“She did not break the law,” said FBI Director Comey. I knew that. But what was she thinking!? My friends wanted answers. I found my first clue in the NY Times: The State Dept email system is an unclassified system just like Clinton’s server was. What the hell?!
I had to read the FBI Report and listen to the committee hearing to find the real story and learn what FBI Director Comey and the press left out. The FBI’s first objective was to uncover classified emails on unclassified systems like Clinton’s personal email server (Report p.1 [A]). But they also found:
- All classified emails on Clinton’s server “were drafted on UNCLASSIFIED systems.” (p.20 [B])
- Many emails drafted on unclassified systems came from the CIA, NSA, etc., and even the FBI. (p.21 [C])
- No emails identified by the FBI as “classified when sent” were marked Classified. (pp.2 & 20 [D])
- Clinton contributed to only 11 of the 81 classified email chains. (p.22 [E]) (And these “contributions” appear to be only unclassified questions and comments.)
None of these four facts were discussed by Comey in public, and the press has not covered them. They tell the real story. But first you need to understand one thing. All government agencies have unclassified email servers that, like Clinton’s, should never send or receive classified information. State.gov is one of these (NY Times)[F]. For security reasons classified emails systems do not connect to these and cannot send them email.
So here’s how the non-scandal happened
Highly experienced intelligence and policy professionals improperly used unclassified systems to send classified information onto Clinton’s unclassified system. They knew they were violating security protocols so naturally they didn’t mark any emails as classified (one mystery solved).
Clinton was not aware of this practice and assumed that experienced intel agents would not send classified info to what they knew was her unclassified system[G]. And she felt, quite reasonably, that they knew better than she did how their own information should be classified. She told the FBI (p.26) that “she relied on career foreign service professionals to appropriately mark and handle classified information.”[H]
The FBI questioned her about a number of unmarked classified emails, but their Report does not mention a single case in which classified information came from Clinton herself. In the two examples I’ve seen of Clinton sending classified information from her server, she had received a classified email and simply replied to it with an unclassified question [I]. Of course hitting the reply button attached the classified originals to her reply.
The real puzzle is not why Clinton had classified emails on her server. The real puzzle is why all these professionals knowingly sent classified emails onto her private server instead of to her classified server or classified fax, or calling her on a classified phone.
When the FBI asked them, no one denied it, but all had their reasons. Mostly they were in a hurry. One “stated the right method of communication was whichever method allowed for the fastest possible dissemination of the message.” Another broke the rule “when the intended recipients did not all have immediate access to classified e-mail accounts.” (p.23 [J])
As one top Justice Dept official said: “It’s common knowledge that the classified communications system is impossible and isn’t used.” The trouble is that to send or receive classified info, you generally must be in a “Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility” (SCIF).[K] There aren’t many SCIFs around, and people don’t check into their local SCIF nearly as often as they check their regular unclassified email. Especially on weekends and holidays.
This is close to going viral. If it did, it might get picked up.
Any help would be much appreciated.
So Why Didn’t they All Get Sent to Prison?
The FBI Report, page 1, says “The FBI’s investigation focused on determining whether classified information was transmitted or stored on unclassified systems in violation of federal criminal statutes.”[A] Yet it finds that all of the 81 classified email chains it identified “were drafted on UNCLASSIFIED systems.” (p.20 [B]) So why aren’t all these “criminals” sent to jail?
Quite simply, the FBI staff are not lawyers, and it is not a criminal offence to put classified info on an unclassified system. It’s against standard policy, but that policy carries no penalties. Of course there is a relevant federal law, but the law forbids mishandling classified information (e.g. putting it on an unclassified system) with an intention to cause damage to national security. But don’t take my word for it.
When Rep. Will Hurd (R-Texas) aggressively questioned FBI Director Comey on whether Clinton broke the law, they had this exchange, which can can be viewed here starting at 1:43:09.
- Hurd: What does it take for someone to misuse classified information and get in trouble for it?
- Comey: It takes mishandling it and criminal intent.
- Hurd: And so an unauthorized server in a basement is not mishandling?
- Comey: No, there is evidence of mishandling here. This whole investigation is focused on “is there sufficient evidence of intent.”
- Hurd: Was this the unanimous opinion with the FBI on your decision?
- Comey: The whole FBI wasn’t involved, but the team of agents, investigators, analysts, technologists — Yes.
- Hurd changed the subject and did not even hint that Clinton had criminal intent.
So that’s why none of them are being prosecuted. They did not have criminal intent. The intel agents and foreign service professionals just wanted to do the best job they could by getting information to her faster. And Clinton did not have any intent at all to receive classified info in her private email account — and 99% of it was not classified.There is no email scandal. Only a witch hunt. FBI Report proves it. See for yourself. Debunk GOP smears.Click To Tweet
Through a friend I reached a high-level, sympathetic media person who said, “That’s intriguing but it’s too late as the story has already been accepted as ‘real’ and has a life of its own.” So it’s up to us to get the real story out.
— End of Story —
- Wikipedia on the use of unclassified servers by CIA, NSA etc.
- Part 1: Hacking: of the State Dept. 251,287 Classified email go public
- Part 2: Emails marked (C) & 30,000 deleted personal emails
- Part 3: More FAQs and more details
DOCUMENTATION for SKEPTICS
All quotes highlighted and bookmarked here: Part 1
The FBI did a careful job, but they buried the parts that Republicans don’t want you to hear. Read what the FBI said. And please check it, if you have doubts. (page #s refer to FBI Report)
[A]: “The FBI’s investigation focused on determining whether classified information was transmitted or stored on unclassified systems in violation of federal criminal statutes.” (FBI Report p. 1) To Top
- The #1 focus of the FBI was finding classified info that was transmitted or stored on unclassified systems (like Clinton’s).
- That’s why they “interviewed multiple officials” [J] to find out why they did this.
To be clear, when you draft an email, it automatically gets stored on your system/server and when you hit “send” it is transmitted on your system to the receiver’s system. To Top
[B]: “FBI and USIC classification reviews identified 81 e-mail chains … that were classified from the CONFIDENTIAL to TOP SECRET levels at the time the e-mails were drafted on UNCLASSIFIED systems and sent to or from Clinton’s personal server.” (p. 20) To Top
- ALL 81 classified email chains found by the FBI on Clinton’s server “were drafted on UNCLASSIFIED systems.” !!!
- So every classified email from the CIA, DOD, FBI, NGA and NSA was drafted on (and sent from) an unclassified system by a highly experienced professional.
This seemed too weird, so I double checked: There are classified systems (with classified email servers) and unclassified systems (with unclassified servers). For security reasons, classified systems are not connected to unclassified systems. So Fact #2 has to be true. (But they could have used their classified email systems to send to her classified system. Soon we will see why they didn’t.) To Top
[C]: “The investigation determined the 81 e-mail chains contained classified equities [documents/emails] from 5 other USIC agencies: the CIA, DOD, FBI, National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), and National Security Agency (NSA).” (FBI Report p. 21) To Top
- Classified emails on Clinton’s server came from the CIA, DOD, FBI, NGA, NSA.
[D]: To determine which emails were classified the FBI sent suspect emails back to the the agencies (CIA, NSA, State Dept., etc) from which they were sent. That’s who would know best. All those deemed classified by the originating agency were then considered classified by the FBI and these made up their list of “81 e-mail chains containing approximately 193 individual e-mail exchanges.” (Comey said there were fewer, so this is a very inclusive list.) To Top
Since the FBI report tells us the State Dept did not provide a determination for these email chains, the FBI would not have considered them classified and would they not have been included in their list of 81 Classified email chains. Here’s where they say that:
“The FBI identified three e-mail chains, … which contained at least one paragraph marked “(C),” … State [Dept] did not provide a determination as to whether any of these three emails [marked with a ‘(C)’] were classified at the time they were sent.” (FBI Report p. 20 [D1]).
Here’s the quote showing the FBI let other agencies determine what was classified:
“In response to FBI requests for classification determinations in support of this investigation, US Intelligence Community (USIC) agencies determined that 81 e-mail chains, … stored on Clinton’s UNCLASSIFIED personal server systems, contained classified information … at the time they were sent between 2009-2013.” (p.2 [D2])
We know something about on of these emails, which Clinton claimed were not confidential. She said (and the date confirms) that the email was simply about a condolence call to Joyce Banda, the president of Malawi. The previous president had died a few days earlier, but that was, at first, kept secret. Perhaps Clinton is right, had information about this leaked, it might not have done all that much damage to national security. To Top
[E]: “The FBI investigation determined Clinton contributed to discussions in four e-mail chains classified as Confidential,” three classified Secret and four classified Top Secret. (FBI Report p. 22) To Top
- Amazing! Clinton only contributed (in any way) to discussions in 4+3+4 = 11 out of the 81 classified e-mail chains.
- So at least 70 of those chains had to come from somewhere else. And that means someone else drafted and sent them from some other unclassified server.
[F]: Classified State Dept emails take the form [email protected]sgov.gov. The regular state.gov email system connects to the internet. That’s why her staff could send Clinton emails. For security reasons, the classified email system does not connect to the internet. Return up
- Dennis Ross: Madame Secretary, Jake suggested I send you a few thoughts for your upcoming meetings. I saw some of the folks you will be meeting last week. [The rest is redacted because it’s classified.]
- Clinton: “Thanks, Dennis. Can you talk this morning?”
- Ross: “Yes, I am available any time. I am at home now.”
- Clinton: “Does EB know what you are doing w I’m?”
- Ross: “No.”
(You can see this classified email chain here click on “View original PDF. Dennis Ross, is a foreign service professional who served under Carter, Clinton, H. W. Bush, and Obama)
- That’s five classified emails in one chain
- Clinton added no classified info, but both times she replied, the original was automatically attached. So technically, she sent two classified emails.
But the real culprit here, if there is one, is Dennis Ross. He typed the classified info on his own unclassified server and sent it onto Clinton’s unclassified server, and he did not label it as classified, although he should know best what he’s sending. So it was natural for Clinton not to suspect that he was mishandling classified info and to believe he hadn’t put classified info on her server.
[J] “The FBI interviewed multiple officials who authored and/or contributed to e-mails, the content of which has since been determined to contain classified information. … During FBI interviews, the authors of these e-mails provided … reasons for sending the e-mails on unclassified systems [bold added].” (FBI Report p. 22 [J1])
- The FBI knew it was weird that all these people sent classified emails to Clinton to on unclassified systems, so they asked them why they did it.
- They didn’t deny it, they just gave their “reasons.”
Here are some reasons they gave (p.23 [J2])
- A former DOD official: “to quickly coordinate public affairs responses.”
- The State Operations Center: “because of the need to quickly elevate information at times when the intended recipients did not all have immediate access to classified e-mail accounts.” (Classified emails are [email protected]sgov.gov)
- [Redacted] “stated the right method of communication was whichever method allowed for the fastest possible dissemination of the message.”
- “Authors of the e-mails stated that they used their best judgment in drafting the messages and that it was common practice at State to carefully word e-mails on UNCLASSIFIED networks so as to avoid sensitive details or “talk around” classified information.” (FBI Report page 24 [J3]) Return up
[K] Clinton’s office was in a SCIF which had the standard classified communications channels, but she had to (and did) leave her Blackberry and iPad outside. So she was very aware of the that here email was not a classified system, and since you cannot send email to an unclassified system from a classified system, everyone was aware of this when they sent her emails. (p.12 [K]) Return up