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It all Depends upon What the Meaning of the Word "Classified" Is!

August 10, 2015

A few months ago, Hillary Clinton took some time to address a growing scandal.  It was the revelation that, as Secretary of State, she conducted all government business through a private network server in her home, rather than a secure government system.  Absent from her explanation were the steely eyed glare and the pointed finger her husband so deftly employed on January 26, 1998, when he denied a different kind of allegation.  But Hillary has never been quite as accomplished or convincing as Bill, and her press conference included a lot of lip-licking and sheepish expressions.        

Her shifty demeanor only highlighted the absurdity of the many assertions and denials she made during that session.  The most absurd and potentially the most damaging was this one: “I did not email any – uh - classified material to anyone on my email.  There is no classified material.” 

After admitting that she used her private server to conduct all of her government business, she expected the country to believe that, during four years as Secretary of State, she had not a single occasion to transmit or receive classified information, that none of the communications between her and the President or other government officials was sensitive enough to classify.

On the contrary, two politically independent Inspectors General have reviewed a sampling of the 30,000 emails that Hillary allowed the State Department to see.  Of the 40 examined, they found four that had no security markings, but were, in fact, classified - from the time they were generated.  The IGs reported the obvious fact that these emails should never have been transmitted via a personal unclassified system, and they referred the matter for further investigation.  Since then, we’ve learned that potentially hundreds of classified emails from several intelligence organizations may have been sent through her server. 

Eighteen years ago, Bill Clinton defended his famous lie by arguing the meaning of the word “is.” Now his wife is using the same kind of slick word parsing, claiming that she sent no classified emails through her server because none were classified at the time she sent them.    

The federal government outlines clear and strict guidelines for marking classified information.  Executive Order 12958 provides that the President, agency heads (including the Secretary of State), and other designated officials, are authorized to classify government documents.  The Department of State Classification Guide, under the section called Marking and Procedural Requirements, mandates that “the creator of a document shall mark each portion to indicate the classification level.”

Simply put, if Hillary’s outgoing emails were not properly marked, it is because she or her staff failed to do so.  Likewise if, for whatever reason, her incoming classified emails were not marked as such, she was obligated to assign them the proper security classification.    

The IG report confirmed what most rational people already knew.  Hillary Clinton completely disregarded government procedures for handling classified information.  For those who believe that she did it for convenience, as she contends, her long-time Democratic ally, James Carville, offers a more candid explanation, “I suspect she didn't want Louie Gohmert rifling through her emails...”  No kidding.  She did it to circumvent congressional oversight, Freedom of Information requests, and all public scrutiny.

Her improper handling of government classified information is a serious offense.  Just ask highly decorated General David Petraeus, former Director of the CIA.  Petraeus was criminally prosecuted for the very same offense by the Justice Department, which had intended to file felony charges against him for mishandling classified information, but accepted a guilty plea to a misdemeanor charge.

But this is a Clinton, the former Secretary of State and probable Democratic presidential nominee.  Even though she transmitted the most sensitive national security information through the very same system used to send her yoga schedules and Chelsea’s wedding plans, Obama’s Justice Department seems unwilling to file any charges against her.  Still, we can only imagine the damage she might have done to our national security. 

Many security experts, including former officials of the Defense Intelligence Agency, are convinced that Hillary’s server was very likely penetrated by multiple hostile governments.  In fact, it’s been widely reported that several emails between Hillary and her unofficial advisor on Libya, Sidney Blumenthal, were intercepted by a Romanian hacker and posted on line.  Those emails, incidentally, were marked as “confidential.”

All of this raises some serious questions.  Wouldn’t those requests for increased security at Benghazi have exposed our vulnerabilities there?  Shouldn’t they have been classified?  What about our operation in Libya, or the movements of our Ambassador, Chris Stevens, prior to his assassination?  Wouldn’t all that classified information have gone through Hillary’s server, and what are the chances that our enemies intercepted and used it?      

The Clintons live in their own world.  It’s a world where there are no rules, where deception is completely justified to achieve the power they crave.  It’s a world where they are vastly smarter than anyone else, and can always count on clever manipulation of words to turn a blatant lie into a simple misunderstanding.  Considering Hillary’s resilient support, they might be right on that point.  But this deception is not about a private affair.  Congress, the intelligence community, and the Justice Department must to do their jobs and investigate the full extent of the damage caused by Hillary’s utter disregard for national security.  

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Peter Lemiska has spent more than 28 years in government service. He is a former Senior Special Agent of the U.S. Secret Service and an Air Force veteran. His political commentaries have been widely published online and in print.