The 2016 presidential election, already one of the wildest in American history, has been rocked by the announcement that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is reopening its investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while Secretary of State.
Apparently while investigating disgraced ex-Congressman Anthony Weiner’s transmission of sexually explicit images to a fifteen-year-old girl, the FBI discovered more emails relevant to Hillary Clinton’s own infamous case.
Where all this goes from here remains unclear. That said, in the interest of helping a scandal-weary electorate put these new developments in context, shall we review a few things?
I have worked in national security my entire life. Most of that has been in the intelligence community surrounded by classified information. For twenty years, I worked undercover in the Central Intelligence Agency, recruiting sources, producing intelligence and running operations. I have a pretty concrete understanding of how classified information is handled and how government communications systems work.
Nobody uses a private email server for official business. Period. Full stop.
The entire notion is, to borrow a phrase from a Clinton campaign official, “insane.”That anyone would presume to be allowed to do so is mind-boggling. That government officials allowed Hillary Clinton to do so is nauseating.
Classified and unclassified information do not mix. They don’t travel in the same streams through the same pipes. They move in clearly well defined channels so that never the twain shall meet. Mixing them together is unheard of and a major criminal offense.
If you end up with classified information in an unclassified channel, you have done something very wrong and very serious.
Accidentally removing a single classified message from controlled spaces, without any evidence of intent or exposure to hostile forces, can get you fired and cost you your clearance. Repeated instances will land you in prison.
Every hostile intelligence agency on the planet targets senior American officials for collection. The Secretary of State tops the list. Almost anything the Secretary of State had to say about her official duties, her schedule, her mood, her plans for the weekend, would be prized information to adversaries.
It is very difficult, in fact, to think of much of anything that the Secretary of State could be saying in email that we would want hostile forces to know.
As we wait for more information on the latest revelations, let’s quickly note what we already know Hillary Clinton did.
While Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton exclusively used a private email address for official business. Instead of using a State Department account, she used a personal email account, housed on a private server located in her home in Chappaqua, New York. The Department of State exercised zero control or oversight in this process. No government security personnel were involved in protecting them.
When the House Select Committee on Benghazi asked to see these emails, the Department of State said they did not have them. Clinton’s lawyers then went through all the emails on her server. They turned over 30,000 emails they decided were work related and deleted all of the rest.
How they made the decision as to which emails to share and which to destroy remains unknown. Active government officials not were involved in this process.
The FBI found another 2,000 messages containing information that should have been classified at the time it was sent. How much more classified information may have been in the tens of thousands of emails, which Clinton’s lawyers erased, is completely unknown.
Hillary Clinton supporters like to ask rhetorically, “Well, what about Colin Powell?”Nice try, but using your own private email address which received 2 emails determined to be classified later, is nothing like deliberately operating a home brewed server, and then see it handle thousands of classified e-mails.
It’s like asking, "what about the guy who received a stolen apple?" while equating his actions to those of bank robbers who stole $10 million.
What happens next we do not know. What we do know already is this. While serving in one of the most senior positions in the United States Government, Hillary Clinton was at a minimum, grossly negligent in the handling of classified information and when confronted with this practice, acted immediately to destroy information and prevent a full, fair and complete investigation of any damage to national security.
Anyone else who did such things in the government would long ago have been tried, convicted and sent to jail.