The Post’s Clintonesque “Technical” Truth: The Truth About Hillary’s Email Depends on What the Meaning of “Were” Was

Glenn Kessler at the Washington Post looked at the claim of Hillary Clinton on Twitter this week that “the fact is that I had zero emails that were classified.” The Post declared Clinton “technically correct” in the claim, which left out that she was substantively wrong. While the Post elects not to award any “Pinocchios,” Clinton’s statement is clearly false and even the Post appears to recognize that fact at the very end of its analysis.  Indeed, “technical” truth is wonderfully Clintonesque — captured in Bill’s infamous defense during the Monica Lewinsky investigation that “it depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is.” The email scandal now depends on what the meaning of “were” was.  Hillary Clinton is focusing on whether the emails were marked classified as opposed to whether they contained classified information.

I previously wrote about Hillary’s claim and argued that it was demonstrably false. While I focused on her claim that there is an unfair “Clinton standard” that applies to her, I noted how Clinton is making a signature technical claim regarding classified markings rather than classified content.The tortured logic is transparently and knowingly misleading.

As I have stated previously, I do not believe that the email scandal warranted criminal charges and certainly did not justify the “lock her up” mantra used in the 2016 presidential campaign. However, Clinton is now rewriting history with the help of many in the media who simultaneously pushed this line that the email scandal was a type of conservative hoax. It was not.

The Post’s analysis is not part of that trivialization of the scandal. However, it contained critical errors in how the analysis was framed.

Kessler’s analysis largely follows the false framing of Hillary’s tweet: whether emails were actually marked classified. Even on that point, Hillary is wrong. There were emails with “confidential” classifications. Admittedly, that is the lowest level of classification and there was a controversy on whether those markings should have been removed. Kessler spends considerable time chasing that rabbit down the hole in the Clinton tweet when there is a virtual chasm next to it. The focus of the tweet and the Post analysis was not the focus of the investigation.

Hillary elected to use an unsecured personal server despite the strong policy against such systems for the discussion of State Department business. The reason is obvious. The servers are more easily penetrated by foreign intelligence and, according to the FBI, “hostile actors gained access” to some of the information through the emails of Clinton’s associates and aides.

Emails are a particular concern for security experts because they rarely have classification markings. Officials engage in contemporary and rapid exchanges that can reveal classified information. People often try to “talk around” such classified facts, but they can easily compromise sensitive programs or information. That is precisely the reason why they are told to use only secured servers and government email systems.

In Clinton emails, the inspector general noted this very same pattern where aides showed a “conscious effort to avoid sending classified information, by writing around the most sensitive material.” It did not work. A 2018 report of Department of Justice inspector general revealed that “81 email chains containing approximately 193 individual emails” were “classified from the CONFIDENTIAL to TOP SECRET levels at the time.”

There was never an allegation that Clinton or her aides intended to reveal classified information, but rather than they conveyed classified information while using the private server.

What the private server allowed was control by the Clintons. That control would later prove key when Clinton delayed full disclosure to federal officials and ultimately deleted thousands of emails.

While endlessly detailing the classification markings of three emails, Kessler does note that “sometimes classified information seeped into email exchanges.” That is the point. It is not the markings but the content of the emails that compromised national security information.

It is only at the very end, that the Post again acknowledges this point in affirming a “technical” truth in favor of Clinton:

“Clinton, in her tweet, suggests none of her emails were marked classified. That’s technically correct. Whether those emails contained classified information was a major focus of the investigation, but a review of the recent investigations, including new information obtained by the Fact Checker, shows Clinton has good reason for making a distinction with Trump.”

Unpack this line. The column admits that it was not the markings but the content that was a “major focus of the investigation,” but then declared Clinton “technically correct.”

The use of a strawman argument is classic Clinton, but it looks silly when adopted by a serious journalist. Take the conclusion that this is different from the Trump allegation of holding classified information at Mar-a-Lago. Of course, it is different. While Trump insists that as a president he was allowed to remove the documents and that he declassified them, that claim remains unestablished. However, these were clearly marked classified documents, including some at extremely high levels of classification.

Yet, there is one aspect that is more analogous and entirely omitted from the Post analysis. The most likely charge against Trump is obstruction in failing to turn over the material after a formal subpoena. Again, while there are obvious differences, Clinton and her staff were also accused of withholding material and delaying such disclosures

The State Department investigators worked furiously to determine the extent of any compromising of classified information in these emails by Clinton or her staff, including the possession of classified information on various laptops. Clinton and her staff did not fully cooperate with investigators in refusing to turn over her emails and other evidence. They delayed such efforts to estimate any national-security damage. Ultimately, the FBI cut deals with her aides to secure their cooperation. Later , additional classified material was found on the laptop of former Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY), who was married to top Clinton aide Huma Abedin — 49,000 emails potentially relevant to the Clinton investigation.

Moreover, the thousands of emails cited by Hillary do not include thousands destroyed by her staff. In 2014, Clinton and her staff were aware that these emails were being sought by both congressional and federal investigators. However, they used BleachBit to wipe out thousands of emails and then told investigators that they made the unilateral decision that such emails were “personal.”

The Clintons have long thrived in the gray area between “technical” and actual truth from Hillary’s claim to being “dead broke” after leaving the White House to Bill Clinton parsing of the word “is.” Yet, that ability to shape truth to their immediate needs is only possible with assistance of an endlessly enabling media.

A slightly difference version of this column ran on

213 thoughts on “The Post’s Clintonesque “Technical” Truth: The Truth About Hillary’s Email Depends on What the Meaning of “Were” Was”

  1. 10th Anniversary of the Attack at a U.S. Embassy Outpost in Benghazi, Libya
    President Biden, then VP, didn’t issued a formal statement remembering the attack on the mission, the CIA annex, or the killings including of an U.S. Ambassador

    A. Start and End of Server Controvery
    1. In 2008 Justin Cooper, who had no US security clearance or expertise in computer security, set up “Apple Server” for former President Bill Clinton’s staff. Hillary primarily used a personally acquired BlackBerry device from 1/20/09 until 3/18/09.
    2. Bryan Pagliano, the former IT director for Hillary’s ’08 presidential campaign, was hired to maintain their private email server while she was Secretary of State.
    3. John Bentel served as Director of the Executive Secretariat Information Resource Management (S/ES-IRM),during Hillary’s tenure. Several staff members raised concerns about Clinton’s use of personal email to him. According to the State IG report, one of the staff members told the State IG that Bentel told the staff member that “the mission of S/ES-IRM is to
    support the Secretary” and instructed the staff member to “never speak of the Secretary’s personal email system again.
    4. In June ’13 (Hillary left office on 2/1/13), Paul Combetta, a Platte River Networks employee who had no US security clearance, migrated various email accounts.
    5. The FBI’s ability to review emails from 1st server was impossible and on other two limited: Combetta subsequently deleted and “wiped” them from the server using “BleachBit.”
    6. On 5/8/14 “House Benghazi Committee” was established. In summer of 2014, State Department officials contacted Cheryl Mills (then Chief of Staff and Counselor) concerning the State Department’s inability to locate Clinton’s and other former Secretaries’ emails to respond to Congressional requests.

    B. “Operation Zero Footprint”
    From a policy standpoint it will have to be left up to historians to pore over the facts and ultimately decide what was WHs goal in the entire region. However, the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt – and election of President Morsi – did not seem to be a concern for the WH.

    1. In 2/11 then President Obama signed a presidential directive authorizing the State Dept (then Secretary Clinton) and CIA (Director Panetta) to begin a covert operation to arm the “Libyan Rebels”.
    2. Both commanders, Abu Sufian Ibriham Ahmed Hamuda Bin Qumu and Abu Khattala, were labeled as officially recognized State Dept. terrorists in 12/13.
    3. The operation fell under the military command authority of NATO.
    4. 3/11 “Responsibility To Protect” (R2P): Samantha Power, Susan Rice, Hillary Clinton all wanting to fully support “The Lybyan Rebels”.
    5. 3/11: Tactical Operations Command building (TOC) was added to Benghazi Mission.
    6. 5/11: “The Lybyan Rebels” were affiliates of al-Qaeda.
    7. On 9/11/12 U.S. Embassy in Cairo, Egypt was overrun by extremists who eventually hoisted the black flag of al-Qaeda within the order to realise Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman (“Blind Sheikh”) from FMC Butner, NC
    8.9/12/12: Once the Benghazi attack took place, the State Dept needed a cover story which would sell to the U.S. electorate to explain the Benghazi issues. What Hillary and team did was sell/use the Cairo story as an explanation for Benghazi.
    9. Did the Muslim Brotherhood leadership in Cairo, or specifically Muhammed Al Zawahiri, coordinate in some way with Ansar al Sharia in Libya, specifically on 9/11/12? Without factual evidence, it’s quite possible,
    10. 12/16/12: “While suffering from a stomach virus, Secretary Clinton became dehydrated and fainted, sustaining a concussion” She was due to testify before Congress on 12/20/12 about the investigation into the deaths of four Americans at the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, but will not.

  2. You are not dealing with logical people….it is demonS who say they have the ” kangrooo exprese” ….And the greatest European expansion. Ducking be the queen n pause…..think about it! She routed a whole other framework…..that matters. Long live the queen! Lanes 86 . 545499a. Long live the queen!

  3. I th I I what Jae is saying….is you r being played….by the brodm.ore! E not to late to get yourself out of it. Runn…..n run for your life! Get a as far away as you can…..I bet you.

  4. And what are you doing out there? You know that girl was a victim of the saudis there then….yet you chooses to cover it up! Now. Let me tell you once again who my people are……we actually run this country. And have since 2008. So tread where you think you can…But you will be brought down just like the rest of perverts….so pick your poison. I doubt you wanna be part of the perverts who happened that girl while in Jackson hole. ….you tread with the spring people! You are going to be brought up bc Minnesota haS the scam. So pick your poison! You can’t go out to the broadside without having already picked. When there is civil war we know what you side with. Js.

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