Madam Hillary: Top Secret

The New York Times reports on a special intelligence review of two emails that Madam Hillary received as secretary of state on her personal account. The special review confirms the finding of the intelligence inspector of the intelligence agencies that these two emails (out of a sample of 40 emails from the personal account she used as Secretary of State) contained highly classified information “when Mrs. Clinton received them.” The Times’s Michael Schmidt puts the confirmation in this context:

Mrs. Clinton’s presidential campaign and the State Department disputed the inspector general’s finding last month and questioned whether the emails, which are being released to the public, had been overclassified by an arbitrary process. But the special review — by the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency — concluded that the emails were “Top Secret,” the highest classification of government intelligence, when they were sent to Mrs. Clinton in 2009 and 2011.

Schmidt adds that “the Clinton campaign disagreed with the conclusion of the intelligence review and noted that agencies within the government often have different views of what should be considered classified.” I take it that Madam Hillary disagrees with the inspector general of the intelligence community, with the CIA, and with the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency regarding the proper classification of the information. I guess she has to say something.

Schmidt notes toward the end of the story that President Obama signed an executive order in December 2009 that defined “Top Secret” as information that if disclosed could “reasonably” be expected to cause “exceptionally grave damage to national security.” In other words, the information in issue was Top Secret whether or not it was marked as such at the time that Madam Hillary received it. (Andy McCarthy has more on this point here and here.)

In her press conference at the United Nations on the email arrangement Madam Hillary declared: “I did not email any classified material to anyone on my email. There is no classified material. So I’m certainly well-aware of the classification requirements and did not send classified material.”

I wonder if that statement was intended to allow for her receipt of classified material. It depends on the meaning of “is,” as I suppose must have been noted elsewhere.

The statement has in any event become inoperative, as Ron Ziegler might have put it. Now Madam Hillary and her spokesmen yammer about the lack of documents marked classified at the time (documents marked classified have their own system) and about the overclassification of documents.

Even a limited review has demonstrated that she received highly classified intelligence information on her insecure private email setup. That’s one reason she wasn’t to employ such an arrangement to begin with. This story vividly illustrates the point. Some time soon she should have to come up with something better than she disagrees with the intelligence agencies on the proper classification of the information in issue. Or so I would like to think.

UPDATE: Charlie Martin expands on one of the key points: “It’s not classified because it’s marked, it’s marked because it’s classified.”