quite happy to grant Her Majesty such a royal indulgence, but no one else should be.
Clinton loyalists willing to swallow her Vast Right Wing Conspiracy fairy tales one more time won’t think any more deeply about her excuses, but everyone else should understand that nothing she has ever said about the email scandal is logically consistent. In these latest revelations, we have her claims to take national security seriously juxtaposed against clear evidence that she did not. She had other priorities more important than keeping classified material secure.
Clinton and her campaign claim this is all just a silly inter-agency food fight about “over-classification”… but the Secretary of State has no authority to declassify material. The purpose of having strict protocols for classified material, especially in this high-speed digital age, is to develop unthinking, reflexive respect for secret information among those who handle it.
Our intelligence system cannot survive if people start thinking their personal opinion about whether documents are “over-classified” transcends the judgment of the intelligence community, or such protocols as the “born classified” status given to some of the information Clinton jeopardized.
Allowing high-powered politicians to trash those protocols at their own convenience guarantees more dangerous leaks in the future, and not just from arrogant Cabinet officials with good Party credentials. There is already mounting evidence that Clinton’s mere aides thought themselves empowered to strip classified markings as they saw fit.
Also, playing fast and loose with security doctrine makes it more difficult to get foreign contacts to trust the United States – not just field assets, but even prominent national leaders who begin questioning the wisdom of discussing sensitive material with American officials.
As for those field operations, we’re already in deep trouble after the Office of Personnel Management hack exposed U.S. government agents, defense contractors, and foreign contacts. If Clinton’s email put more foreign contacts at risk, as Schindler alleges, we could be heading for a catastrophic loss of trust in American connections. (Not to mention that Obama/Clinton foreign policy has taught the world being America’s adversary is lucrative, while being America’s friend is dangerous.)
Clinton claims she is a towering genius who understands how to handle sensitive data better than anyone else in government… but her defense also relies on presenting herself as a befuddled grandma who doesn’t know much about computers, an impression bolstered by recently revealed comments from State officials that she didn’t even understand how email worked. She can’t pose as both a master of 21st-century espionage and a computer neophyte at the same time.
Clinton and her flacks are trying to save her with lawyerly evasions that her emails weren’t “marked classified,” or that she didn’t “originate” the offending documents. Neither of those claims holds water under the relevant laws, including the non-disclosure agreement Clinton signed.
One of the vital provisions of that agreement is that Clinton would spot violations perpetrated by others, such as her aides, and report them promptly. The NDA also makes it clear that information is considered classified whether “marked” as such, or not. Clinton is playing word games in an effort to obscure a very sensible requirement. The only way to keep classified intel from leaking is to make everyone who handles it feel responsible for its security.
Clinton is now resorting to absurd political theater, such as claiming she wants all of her Top Secret documents released for the public to judge. If she knows the first thing about classified information, and takes it as seriously as she claims, she would know that anyone who complied with her request would be promptly jailed on felony charges. She’s playing the voters for fools by making a demand she knows the government cannot legally comply with. That’s not taking national security “seriously” – it’s turning national security into a political instrument.
The question really isn’t whether Hillary Clinton takes national security seriously. The question is whether the American people do.