Relying on an unnamed State Department official, Fox News reports that someone in Hillary Clinton’s “inner circle” likely stripped the classification markings from documents on her server:
A State Department official told Fox News that the intelligence community inspector general, who raised the most recent concerns about Clinton’s emails, made clear that at least one of those messages contained information that only could have come from the intelligence community.
“If so, they would have had to come in with all the appropriate classification markings,” the official said.
The official questioned whether someone, then, tampered with that message. “[S]omewhere between the point they came into the building and the time they reached HRC’s server, someone would have had to strip the classification markings from that information before it was transmitted to HRC’s personal email.”
I can’t imagine that a rank-and-file career DOS employee would have done this, so it was most likely done by someone in her inner circle.”
The messages apparently contained satellite imagery and signals intelligence, information that diplomats cannot unilaterally obtain.
Removing the classification markings would constitute a felony, the official said.
For now, this story must be viewed as speculation, though hardly of the unreasonable variety. But even minus the speculation, this remains a scandal of the first order.
It is now undisputed that Clinton’s email server contained top secret information, including information from spy satellites. John Schindler, a former NSA officials, explains:
There is no doubt that [Clinton], or someone on her State Department staff, violated federal law by putting TOP SECRET//SI information on an unclassified system. That it was Hillary’s private, offsite server makes the case even worse from a security viewpoint.
Claims that they “didn’t know” such information was highly classified do not hold water and are irrelevant. It strains belief that anybody with clearances didn’t recognize that NSA information, which is loaded with classification markings, was signals intelligence, or SIGINT.
It’s possible that the classified information found in Clinton’s email trove wasn’t marked as such. But if that classification notice was omitted, it wasn’t the U.S. intelligence community that took such markings away. Moreover, anybody holding security clearances has already assumed the responsibility for handling it properly.
What are the normal consequences of not properly handling classified information?
At a minimum, those suspected of mishandling things like NSA “signals intelligence”—intercepts calls, emails, and the like—have their clearances suspended pending the outcome of the investigation into their misconduct.
Any personal items—computers, electronics—where federal investigators suspect the classified material wound up, wrongly, will be impounded and searched. If it has TOP SECRET//SI information on it, “your” computer now belongs to the government, because it is considered classified.
And that’s not all:
Termination of employment, hefty fines, even imprisonment can result. Yes, people really do go to jail for mishandling classified materials. Matthew Aid, a writer on intelligence matters, served more than a year in prison for mishandling TOP SECRET//SI information from the NSA, for example.
The well-connected tend to avoid jail, however. Sandy Berger and John Deutsch—who both served in high-level positions under President Bill Clinton, did not go to prison for mishandling TOP SECRET intelligence (though Berger got probation and was fined $50,000).
Hillary Clinton won’t go prison either, not even, in all likelihood, if she’s the one who ordered or oversaw the removal of classification markings from top secret documents. But it’s now graphically clear that her decision to violate the rules and use her own private email and server to handle so much of her official State Department business jeopardized national security.
As Schindler concludes, it’s safe to assume that Moscow and Beijing know the contents of the classified, and indeed top secret, information contained in Hillary’s “private” emails as Secretary of State.