Gates Defends Hillary On Emails: It’s Sometimes Tough To Tell Whether Or Not Something Is Classified

Sunday, on ABC’s “This Week With George Stephanopoulos,” former CIA Director and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates defended Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton by telling guest host Martha Raddatz that the rise of ISIS in Libya after the Obama administration helped oust Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi was not then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s responsibility.

Gates also said of Clinton’s handling of classified material on a private email server by saying it can be “tough” to determine what is and what isn’t classified material.

Partial transcript as follows:

RADDATZ: You worked with Secretary Clinton. You’re not endorsing anyone —

GATES: Absolutely not.

RADDATZ: — at this point. How would her foreign policy be different than Barack Obama’s foreign policy? Is she more hawkish? Do you see her that way?

GATES: I think that — I think that she probably would be. She clearly has been on the record in favoring a more robust action in Syria, for example. So I think that she probably would be somewhat more hawkish than President Obama.

RADDATZ: President Obama has said his biggest mistake was not planning for after the intervention in Libya. How much responsibility does Secretary Clinton bear for that?

GATES: Well, I think just as — was the case and inability to deal with post-invasion Iraq in the Bush administration, ultimately, the failure to plan for a post-invasion, or post-military operation, really has to reside in the White House. It’s the White House and the NSC that has to bring Defense and State, the intelligence community, and others together in this planning process. It’s the not the province of just one department.

RADDATZ: And I want to ask you about her emails. You’ve been in government, pretty much your whole life. Secretary Clinton has spent a good deal of time in government. I know there is lots of over-classification, and people complain about that. But with your experience, if you read a document in an email, would you have a pretty good idea whether it should be marked top secret, even if it wasn’t?

GATES: Sometimes not. The truth is, things are over-classified, and sometimes, I would get something and it would be classified secret or top secret —

RADDATZ: Even if it’s the highest classification?

GATES: — and I would look at somebody and say, ‘I’m about to tell a foreign leader what is on this of paper that’s marked top secret, and that’s going to do serious damage to the United States? Why are you giving it to me as a talking point if it’s classified top secret?’ So, it is tough sometimes. And if you don’t have any markings on a piece of paper, it is tough sometimes to tell whether it’s classified or not.

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