Two emails received by Hillary Clinton on her private email server were in fact classified “top secret” at the time she received them.
Fox News‘ Catherine Herridge reported Tuesday that sources described the decision about the emails as a “settled matter.” The conclusion about the two emails was made by the intelligence community after a request to downgrade the classifications was made by the State Department. The decision seemingly puts to rest claims by the Clinton campaign and the State Department that the emails might not have been classified “top secret” at the time.
The “top secret” classification of one of the two emails was upheld, while the other email was downgraded to the “secret” level of classification from this point forward. However that decision is not retroactive, meaning the information in the email was “top secret” at the time it was sent. Herridge’s report suggested the 2nd email was downgraded to “secret” because “more information is publicly available about the event.”
The Clinton campaign and the State Department have denied for months that any “top secret” information was contained in emails sent to Clinton’s private server. In September, when a second intelligence community review of the emails concluded they contained “top secret” information, State Department spokesman John Kirby told the NY Times, “Very often both the State Department and the intelligence community acquire information on the same matter through separate channels.” Kirby added, “Thus, there can be two or more separate reports and not all of them based on classified means.”
A spokesman for the Clinton campaign took the same line, telling NBC News‘ Andrea Mitchell the decision could be the result of “parallel reporting,” in which two agencies come to the same information from different sources. In such a case, one agency might judge the information to be “top secret,” while a second agency, after receiving the same information from another source, decides it is not secret at all.
However, in cases of parallel reporting, the State Department would need to identify the alternate source for the information in question to prove that it was not taken from documents the intelligence community says are “top secret.” There is no evidence the State Department has been able to offer this evidence of parallel reporting. The fact that State asked the intelligence community to reassess the classification of its own material suggests State is, at least tacitly, admitting the information in the emails did come from those IC sources and not from some parallel source of information.
The Fox News report also directly contradicts a report last month by Politico. On Novermber 6th, Politico reported, “The U.S. intelligence community has retreated from claims that two emails in Hillary Clinton’s private account contained top-secret information.” Politico specifically claimed the classification of one email was found to be in error because, “a further review determined that the [highly classified source] report was not issued until several days after the email in question was written.”
A government source with knowledge of the situation says Politico’s explanation of the timeline is in error. In fact, the intelligence report specified by Politico was a summary document which included previously published “top secret” information. The earlier source documents apparently predate the email sent to Clinton’s private server.