Wednesday, September 02, 2015

The Noose Tightens (Slightly)

Hillary Clinton's e-mail problems just keep getting worse...

The latest dump of roughly 7,000 messages was timed for 9 pm on a Friday evening--never a good sign, since weekend releases are usually associated with an effort to minimize bad news.

And from the perspective of Team Clinton, there is no good news in the latest revelations.

First, at least 165 e-mails in the current batch contained classified information.  Supporters of Mrs. Clinton claim the messages were classified "retroactively," which ignores a rather inconvenient fact: classification stamps were applied upon review because the former Secretary of State (and senior aides) willfully refused to mark them properly when they were composed, so they could be disseminated on Hillary's unsecure, "home brew" e-mail system.

More from the Washington Post:

"While she was secretary of state, Hillary Rodham Clinton wrote and sent at least six e-mails using her private server that contained what government officials now say is classified information, according to thousands of e-mails released by the State Department."

Although government officials deemed the e-mails classified after Clinton left office, they could complicate her efforts to move beyond the political fallout from the controversy. They suggest that her role in distributing sensitive material via her private e-mail system went beyond receiving notes written by others, and appears to contradict earlier public statements in which she denied sending or receiving e-mails containing classified information.

The classified e-mails, contained in thousands of pages of electronic correspondence that the State Department has released, stood out because of the heavy markings blocking out sentences and, in some cases, entire messages."

Of course, the Post's account misses a few finer points of this on-going scandal.  First, the messages were deemed classified after Mrs. Clinton left office because security experts at the State Department and the Intelligence community never had access while she was presiding over Foggy Bottom.  In fact, the department's IT division has admitted it was never aware of Clinton's private e-mail system during her years in office.  

At first blush, that claim strains credulity; staffers throughout the bureaucracy were receiving messages for years from accounts, rather than the domain used by department personnel.  And not a single IT administrator found anything unusual about that--or the fact         
some senior Clinton staffers (and the secretary herself) were using non-government issue computers and electronic devices to perform official work.

Meanwhile, the Clinton campaign continues to insist that the classification controversy stems--at least in part--from disagreements over the sensitivity of the material found in the e-mails.  This represents another red herring; as the Washington Times reported yesterday, the current batch of Clinton e-mails contain data on North Korean nuclear movements--information derived from our most capable spy satellites and normally classified at the Top Secret/Talent Keyhole level. 

That reporting (available to anyone with the proper clearance, a valid need-to-know and access to secure JWICS terminals where it is normally stored), is produced and classified by organizations other than the State Department, most likely the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency (NGA).  A report of that type--like the one referenced in Hillary's e-mails--would be classified at the time of creation by NGA.  State doesn't get a vote on whether the material is classified--the do not have classification authority over reports, assessments and other summaries generated by other organizations.

Sources within the intelligence community tell the Times that revelations from the latest e-mails present a potentially grave threat to national security.  For starters, it is widely believed that foreign intelligence services may have penetrated Mrs. Clinton's unsecure network, and probably downloaded all e-mails on the server--before it was wiped clean.  North Korea has developed robust cyber capabilities in recent years and would be more than capable of entering Hillary's home brew system and copying everything on the system, without being detected.  So, with a few keystrokes, Kim Jong un may have valuable gained insights into how we monitor his most sensitive programs.

Meanwhile, efforts to protect Mrs. Clinton and her aides are continuing apace.  Catherine Herridge of Fox News learned that markings on hundreds of Clinton system e-mails were changed to B5, bureaucratic shorthand for deliberative process, which refers to internal discussions within the executive branch.  Message with that marking are exempt from public release.  A Congressional source told Fox the move essentially drops the content of those e-mails down a "deep black hole."  And , it turns out that an attorney involved in the release of the Benghazi e-mails used to work at the IRS during the Lois Lerner scandal, and she was formerly employed at the firm headed by David Kendall, Mrs. Clinton's lawyer.  How convenient.

But legal maneuvering isn't the only strategy.  Supporters of Hillary are circulating a number of explanations for her behavior, which might be summarized in the following talking points, which were outlined in an unintentionally hilarious column from David Ignatius of the Post.  After interviewing several attorneys who represent clients accused of mishandling classified information, Mr. Ignatius suggested that (a) everyone does it, and (b) the system used to access and send sensitive information is just too cumbersome to use.       

Rubbish.  I worked for a number of senior officers and officials over the course of my career, and I can't recall one that asked me to send classified material over a non-secure system.  All were keenly aware of the security risks and the risks to their own careers.  The notion that everyone does it simply doesn't pass the Aggie test.  Put another way: what would the Democrats have done if a member of the Bush Administration was discovered sending classified information over NIPRNET

Additionally, the notion that SIPRNET (the system for Secret-level information) and JWICS (which handles TS-SCI data) are "cumbersome" and "difficult to use" is equally ridiculous.  Both are intranets, and they operate in a manner very similar to the internet.  Users have a browser to surf through sites and material, and you can communicate through discussion boards, chat rooms and dedicated e-mail accounts.  That's right..everyone who is granted access to these classified system is normally given  SIPRNET and JWICS e-mail accounts.  And there's nothing really different about composing, sending or receiving e-mail on one of these systems--except that users are expected to properly mark the classification of their messages.

What if you need a quick answer?  Thanks the the marvels of (relatively) modern technology, key personnel at the State Department--and elsewhere in the federal government--have access to secure phones.  With the push of a button, your call is encrypted.  There was absolutely nothing to prevent anyone who required a prompt response from using their STU-III to call Mrs. Clinton's office and she had the same capability sitting one her desk.

Of course, the problem was that Hillary Clinton didn't want to be burdened by secure systems, classification markings and requirements to properly archive her official correspondence.  And contrary to her original claims, the rationale for a home-brew, off-the-books e-mail system had nothing to do with convenience.

Ultimately, the lawyers may be right, and Mrs. Clinton won't be wearing an orange jumpsuit.  But the steady drip of new revelations about her contempt for the law and national security will be enough to wreck her presidential campaign--if it hasn't already.   



The Savage Possum said...

You got to hope this trashes her POTUS bid. If not and based of the Democratic sell out of Israel & our former Middle East allies, I'll be freshening up my supply of KIO3 pills.

Jack the dog said...

Well, I suppose the good news is that if the N. Koreans have the emails, our boys should be able to get them back again after a decent delay.