The Obama administration has now deemed some of the emails “too damaging” to national security to release under any circumstances, according to a U.S. government official close to the ongoing review. A second source, who was not authorized to speak on the record, backed up the finding.
Clinton has insisted she never sent or received information on her personal email account that was classified at the time. No emails released so far were stamped “CLASSIFIED” or “TOP SECRET,” but reviewers previously had designated more than 1,000 messages at lower classification levels for public release. Friday’s will be the first at the top secret level.
It was the first time State has formally deemed any of Clinton’s emails classified at that level, reserved for information that can cause “exceptionally grave” damage to national security if disclosed.
And because the administration believes strongly in transparency and accountability, you won’t get any information about just what kind of state secrets were passed on a non-secure server:
The State Department on Friday said for the first time that “top secret” material had been sent through Hillary Clinton’s private computer server, and that it would not make public 22 of her emails because they contained highly classified information.
The State Department also announced Friday that 18 emails between Clinton and President Barack Obama are being withheld from disclosure.
“Such presidential records shall remain confidential to protect the president’s ability to receive unvarnished advice and counsel,” Kirby said.
Experts say the withholding of such Obama-Clinton messages is likely to involve invoking the “presidential communications privilege,” which is a form of executive privilege.
“Nobody’s invoking executive privilege on this,” the spokesman said. “They ultimately will be released in accordance with the Presidential Records Act.”
Under that law records don’t usually become public until five years after a president leaves office. Sensitive advice can be withheld for 12 years.
The disclosure of the top secret emails, three days before Iowans vote in the first-in-the-nation caucuses, is certain to fuel the political debate over the unclassified computer server that Mrs. Clinton, the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination, kept in her home. The State Department released another set of her emails on Friday night in response to a Freedom of Information Act request.
The State Department said it had “upgraded” the classification of the emails at the request of the nation’s intelligence agencies. Mr. Kirby said that none of the emails had been marked at any level of classification at the time they were sent through Mrs. Clinton’s computer server.
Mrs. Clinton’s campaign responded forcefully, saying that the process of reviewing the emails “appears to be over-classification run amok.” A spokesman, Brian Fallon, said all of the emails should be released.
“We understand that these emails were likely originated on the State Department’s unclassified system before they were ever shared with Secretary Clinton, and they have remained on the department’s unclassified system for years,” Mr. Fallon said.
Neither Mr. Kirby nor other officials would discuss the emails now being withheld, but the classified emails include those cited in a letter sent to the Senate on Jan. 14 by the inspector general of the nation’s intelligence agencies, I. Charles McCullough III.
Mr. McCullough wrote that “several dozen emails” contained classified information, including some now determined to contain information at the “top secret/S.A.P.” level. That designation refers to “special access programs,” which are among the government’s most closely guarded secrets.
It was not clear whether those emails were written by Mrs. Clinton or, as has been more often the case with the thousands of emails released so far, were messages written by other State Department officials and forwarded by her closest aides.
Officials at the State Department have said the “upgrading” of the classification of Mrs. Clinton’s emails has been routine. Mr. Kirby said Friday that the classification review was “focused on whether they need to be classified today.”
Emails previously released by the State Department have been redacted because they were deemed to contain information that should not be made public. But the 22 top secret emails are the first to be withheld entirely.
The latest developments prompted new attacks on Mrs. Clinton from Republican presidential candidates. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, campaigning in Iowa, said the disclosure disqualified her to be president.
“If someone on my staff did what she did, you know what would happen?” he said. “They would be fired, and they would be prosecuted.”
Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California, said in a statement that it made no sense to her that “Secretary Clinton can be held responsible for email exchanges that originated with someone else.”
“The only reason to hold Secretary Clinton responsible for emails that didn’t originate with her is for political points, and that’s what we’ve seen over the past several months,” she added.
The Clinton campaign’s response has reflected an effort to highlight the selective judgments that can be involved in the classification process.
Mrs. Clinton, in an interview with NPR last week, suggested that at least one of the emails at issue included an article from The New York Times about the administration’s classified drone programs. It was not clear which article she was referring to; the use of drones has been the subject of numerous news reports and books.
“How a New York Times public article that goes around the world could be in any way viewed as classified, or the fact that it would be sent to other people off of the New York Times site, I think, is one of the difficulties that people have in understanding what this is about,” she said.
At the same time, she has acknowledged that it was a mistake to set up the private server.
The State Department and the intelligence agencies have been wrangling over the email review ever since Mr. McCullough, acting on the request of Republican members of Congress, objected last summer to the release of some emails that intelligence officials had claimed included classified information. Friday was supposed to be the deadline for releasing all of the 33,000 emails from the server, but officials have appealed for an extension.
The implications are tough for The DoJ – if they indict they crush their own candidate’s chances of the Presidency, if they do not – someone will leak the details and the FBI will revolt… The leaking of the Clinton emails has been compared to as the next “Watergate” by former U.S. Attorney Joe DiGenova this week, if current FBI investigations don’t proceed in an appropriate manner. The revelation comes after more emails from Hilary Clinton’s personal email have come to light.
“[The investigation has reached] a critical mass,” DiGenova told radio host Laura Ingraham when discussing the FBI’s still pending investigation. Though Clinton is still yet to be charged with any crime, DiGenova advised on Tuesday that changes may be on the horizon. The mishandling over the classified intelligence may lead to an imminent indictment, with DiGenova suggesting it may come to a head within 60 days.
“I believe that the evidence that the FBI is compiling will be so compelling that, unless [Lynch] agrees to the charges, there will be a massive revolt inside the FBI, which she will not be able to survive as an attorney general,” he said.
“The intelligence community will not stand for that. They will fight for indictment and they are already in the process of gearing themselves to basically revolt if she refuses to bring charges.”
The FBI also is looking into Clinton’s email setup, but has said nothing about the nature of its probe. Independent experts say it is highly unlikely that Clinton will be charged with wrongdoing, based on the limited details that have surfaced up to now and the lack of indications that she intended to break any laws.
“What I would hope comes out of all of this is a bit of humility” and an acknowledgement from Clinton that “I made some serious mistakes,” said Bradley Moss, a Washington lawyer who regularly handles security clearance matters.
Legal questions aside, it’s the potential political costs that are probably of more immediate concern for Clinton. She has struggled in surveys measuring her perceived trustworthiness and an active federal investigation, especially one buoyed by evidence that top secret material coursed through her account, could negate one of her main selling points for becoming commander in chief: Her national security resume.
Source: The New York Times