Email released during the middle of the night might bring about the end of Hillary Clinton’s political career, and possibly result in felony charges against her. One of the emails shows Clinton instructing an aide to remove the “identifying heading” and send information trough non-secure channels when they were having difficulty sending over secure fax. The Hill reports:
In order to speed up the transmission of a set of talking points, Hillary Clinton asked an aide to send information to her through a “nonsecure” channel.
In an email marked June 17, 2011, that was released by the State Department on Friday, Clinton informs aide Jake Sullivan that she has not yet received a set of talking points.
“They say they’ve had issues sending secure fax,” Sullivan says. “They’re working on it.”
“If they can’t, turn into nonpaper w no identifying heading and send nonsecure,” Clinton responds.
It is not clear what the contents of the email were, whether information sent was classified or secure or whether the order was carried out.
The Clinton campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Ia.) chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, called the email “disturbing.”
“The State Department’s latest Freedom of Information Act release contains a disturbing email that appears to show the former Secretary of State instructing a subordinate to remove the headings from a classified document and send it to her in an unsecure manner,” he said in a statement on Friday.
“It raises a host of serious questions and underscores the importance of the various inquiries into the transmittal of classified information through her non-government email server,” he added.
If Hillary Clinton did instruct someone to remove the markings on classified information and send it over her private email system, this would be a felony, violating laws such as such as U.S. Code 793. The question remains whether the information was classified, but from the context it is hard to accept any other explanation. If the information wasn’t classified, it wouldn’t have been an issue that they were having difficulty with the secure fax. Ed Morrissey’s thoughts on this are hard to argue with:
- Unclassified material doesn’t need to be transmitted by secure fax; if the material wasn’t classified, Sullivan would have had them faxed normally.
- Ordering aides to remove headers to facilitate the transmission over unsecured means strongly suggests that the information was not unclassified. On top of that, removing headers to avoid transmission security would be a violation of 18 USC 793 anyway, which does not require material to be classified — only sensitive to national security.
Contrary to Clinton’s previous claims that she did not send or receive classified email on her private server, by McClatchy’s count there were at least 1,340 emails contained classified material, including sixty-six in the latest release. While not marked as classified, “intelligence officials say some material was clearly classified at the time. Her aides also sent and received classified information.” As Reuters explained in August, when a smaller amount of classified information had already been discovered in Clinton’s email, this information could have been “born classified” and be considered classified regardless of whether the State Department had labeled it classified:
In the small fraction of emails made public so far, Reuters has found at least 30 email threads from 2009, representing scores of individual emails, that include what the State Department’s own “Classified” stamps now identify as so-called ‘foreign government information.’ The U.S. government defines this as any information, written or spoken, provided in confidence to U.S. officials by their foreign counterparts.
This sort of information, which the department says Clinton both sent and received in her emails, is the only kind that must be “presumed” classified, in part to protect national security and the integrity of diplomatic interactions, according to U.S. regulations examined by Reuters.
“It’s born classified,” said J. William Leonard, a former director of the U.S. government’s Information Security Oversight Office (ISOO). Leonard was director of ISOO, part of the White House’s National Archives and Records Administration, from 2002 until 2008, and worked for both the Bill Clinton and George W. Bush administrations.
“If a foreign minister just told the secretary of state something in confidence, by U.S. rules that is classified at the moment it’s in U.S. channels and U.S. possession,” he said in a telephone interview, adding that for the State Department to say otherwise was “blowing smoke.”
Reuters’ findings may add to questions that Clinton has been facing over her adherence to rules concerning sensitive government information. Spokesmen for Clinton declined to answer questions, but Clinton and her staff maintain she did not mishandle any information.
“I did not send classified material, and I did not receive any material that was marked or designated classified,” Clinton told reporters at a campaign event in Nevada on Tuesday.
Although it appears to be true for Clinton to say none of her emails included classification markings, a point she and her staff have emphasized, the government’s standard nondisclosure agreement warns people authorized to handle classified information that it may not be marked that way and that it may come in oral form.
Two of the emails were previously “top secret” with one later downgraded to “secret.”
Previously there were questions as to whether Clinton’s actions were intentional or if she understood enough about the computer systems to understand what was occurring. This email statement, “If they can’t, turn into nonpaper w no identifying heading and send nonsecure” should end the possibility of any defense along these lines.
The email also displayed further evidence of Clinton’s attitude that the rules which apply to others do not apply to her. The latest batch of emails include one where Clinton was surprised that a staffer was using private email. As I noted in this summary of the email scandal from July, an ambassador under Clinton was fired with failure to abide by rules against using private email being cited as a reason by the Inspector General (pdf of report here).
With the FBI investigating Clinton’s email practices at the State Department, there has been growing speculation in recent weeks that she will be facing criminal charges. While this tends to be more in the conservative media, it does appear that the FBI had already stepped up its probe late in 2015, and this latest “smoking gun” should increase the chances.
At this point nobody outside of the FBI knows were their probe is headed, but regardless of whether Clinton is indicted, her violations of Obama’s stricter standards for government transparency initiated in 2009, along with previous regulations, unethically receiving money (in the form of donations to the Foundation and extraordinarily high speaking fees to Bill, as well as questions of improperly handling classified information will be a major impediment to running in a general election, should Clinton fight off a challenge from Bernie Sanders which is looking much like Obama’s challenge eight years ago in terms of generating support, including a thirteen point lead today in New Hampshire.
Joe Biden said this week that he regrets his decision not to run “every day.” With many Democratic Party insiders appearing determined to keep Sanders from winning the nomination, it is just possible that they might offer Biden a second chance should they recognize how damaging the latest emails could be to Clinton’s election chances, or should she be indicted.