Report: Clinton Emails Contained “Operational” Information and Put Lives At Risk

Hillary_Clinton_Testimony_to_House_Select_Committee_on_BenghaziWe have been closely following the Clinton email scandal and this morning additional information was leaked on the 22 “top secret” emails withheld by the States Department An official is quoted as saying that some of those emails contained “operational intelligence” and jeopardized “sources, methods and lives.” While I agree with the Clinton campaign that these leaks are themselves problematic (both in terms of their timing and their disclosures from an ongoing investigation), I have long maintained that this was a serious scandal and that Clinton’s evolving defense does not track with national security rules or procedures. I consider the decision to use exclusively an unsecure server for “convenience” to be a breathtakingly reckless act for one of the top officials in our government. I am also deeply concerned about the level of “spin” coming from the campaign that is misrepresenting the governing standards and practices in the field. Much of what has been said in defense of Clinton’s use of the email system is knowingly misleading in my view.

In addition, Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Kan., who sits on the House intelligence committee, “suggested the military and intelligence communities have had to change operations” due to the presumption that Clinton’s emails were compromised.

Since this is in a long-standing field of practice, I have been watching the scandal unfold with particular interest. I have previously noted that the decision of Clinton to use a personal server showed incredibly bad judgment that put classified information at risk. The defense that the information was not marked, which the campaign has been using recently, does not address the fundamental issues in the scandal.

Clinton has insisted that “I never sent classified material on my email, and I never received any that was marked classified.” The key of this spin is again the word “marked.” I have previously discussed why that explanation is less than compelling, particularly for anyone who has handled sensitive or classified material. As I discussed earlier, virtually anything coming out of the office of the Secretary of State would be considered classified as a matter of course. I have had a TS/SCI clearance since Reagan due to my national security work and have lived under the restrictions imposed on email and other systems. The defense is that this material was not technically classified at the time that it was sent. Thus it was not “classified” information. The problem is that it was not reviewed and classified because it was kept out of the State Department system. Moreover, most high-level communications are treated as classified and only individually marked as classified when there is a request for disclosure. You do not generate material as the Secretary of State and assume that it is unclassified. You are supposed to assume and treat it as presumptively classified. Indeed that understanding was formally agreed to by Clinton when she signed the “Classified Information Nondisclosure Agreement,” or SF-312, which states that “classified information is marked or unmarked classified information, including oral communications.” Otherwise, there would be massive exposure of classified material and willful blindness as to the implications of the actions of persons disregarding precautions. For example, there is not a person standing next to the President with a classification stamp in the Oval Office. However, those communications are deemed as presumptively classified and are not disclosed absent review. Under the same logic, the President could use a personal email system because his text messages by definition are not marked as classified. Classified oral communications are not “marked” nor would classified information removed from secure systems and sent via a personal server. Likewise, classified oral communications that are followed up with emails would not be “marked.” This is the whole reason that Clinton and others were told to use the protected email system run by the State Department. We have spent hundreds of millions of dollars to secure such systems.

What is equally curious is the decision by Clinton to double down in the last town hall and reject the claim that she used “poor judgment” in using an unsecure system. To say that you decided to risk confidential and classified communications for “convenience” is hardly a compelling case for someone who is running on her national security and foreign affairs experience.

64 thoughts on “Report: Clinton Emails Contained “Operational” Information and Put Lives At Risk”

  1. To Mike – “so far no one has identified any breach of security on that server. Tempest. Teapot.”

    The problem is that Guccifer claimed to have access her emails – and that RT claims to have 20,000 of her emails – thanks to Guccifer. Well that is just a claim right ? NO ….

    Your problem is, claiming that “no one has identified any breach” – that RT published all the HRC Benghazi emails TWO FULL YEARS before Clinton released them to the Justice Department. They are all there on their RT website – all monogrammed with “G” (for Guccifer).

    By definition the State Department didnt have them – (or we wouldnt have had 10 FOI requests, 5 lawsuits and 3 subpoenas) – so if he didnt get them from Clinton – the only person who had them – where did he get them ?

  2. I am still puzzled by what seems to be an attempt by Clinton to conflate “Security Classification” (e.g. Top Secret or Confidential) with “Classified Information” (e.g. military plans, weapons systems, or operations , foreign government information etc).

    The laws in question that she would appear to have violated ((18 U.S. Code § 798(a)), (18 U.S. Code § 1924(a)) refer to “classified information” – indeed they were written in 1951 and 1954 respectively , LONG before Bill Clinton (!) issued Executive order 12958 relating to “Security Classification” (amended by Obama with EO 13526 while HRC was SOS) .

    So what if the “Security Classification” changed ? The law addresses “Classified Information”; and no one has suggested that a significant number of emails didnt contain a significant amount of classified information. In fact it would be bizarre for an SOS NOT to receive any classified information.

  3. Am heartened to read this analysis from you, Prof. Turley. I always found you to be a refreshing and energetic progressive voice on the legal front back in 2008 when I saw you frequently on MSNBC. After Keith O. left, and Obama turned his back on his campaign rhetoric following his inauguration when he embraced the policies of his predecessor, I turned away from the mainstream media in disgust. But after watching how Hillary’s minions stole the Massachusetts, Illinois and Missouri primaries from Bernie this past month, not to mention the Iowa caucuses (by a hair, admittedly, but it was HIS hair that won it), I’m now determined to help expose her corruption and venality before it convinces too many sheep they need her to shear them. But – as another post insists – the Bush felons TOO must be brought to justice; their burden is even heavier.

    What is the likelihood the DoD might convene a special grand jury if Loretta Lynch can’t bring the DoJ to do it before the conventions?

  4. Whoa, Hildegard, there’s really no reason to “lose it.” It’s simply my opinion, for which I’m entitled. Moreover, I’m no sheep; so move on to someone else w your claptrap.

  5. Vivian “Lucky she’s not a Republican, because she’d be yesterday’s prison trash in a heartbeat.” Seriously? You say this? The last I heard George W. wasn’t in prison. What are you thinking? Sorry, I lose it when I see people falling for the Republican vs. Democrat LIE.

  6. OK

    So now the State Department Inspector General has said that both Secretaries Powell and Rice received and sent classified material on their personal email servers.

    So….I guess that means we’re back to Benghazi Benghazi Benghazi!

  7. My goodness, she’s been a busy little bugger, hasn’t she?

    Lucky she’s not a Republican, because she’d be yesterday’s prison trash in a heartbeat.

  8. It’s so great to know that the poster at 8:11pm knows the full content of Secretary Powell’s emails. I wonder if he got a chance to look them over whilst dining with the Powell’s or if he gained access in some other way?

    Powell admitted that he set up his own system. Of course he had his own reasons and justifications for doing so, just as Secretary Clinton had hers. Has anyone scoured Secretary Powell’s emails? Has anyone even asked? No, of course not. Democrats aren’t that venal and vindictive. Nor have they gone after Secretary Rice’s emails which were managed the same way. Nor is anyone still squawking about the millions of emails that Karl Rove erased and the illegal email accounts held by members of the W. Bush White House. Anyone concerned about that? No? What a shock.

    Mark my words, RWDBs will be screaming bloody murder about Secretary Clinton’s emails until the end of days, because they never let anything go. Facts be damned.

    So far all we really have is a lot of leaks, speculation, and the solemn word of the two felons DeLay and Issa. Reliable sources that they are.

  9. Former FBI Official Red-Flags Troubling Lack of Activity at DOJ Regarding Hillary’s Emails

    By Debra Heine February 2, 2016

    A former assistant director of the FBI is voicing concern about the Justice Department’s lack of movement on the ongoing FBI investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email arrangement which, according to sources, will be wrapping up soon. If Bureau leaks are to be believed, the results will show that Mrs. Clinton and her underlings flagrantly violated some of our most important laws — laws that are designed to protect national security. Anyone else would have been arrested by now.

    Ron Hosko, who is today president of the Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund (LELDF), said on Fox News over the weekend that the DOJ hasn’t shown any interest at all in the FBI probe, which is odd, because the investigation has reached the point where main Justice should be showing some definite signs of activity in the case.

    The lack of DOJ activity coupled with the Obama Administration’s continued tendency to publicly prejudge the outcome of the ongoing investigation, has some Republicans questioning whether the investigation is being handled in a fair and impartial manner. “My concern is we’re not hearing about the prosecutors’ support that the FBI would need to pursue this investigation vigorously,” Hosko said.

    He explained that by now, there should be a prosecutor or prosecutors from a U.S. attorney’s office assigned to the case. A prosecutor would have the authority to issue federal grand jury subpoenas and compel witnesses to the grand jury to testify and would also be “having immunity discussions with people around Hillary who might have been complicit in the same scheme — offering immunity in exchange for their testimony. ” Hosko noted, “We’re not hearing enough of that.”

    Asked by host Steve Doocy if the FBI is “stonewalling,” or perhaps “slow-rolling” possible prosecution, Hosko answered that he hadn’t heard the word “stonewalling” in regards to this case, but he was concerned about the “lack of activity” at the DOJ. He said that there is “a lack of comments from defense attorneys saying I’m representing staffer so-and-so, and we are seeking immunity for that staffer.”

    Hosko concluded, “it suggests that the FBI is doing everything it can, without that legal authority that a grand jury subpoena gives you.”

    Doocy wondered what would happen if [the FBI] were able to prove that a certain number of our agents out in the field were killed because they were exposed?

    Hosko answered that he thought that information would change things dramatically, “because then you would see what the back end of a serious security lapse like this poses. I think that would change things in the White House. Now we’re hearing this kind of creeping admission coming out of the State Department, which has in the past completely defended Clinton. Now that’s starting to change, “Hosko said. “How complicit is the White House in this? How many emails did the White House — including the president himself — see? How vulnerable to they feel in this investigation? I think we’re going to see that change over time.”

    Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) sent out a press release Monday asking the president to appoint a Special Prosecutor.

    As evidence pointing to the mishandling of classified information mounts, it is critically important that the Department of Justice investigation into Secretary Clinton’s unsecured e-mail is conducted in a fair and impartial manner,” DeSantis said. “Yet, the Obama Administration’s continued public remarks prejudging the outcome of this ongoing investigation have called any pretense of impartiality into question. “

    DeSantis continued, “Secretary Clinton should receive absolutely no special treatment from the Department of Justice and the decision to prosecute must not hinge on political considerations. It is beyond my understanding why the Department of Justice will not appoint a special counsel in order to resolve any potential impropriety that could taint this investigation.”

    DeSantis asked the following questions:
    1.Attorney General Loretta Lynch was appointed United States Attorney in New York by President Bill Clinton in 1999. Does the Department of Justice consider this a conflict of interest in the context of a federal investigation involving President Clinton’s spouse?
    2.President Obama’s political appointees, including yourself, are being asked to impartially execute their respective duties as Department of Justice officials that may involve an investigation into the activities of the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination for President of the United States. Does the Department of Justice consider this a conflict of interest?
    3.Would the presidential campaign of an individual quality as an “extraordinary circumstance” in the context of special counsel regulations?
    4.The letter stated that the authority to appoint a special counsel has “rarely been exercised.” Aren’t the current extraordinary circumstances involving the investigation of former Secretary of State Clinton’s private email server the precise reason the special counsel option exists?
    5.The letter stated that “any investigations related to this referral will be handled by law enforcement professionals and career attorneys.” That being said, will President Obama’s political appointees be privy to the decision to convene a grand jury, prosecute, or seek a federal indictment in this case?

    I would make a couple more points that are probably apropos of nothing:

    Does the name Kate Duval ring a bell? She was transferred to the State Department from the IRS — where she was in charge of Louis Lerner’s email productions. Last June it was confirmed that the IRS destroyed the tapes with Lois Lerner’s emails. Duval has been in charge of Hillary Clinton’s email productions at the State Department since last summer.

    Obama didn’t nominate an official, Senate-confirmed inspector general to oversee the State Department until five months after Clinton had left office. Until then, the spot was held by a temporary “acting” inspector general who was more lap-dog than watch-dog.

    Is the fix in?

  10. Ken Rogers @ 11:18,

    RE: “The Constitution is just a piece of paper” – G.W. Bush Video

    Political opponents pick and choose the “crimes” they emphasize. Many “perpetrators” are mentioned in your video.

    Hillary’s long wrap sheet, beginning with the alleged Tyson Chicken bribe to the Governor’s wife through their mutual broker, “Red Bone,” in the cattle futures market, continuing through the mysterious Vince Foster Victory Lap Suicide (he was so happy Clinton won the presidency that he killed himself) and the Bimbo Eruptions, and the theft of the 1960 election by JFK** against the 8-year Eisenhower Vice President and “shoe in,” Richard Nixon, range from abject crime to coups de etat. But liberals can’t be concerned with minutiae – liberals don’t “sweat the small stuff,” right? Republican Presidents break laws but it’s ok for liberal collectivists to ensconce an ineligible candidate who is demonstrably not a “natural born citizen” in the White House. And how about that SCOTUS that cavalierly “legislates from the bench.” Where are the constitutional scholars on that?

    I’m beginning to think that the Constitution IS nothing but “…just a piece of paper.”

    Mayor Daley himself gave away the game on election eve when he said, “With the Democratic organization and the help of a few close friends,” the Democrats would prevail on election day. There is sufficient evidence that the “few close friends” mentioned include Chicago crime boss Sam Giancana–a fact Kallina pretty much ignores. Federal special prosecutor Morris Wexler conducted a quiet inquiry into 1960 Illinois election fraud and the evidence was pervasive. Mayor Richard J. Daley stole Illinois’ 27 Electoral College votes for fellow Democrat John F. Kennedy, denying Richard Nixon the presidency. Kennedy won the state by 8,858 of 4.7 million votes.Kallina believes vote fraud did occur in Chicago and elsewhere in Illinois. Mayor Daley was known for stuffing ballot boxes and giving ward bosses and precinct captains vote quotas. Two recounts of Chicago-area voting later showed that Democrats had likely stolen tens of thousands of votes for the Democratic ticket, including down-ballot races. Special prosecutor Wexler’s report, issued in April 1961, found “substantial” miscounts in the 1,367 precincts it examined, including unqualified voters, misread voting machines and math mistakes (

  11. “Great words of wisdom by James Madison. Thanks for posting!”

    “That James Madison?”

    No. The James Madison that “…provided for the common defence,…”


    “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

    The very binding Preamble, written by James Madison et al., states what the People did and what shall not be undone, to form a more perfect union.

    George W. Bush’s “Iraq War” had no standing to seek a declaration of war. The “Iraq War” was not provision “…for the common defence,…” It was an offensive war of aggression bearing no enemy that had conducted offensive military operations against the U.S.

    America ignores the founding documents, “…provide for the common defence,…” and “natural born citizen” as but two examples, at its peril.

  12. Olly,

    I’m 100% in favor of having a “rule of law” system that both parties follow but there has been “unequal” enforcement of criminal statutes by the DOJ (which violates the 14th Amendment and existing federal criminal statutes).

    For example: for Bush DOJ attorneys that approved torture, kidnappings, warrant less spying and other war crimes (according to Ronald Reagan’s binding international treaties) there has been no criminal prosecution by the DOJ at all and one attorney was promoted to a federal judge. The DOJ also hasn’t appointed an independent prosecutor to investigate these violations of criminal statutes.

    Congress also passed an unconstitutional “ex post facto” law to legalize felony crimes perpetrated by telecom companies in their warrantless wiretapping crimes. These activities were clear felonies when they happened, then Congress operated like a Banana Republic and legalized the past felonies. Congress does not have that authority under Article I of the U.S. Constitution, Obama could pardon these alleged felons but Congress can’t make those past felonies legal.

    If we are going to prosecute crimes let’s start with the alleged Bush felons first!

  13. @R.B.
    1, February 1, 2016 at 3:52 pm
    “Re: Ken Rogers @1:40pm today
    “Great words of wisdom by James Madison. Thanks for posting!”

    It was a heartfelt pleasure.

    It is no coincidence that the warmongers (and war profiteers) of the Military-Industrial Complex are the same people who have the least respect for Madison’s anti-authoritarian thinking and for that product of his thinking, the US Constitution.

    They are those who are either least aware of, or who willfully exploit for their own political and economic gain, the truth of Madison’s observation that perpetual war abroad and liberty at home are simply incompatible.

    It is tragically ironic that so many Americans are not only blind to the deep truth of Madison’s words regarding the antithesis of foreign wars and domestic liberty, but that they actually see imperialistic war as being an indispensable guarantor of their liberty. They are the “patriotic” cheerleaders of the war on their own freedom.

    It is indisputable, to the open-minded and informed observer, that the Founders’ Republic has devolved into a Corporate Welfare-Warfare State whose principal operatives find the Constitution an “outdated document” or even perhaps, “just a g**damned piece of paper.”

    Whether or not George W. Bush actually uttered those exact words, as reported, his authoritarian undermining of the Constitution certainly embodied precisely such an attitude, which psycho-political posture Obama has adopted to an even more grotesque degree.

    Regarding Bush’s criminal disregard of the Constitution, see this interview of Professor Turley, by Keith Olbermann:

    Regarding Obama’s criminal disregard of the Constitution, see, for only one example:

    “Obama has presided over a massive expansion of secret surveillance of American citizens by the National Security Agency. He has launched a ferocious and unprecedented crackdown on whistleblowers. He has made more government documents classified than any previous president. He has broken his promise to close down the controversial Guantánamo Bay prison and pressed on with prosecutions via secretive military tribunals, rather than civilian courts. He has preserved CIA renditions. He has tried to grab broad new powers on what defines a terrorist or a terrorist supporter and what can be done with them, often without recourse to legal process.

    “The sheer scope and breadth of Obama’s national security policy has stunned even fervent Bush supporters and members of the Washington DC establishment. In last week’s New York Times article that detailed the ‘kill list’, Bush’s last CIA director, Michael Hayden, said Obama should open the process to more public scrutiny. ‘Democracies do not make war on the basis of legal memos locked in a [Department of Justice] safe,’ he told the newspaper.”

    Any American with even a modicum of concern about the increasingly tenuous status of the Bill of Rights (not to mention concern about the threat of thermonuclear war) would do well to support those political candidates for national office who are least likely to further erode the Constitution by dragging us deeper into the morass of regional wars, with the ever-present danger of their escalating into World War III.

  14. Crime bosses and war criminals like the Clinton (both of them) and Bush (both of them) commit crime after crime after crime and people just throw up their hands. Yet take good people like those in Oregon who are protesting the BLM//Feral Government (no that was not a misspelling) crimes and unconstitutional actions against we the people and MSM SUCCESSFULLY presents them to the ignorant masses as TERRORISTS. The ranchers are just average people trying like hell to save their threatened way of life. It’s a truly sick world we live in.

  15. The comment @ 6:28p is classic dissembling. The Clintonista lie in this regard is, “Colin Powell used private email.” About 6 months ago Powell was on a Sunday morning news show and ripped that lie a new a-hole. But, it is still out there. As Powell explained, when he became SOS in 2001 the computer system in Foggy Bottom was 3rd World like. Coming from the military, which had cutting edge computers, Powell was appalled. So, Powell initiated a complete overhaul. They continued using SOS secure email for ALL official business. However, while the computer and email system was being overhauled, Powell had laptops issued. while secure desktops were being updated. The insecure laptops were used for interoffice emails. The only type of business that was allowed on this private email were like, “Are we on for the meeting next week?” Or, “Is John’s retirement party 5p or 6p.”

    So for God’s sake, stop keeping this LIE alive.

  16. OMG!

    “The reason Mrs. Clinton set up her own server was that all the Secretaries of State who had just come before her had done the same thing. Why she chose to ignore that the rules had changed is a mystery.”

    The reason Obama was required to be a “natural born citizen” was that all the Presidents who had just come before him were “natural born citizens.” Why he chose to ignore the Constitution is a mystery.

    “A well’a bless my soul”

    All Shook Up
    Elvis Presley 1957

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