Another of Hillary Clinton’s talking points bites the dust, and it’s the Washington Post that shoots it down, with an analysis that found Clinton herself was the author of 104 of the classified emails on her server.
Clinton has long maintained she neither “sent or received” classified emails. This was originally interpreted as a claim no sensitive material would be found on her server, but once a huge volume of such material was discovered, including Top Secret and beyond Top Secret documents, the talking point mutated into a bit of lawyer-style evasion. Clinton was now claiming she was not the author, or final recipient, of the email chains containing classified material — she just popped up in the middle of the conversations.
That was never a compelling argument, since Clinton’s creation of the bootleg email server was the key issue; it wasn’t particularly relevant if she was the originator of email chains that exposed classified material by improperly passing through her unsecure system.
And now, according to the Post, even the rhetorical value of that talking point is gone, because Hillary Clinton was the originator of some dangerous email chains:
The finding is the first accounting of the Democratic presidential front-runner’s personal role in placing information now considered sensitive into insecure email during her State Department tenure. Clinton’s authorship of dozens of emails now considered classified could complicate her efforts to argue that she never put government secrets at risk.
In roughly three-quarters of those cases, officials have determined that material Clinton herself wrote in the body of email messages is classified. Clinton sometimes initiated the conversations but more often replied to aides or other officials with brief reactions to ongoing discussions.
The analysis also showed that the practice of using non-secure email systems to send sensitive information was widespread at the department and elsewhere in government.
That’s a most unsettling discovery, and it’s going to get much worse if Clinton skates after taking the use of non-secure email systems to the dizzying heights of irresponsibility, by setting up her own shadow mail server. The Post described classified information flying around on all sorts of non-secure accounts, including government email addresses. Much of this material was never supposed to leave the intelligence community’s highly secure, sealed network.
The Post strives mightily to give Clinton the benefit of the doubt, arguing that its analysis “suggests that either material is being overclassified, as Clinton and her allies have charged, or that classified material is being handled improperly with regularity by government officials at all levels — or some combination of the two.”
The Secretary of State is not authorized to unilaterally disregard security classifications from outside the State Department — to the point where her aides were stripping the classification markings off the documents — because she thinks the intel community classifies too much material. There is no way to maintain a functioning secret intelligence system, if individuals believe their personal judgment overrides security protocols. It’s just about the most dangerous idea anyone involved in a secure intelligence network could entertain.
Clinton defenders also keep returning to the idea of retroactive classification, meaning some of the documents were OK to send in the clear when Clinton and her aides did it, but were classified later. That’s not true of many of the documents we’ve seen so far, and many more have been redacted so heavily that it’s difficult to tell what they contained.
Also, some of the material Clinton treated irresponsibly was “born classified,” meaning everyone involved was expected to know it should be treated as restricted information from the moment of inception. It doesn’t matter when a “born classified” document was marked up with the codes designating it secret information. Everyone who handles those documents, most definitely including the Secretary of State, is responsible for knowing the nature of the material makes it classified immediately.
The Washington Post touches on that issue:
When her use of a private system was first revealed, she told reporters, “I did not email any classified material to anyone on my email.” At other points, she has said that none of the emails was “marked classified” at the time she sent or received them — a point she reiterated Friday in a CNBC interview.
But government rules require senders of classified information to properly mark it. And the inspector general for the intelligence community has said that some of Clinton’s correspondence contained classified material when it was sent — even if it was not labeled.
The State Department has sidestepped the question.
Spokesman John Kirby said only that the department’s reviewers “focused on whether information needs to be classified today — prior to documents being publicly released.” State officials have not offered an assessment of whether the information was classified when it was sent.
Much of the Post article is devoted to quotes from officials eager to cut Clinton slack by saying they didn’t think the redacted material in messages they authored would have merited classification at the time they sent it… although even these officials note they thought they were working on a reasonably secure government system, not a secret server in Clinton’s basement, and complained the email scandal was making the general public privy to conversations they otherwise would not have seen.
Foreign intelligence services certainly weren’t meant to see these emails, either, especially in the complete and unredacted form they would have obtained by hacking Clinton’s eminently hackable private server.
The Associated Press notes that Clinton and her aides often “appeared keenly aware of the limitations of operating over an unclassified, nongovernment account,” and were sometimes “frustrated by the constraints.”
Even as the FBI works on determining whether laws were broken, there’s no question Hillary Clinton’s extremely poor judgment interfered with the responsibilities of her office, violated numerous protocols, and dragged many other government officials party to those violations without their knowledge… all because she supposedly couldn’t manage the inconvenience of carrying two smartphones around.