Fallon’s fallacies

Earlier this week Catherine Herridge reported the findings conveyed in the letter dated January 14 sent by Intelligence Community Inspector General Charles McCullough III to the chairmen of the congressional committees with oversight responsibility. McCullough’s letter summarized the findings of one unidentified intelligence agency concerning information found in emails on Hillary Clinton’s homebrew server. According to the unidentified intelligence agency, “several dozen” classified emails on Clinton’s server included information classified “CONFIDENTIAL, SECRET, and TOP SECRET/SAP.” SAP intelligence is said to represent a category beyond top secret.

Herridge has posted a copy of the letter with her report. The letter is addressed to Senators Burr and Corker as chairmen of the Senate Intelligence Committee and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, respectively, with copies to their Democratic counterparts in the Senate, to Reps. Nunes and Schiff, to DNI Clapper and to the State Department Inspector General.

Rachel Bade and Josh Gerstein followed up with a Politico report. Bade and Gerstein report that “the emails now deemed to contain ‘top secret, special access program’ information are in addition to the messages previously disputed between State and the Director of National Intelligence, according to a spokesperson for McCullough.”

Bade and Gerstein quote McCullough’s letter: “To date, I have received two sworn declarations from one [intelligence community agency]. These declarations cover several dozen emails containing classified information determined by the [intelligence community agency] to be at the CONFIDENTIAL, SECRET, and TOP SECRET/SAP levels. According to the declarant, these documents contain information derived from classified [intelligence community agency] sources.” Bade and Gerstein identify the intelligence agency submitting the sworn declarations as the CIA. McCullough notes that one other intelligence agency has failed to respond to his inquiry.

Ken Dilanian also followed up with an NBC News report. Dilanian adds: “An intelligence official familiar with the matter told NBC News that the special access program in question was so sensitive that McCullough and some of his aides had to receive clearance to be read in on it before viewing the sworn declaration about the Clinton emails.”

All in all, utterly devastating to just about everything Clinton has had to say about her email arrangement.

Dilanian did not receive a response to a request for comment by the Clinton campaign, but Clinton campaign spokesman Brian Fallon offered this to Bade and Gerstein (and it is now included in Herridge’s story):

This is the same interagency dispute that has been playing out for months, and it does not change the fact that these emails were not classified at the time they were sent or received. It is alarming that the intelligence community IG, working with Republicans in Congress, continues to selectively leak materials in order to resurface the same allegations and try to hurt Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. The Justice Department’s inquiry should be allowed to proceed without any further interference.

Fallon’s brief statement commits a classic Clintonian fallacy out of the Clinton scandal management playbook: The ad homimen attack. Here we have the ad hominem attack on the Intelligence Community Inspector General and “Republicans in Congress.” Paul disposes of the ad hominem attack on McCullogh here. The ad hominem attack blends into the old VRWC beloved of Madam Hillary.

Fallon continues to pour it on in an interview with Josh Rogin. Chuck Ross takes up the question with the Senators. They deny it, but regardless of the source, the letter speaks for itself. The letter speaks for itself regardless of the motive of the leaker.

Madam Hillary is the mistress of the domain of the ad hominem attack.

There is also a question of fact. Is this “the same interagency dispute that has been playing out for months”? The emails at issue in Herridge’s report are not confined to previously identified emails, though the Clinton campaign says otherwise.

Fallon’s statement complains the letter is part of a process of selectively leak[ing] materials in order to resurface the same allegations and try to hurt” Clinton’s campaign. So what is being withheld? The letter stands impressively on its own as an incredibly damning document. What does it get wrong? Here I think we have the fallacy of the red herring.

Fallon suggests that the release of the letter interferes with the Justice Department’s inquiry. Not so. It proceeds apace.

Fallon’s reference to the Justice Department inquiry masks an implicit implicit appeal to authority. The “Justice Department inquiry” is in part a euphemism for the FBI investigation. It also refers to the outcome of the inquiry including prosecutorial decisions. Whether or not anyone is prosecuted for the wrongs Hilary Clinton has committed is ultimately in part a political decision. We are capable of making up our own minds based on relevant information. The lameness of Fallon’s comment is itself indicative of the vacuity in Clinton’s position at this point. As the Clinton scandal management playbook dictates, Hillary Clinton is playing for time and counting on political considerations to save the day.

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