Does Over-Classification Matter With the Hillary Emails?

Rules are for fools, and in this case the fools in question are you, me and what’s left of the American democratic system. Obama, in an interview, basically made it clear nobody is going to indict Hillary Clinton for exposing classified material via her unclassified email server, even if it requires made-up rules to let her get away with it.

The president’s comments in an interview last Sunday that “there’s classified and then there’s classified” made clear he imagines national security law allows for ample, self-determined fudge room when exposing classified material.

Does Over-Classification Matter?

In case you are still not sure, nope, that is not the way the law works, and everyone (including me, for 24 years) who has held a security clearance knows it.

Obama’s and Clinton’s defenders claim that much of what Hillary exposed was over-classified, and perhaps some should never have been classified at all. Maybe. After reading documents at the Top Secret level and above over more than two decades I can say, sure, sometimes it seemed odd that something was regarded as as secret as it was.

That said, one’s personal opinion is not relevant. The document is what it is and one is bound to handle it appropriately. The same rules apply to the lowest new hire to the highest officials. Just because the secretary of state, or the president, does it does not make it legal.

Originating Agency

Clinton mishandled two broad categories of documents, those classified by her own State Department and those classified by other government agencies, such as the CIA. Had she believed that the documents were wrongly classified, she had recourses for both sets. She did not act on those available recourses.

With documents originally classified by her State Department, Hillary had the authority to declassify them herself while Secretary of State (both Obama and current SecState John Kerry still hold that authority and could declassify any of Hillary’s redacted emails right now with the stroke of a pen.) The thing is if Clinton did choose to declassify a document, she would have had to follow procedure, including seeking internal recommendations, make her action public and of course be willing to release the document newly-declassified. She did not do any of that.

For the other agency documents, Hillary did not have the authority to declassify them. Only the CIA, for example, can declassify a CIA document in this process. Hillary did however have the authority to request a review aimed at declassification by the originating agency. She did not do any of that.

No Blood, No Foul?

In addition to his made-up assertion that “there’s classified and then there’s classified,” Obama disingenuously stated Hillary did not expose any information of value to America’s adversaries and so should suffer not sanction, the national security equivalent of no blood, no foul.

The Federal laws that control classified information, up to and including the Espionage Act, do not require proof that the disclosed material aided America’s adversaries, or that the information even reached America’s adversaries. Motivation to disclose the information is also not considered relevant, whether than motivation was sincere whistleblowing or inadvertent mishandling. Guilt is based on the disclosure alone. This is why Chelsea Manning was not allowed to defend herself in this way, and why Ed Snowden believes he cannot have a fair trial in the U.S.

Snowden had the last word on Obama’s statements.

“If only I had known,” tweeted Snowden. “Anyone have the number for the Attorney General?. Asking for a friend.”

Peter Van Buren blew the whistle on State Department waste and mismanagement during Iraqi reconstruction in his first book, We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People. His latest book is Ghosts of Tom Joad: A Story of the #99 Percent. Reprinted from the his blog with permission.

6 thoughts on “Does Over-Classification Matter With the Hillary Emails?”

  1. The day will come when Edward Snowden will be recognized for who he actually is, one of the greatest American patriots of our generation. He will be remembered gratefully long after his detractors are dead and gone forever.

  2. Good article. Those who have worked in government jobs be it the military, or other departments know that there are RULES. Emails in the military can be monitored by various people in various departments such as the CID (Criminal Investigation Department). Foremost is the point of integrity-doing what you are told for the sake of security and doing a good job and maintaining the trust of your superiors, peers, subordinates. In essence when we work in civil service we are working for the American people.
    We have many lazy, incompetent types put in positions of great importance and that is why it is so depressing and anger generating that this smug, lazy, incompetent Clinton woman could be Secretary of State. It also says something about the person that trusted her with this position. Not only could she not function in this job, she treated this job as though it were a department in a college sorority.
    This woman has the disdain of foreign rulers. Most all foreigners in high positions have no respect for her as a human being and as a supposed diplomat, and what is really frightening (and it says a lot about the mentality of people in the USA), is that she even has gotten the nod to run for the Presidency of the most powerful country (what does China think?) in the world.
    One does not have to be a psychiatrist to draw up a good profile on this woman. DSM 5 now puts sociopaths and psychopaths in the anti social personality category, and Clinton certainly fits the profile of a low level (or higher) psychopath.
    It is clear by her actions that her command of history and peoples is very poor yet she was made Sec. of State. On top of this she is extremely lazy, cunning, spiteful, disloyal, deceitful, and she is dangerous to the welfare of good people. She will never have the respect of foreign rulers.
    Something terrible has been going on in the USA that someone like her can keep getting her own way, and yet no one seems to have the power to make her face a trial by jury.
    The men who died in Benghazi were very important. They were people who cared about their jobs and the USA. These men had parents and wives and friends. They are all important to me. The 4500 service members who died in Iraq are all very important.
    The men in the Libyan embassy were not important to Hilary Clinton. You can bet that if Chelsea Clinton were working in that embassy that Hilary would have paid attention to routine security measures and far more.

  3. if obama protects hillary and shields her from indictment, it signals the end of justice. every patriotic american should take to the street and impeach him and indict her. anything less is abdication of moral duty and the continual promotion of evil. corruption in high places must stop and it must start with obama and hillary.

    1. If the evidence comes out (publicly, that is) to sustain an indictment and that indictment is clearly suppressed by the Obama administration, it will almost certainly cost the Democrats the next presidential election, and possibly some House and Senate seats.

      In fact, you should probably read Andrew P. Napolitano’s most recent column on the subject, in which he muses that Obama is damning Clinton with faint praise. I’ll go even farther than that:

      Obama doesn’t want Clinton to be the next president, and will do almost anything he can do to stop her from being the next president. They’ve been frenemies — publicly friends, privately bitter enemies — for nearly a decade now, ever since he beat her for the presidential nomination but felt party pressure to offer her a cabinet position. He’d rather the Democrats lost the White House for four years than kept it with her in charge.

      So if you look at what Obama is actually saying, you can discern a sort of “wink, nudge” thing going on. He can’t just roll out and say he loathes his party’s front-runner. But he CAN damage her, and is putting in his little bit to do so.

  4. Goes well with this article:

    Andrew Napolitano’s “Hillary Clinton’s False Hopes”

    In particular this passage by The Judge seems to indicate that the present author is too lax in using the “classified” adjective:

    Lawyers familiar with the terminology of state secrets will refrain from using the word “classified” to describe the emails that contained state secrets, even though Clinton repeatedly does that. The word “classified” is not a legal term; rather, it is derived from the verb “to classify,” and it means that the classification process has been completed.

    Since nothing is marked “classified” – the legal markings are “confidential,”
    “secret” and “top secret” – Clinton has been materially misleading the public and the FBI when she claims that she never sent or received
    anything “marked classified.”

    By saying that, she wants us to believe that in more than 2,000 instances, she failed to ascertain the presence of state secrets in emails she received
    or sent. No voter but the most hardened supporter, no federal prosecutor, no FBI agent and no juror will believe that.

  5. The missing “28 pages” seem to be part of the continuous 9/11 myth: cherry-picked “expert” commission, the double deaths of bin Laden, etc. Every once in a while, the public needs to be reminded that a few untrained “pilots” managed to destroy the WTC; crash into the Pentagon… all without leaving plane engines scattered about. One day, in the far, far future, someone will wonder what really happened, and why.

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