The latest revelations about top secret information traversing Hillary Clinton’s private email server have triggered accusations that someone in her “inner circle” likely stripped the classification markings, illegally.
The claims come after the Clinton campaign stuck to the argument that the Democratic presidential candidate, while secretary of state, never dealt with emails that were “marked” classified at the time.
“Hillary only used her personal account for unclassified email. No information in her emails was marked classified at the time she sent or received them,” campaign Communications Director Jennifer Palmieri said in a statement to supporters Wednesday.
But a State Department official told Fox News that the intelligence community inspector general, who raised the most recent concerns about Clinton’s emails, made clear that at least one of those messages contained information that only could have come from the intelligence community.
“If so, they would have had to come in with all the appropriate classification markings,” the official said.
The official questioned whether someone, then, tampered with that message. “[S]omewhere between the point they came into the building and the time they reached HRC’s server, someone would have had to strip the classification markings from that information before it was transmitted to HRC’s personal email.”
The official said doing so would “constitute a felony, in and of itself. I can’t imagine that a rank-and-file career DOS employee would have done this, so it was most likely done by someone in her inner circle.”
The messages apparently contained satellite imagery and signals intelligence, information that diplomats cannot unilaterally obtain.
This could have serious repercussions for Clinton and her closest aides, former chief of staff Cheryl Mills and deputy chief of staff Huma Abedin. The latter, Clinton’s closest confidant, also had a “clintonemail.com” address through which she conducted high-level government business. Mills and Abedin, like Clinton, have lawyered up. Similar investigations into the potential mishandling and improper sharing of classified material have led to criminal investigations against former CIA directors David Petraeus and John Deutch — with the former eventually pleading guilty to misdemeanor charges in a case that involved far less classified information than Clinton’s, and the latter given a midnight pardon by Mrs. Clinton’s husband, President Bill Clinton, as he left the Oval Office.
Clinton partisans are resorting to their too-familiar strategy: pound away at their talking points and exhaust the public with legalese and Orwellian parsing. Yet, their main contention — namely, that the information was not classified at the time Clinton exchanged the e-mails — has already been refuted in a statement by the intelligence community’s IG. And again, that is based on just a tiny sample.
The Clinton defense, moreover, is a red herring: As any public official with a security clearance knows, it is the information one learns in classified documents and briefings that must be protected. The issue is not whether Clinton’s e-mails were stamped “top secret” before she sent them; it is whether the information in the e-mails was of a sensitive nature and therefore, as Clinton knew, needed to be vetted before being stored or sent on a non-government communications system.
For Hillary Clinton and her top aides, the pressing issue is that their e-mail scandal has entered a new and much more serious phase. For the American people, however, the pressing issue is not Clinton’s potential criminal liability. It is whether we can trust a presidential candidate who flouts our laws and is cavalier about our defense secrets.