• Understanding Why the Clinton Emails Matters

    August 11, 2015

    Tags: , ,
    Posted in: Embassy/State

    Hillary-Clinton

    In the world of handling America’s secrets, words – classified, secure, retroactive – have special meanings. I held a Top Secret clearance at the State Department for 24 years and was regularly trained in protecting information as part of that privilege. Here is what some of those words mean in the context of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s emails.

    The Inspectors General for the State Department and the intelligence community issued a statement saying Clinton’s personal email system contained classified information. This information, they said, “should never have been transmitted via an unclassified personal system.” The same statement voiced concern that a thumb drive held by Clinton’s lawyer also contains this same secret data. Another report claims the U.S. intelligence community is bracing for the possibility that Clinton’s private email account contains multiple instances of classified information, with some data originating at the CIA and NSA.

    A Clinton spokesperson responded that “Any released emails deemed classified by the administration have been done so after the fact, and not at the time they were transmitted.” Clinton claims unequivocally her email contained no classified information, and that no message carried any security marking, such as Confidential or Top Secret.

    The key issue in play with Clinton is that it is a violation of national security to maintain classified information on an unclassified system.

    Classified, secure, computer systems use a variety of electronic (often generically called TEMPESTed) measures coupled with physical security (special locks, shielded conduits for cabling, armed guards) that differentiate them from an unclassified system. Some of the protections are themselves classified, and unavailable in the private sector. Such standards of protection are highly unlikely to be fulfilled outside a specially designed government facility.

    Yet even if retroactive classification was applied only after Clinton hit “send” (and State’s own Inspector General says it wasn’t), she is not off the hook.

    What matters in the world of secrets is the information itself, which may or may not be marked “classified.” Employees at the highest levels of access are expected to apply the highest levels of judgment, based on the standards in Executive Order 13526. The government’s basic nondisclosure agreement makes clear the rule is “marked or unmarked classified information.”

    In addition, the use of retroactive classification has been tested and approved by the courts, and employees are regularly held accountable for releasing information that was unclassified when they released it, but classified retroactively.

    It is a way of doing business inside the government that may at first seem nonsensical, but in practice is essential for keeping secrets.

    For example, if an employee were to be handed information sourced from an NSA intercept of a foreign government leader, somehow not marked as classified, she would be expected to recognize the sensitivity of the material itself and treat it as classified. In other cases, an employee might hear something sensitive and be expected to treat the information as classified. The emphasis throughout the classification system is not on strict legalities and coded markings, but on judgment. In essence, employees are required to know right from wrong. It is a duty, however subjective in appearance, one takes on in return for a security clearance.

    “Not knowing” would be an unexpected defense from a person with years of government experience.

    In addition to information sourced from intelligence, Clinton’s email may contain some back-and-forth discussions among trusted advisors. Such emails are among the most sensitive information inside State, and are otherwise always considered highly classified. Adversaries would very much like to know America’s bargaining strategy. The value of such information is why, for example, the NSA electronically monitored heads of state in Japan and Germany. The Freedom of Information Act recognizes the sensitivity of internal deliberation, and includes a specific exemption for such messages, blocking their release, even years after a decision occurred. If emails discussing policy or decisions were traded on an open network, that would be a serious concern.

    The problem for Clinton may be particularly damaging. Every email sent within the State Department’s own systems contains a classification; an employee technically cannot hit “send” without one being applied. Just because Clinton chose to use her own hardware does not relieve her or her staff of this requirement.

    Some may say even if Clinton committed security violations, there is no evidence the material got into the wrong hands – no blood, no foul. Legally that is irrelevant. Failing to safeguard information is the issue. It is not necessary to prove the information reached an adversary, or that an adversary did anything harmful with the information for a crime to have occurred. See the cases of Chelsea Manning, Edward Snowden, Jeff Sterling, Thomas Drake, John Kiriakou or even David Petraeus. The standard is “failure to protect” by itself.

    None of these laws, rules, regulations or standards fall under the rubric of obscure legalities; they are drilled into persons holding a security clearance via formal training (mandatory yearly for State Department employees), and are common knowledge for the men and women who handle America’s most sensitive information. For those who use government computer systems, electronic tools enforce compliance and security personnel are quick to zero in on violations.

    A mantra inside government is that protecting America’s secrets is everyone’s job. That was the standard against which I was measured throughout my career and the standard that should apply to everyone entrusted with classified information.




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    Copyright © 2018. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity. Follow me on Twitter!

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  • Recent Comments

    • bloodypitchfork said...

      1

      quote”None of these laws, rules, regulations or standards fall under the rubric of obscure legalities; they are drilled into persons holding a security clearance via formal training (mandatory yearly for State Department employees)”unquote

      They are drilled into persons holding a security clearance via formal training … right. Well then, I guess that clinches it. Hillary had MANDATORY YEARLY training. Right?

      note to self

      BWHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAHAHAHAHAHA!

      bartender.. set em up. A round for the house of TWO ROLLING EYES and a shot of DOUBLE FACE PALM.

      08/11/15 8:50 AM | Comment Link

    • bloodypitchfork said...

      2

      quote”A mantra inside government is that protecting America’s secrets is everyone’s job. “unquote

      You mean like TORTURE? Or vaporizing children with hellfire missiles? Or machine gunning innocents from helicopters ..or..murdering Afghanistan children in their beds..or…or… er wait. EVERYONES job.. ..gottcha. Mum’s the word.

      Americas secrets. un hun. gottcha.

      bartender…make that a triple shot of WIKILEAKS.

      fuck America’s sekrits.

      08/11/15 9:01 AM | Comment Link

    • bloodypitchfork said...

      3

      Ya know Peter.. America can’t have it both ways.

      08/11/15 9:04 AM | Comment Link

    • bloodypitchfork said...

      4

      Furthermore..if it CAN, then the DOJ better prosecute Clinton. Otherwise this is all political theater…

      DOH!! er.. nevermind.

      08/11/15 9:06 AM | Comment Link

    • bloodypitchfork said...

      5

      Moreover.. if they DON’T prosecute her.. I submit that if I were in your shoes.. I’d get fucking shitfaced drunk. After all..what else can you do.

      Start with a shot of TwoTieredJustice. And tell the bartender to leave the bottle.

      08/11/15 9:11 AM | Comment Link

    • John Poole said...

      6

      Hillary Rodham Clinton has been “on the hook” most of her career. It is what energizes her. She flounders when she is off the hook. I think she relishes a possible Biden challenge and also Sanders making waves.

      But it is the Republicans who are really in a quandry. Do they neutralize Trump now or hope he self destructs?
      Stay tuned. It surely will be entertaining- presidential policitcs that is.

      08/11/15 9:17 AM | Comment Link

    • starknakedtruth said...

      7

      PVB, you wrote…

      “The key issue in play with Clinton is that it is a violation of national security to maintain classified information on an unclassified system.”

      Allow me to add that the rules don’t apply to Hillary Clinton. I think that’s obvious by now, don’t you?

      08/11/15 9:29 AM | Comment Link

    • bloodypitchfork said...

      8

      ps.. Why the Clinton emails matter. right. Given she was the Secretary of State..and had a private email system.. and anyone with one neuron between their ears KNOWS her claim there was NO CLASSIFIED MATERIAL on it is total unadulterated bullshit… they matter because of YOU, Peter.

      08/11/15 9:30 AM | Comment Link

    • John Poole said...

      9

      Starknaked- it still is baffling to me why many women give Hillary a pass regarding ethical “shortcomings”. An unsettling speculation is that she is admired -hence given special treatment -by millions of women who never grew up properly.

      08/11/15 10:26 AM | Comment Link

    • starknakedtruth said...

      10

      John Poole…

      Baffling to me as well, but then–I never gave her a pass on Bill’s numerous Bimbo Eruptions, either. Says a lot about her character (or lack thereof)… that she’s simply content to look the other way. Or maybe it’s a case of blind political ambition; whatever the cost. Who knows?

      08/11/15 11:09 AM | Comment Link

    • bloodypitchfork said...

      11

      Well well well. What have we here….

      http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2015/aug/10/nsa-doc-accuses-china-hacking-obama-admin-emails/

      Could it be China got hacked Clinton’s server?

      I’ve got $5 that says her campaigning days are getting shorter by the minute…regardless of those millions of women who never “grew up properly”.

      08/11/15 11:27 AM | Comment Link

    • wemeantwell said...

      12

      08/11/15 11:29 AM | Comment Link

    • bloodypitchfork said...

      13

      Holy shit. I’ve got $10 that says she’s already hired Petraeus’ defense team, called in her favors and has an ace up her sleeve. She may be a lying sack of shit but shes not a dumb one. At least she can’t claim ..”what difference does it make now?” 🙂

      btw, I must have missed that post when my other computer crashed. I didn’t have one for a few days.

      08/11/15 3:40 PM | Comment Link

    • John Poole said...

      14

      Pitch- the liklihood of Hillary’s arrested development female supporters abandoning her even if she is shown to have been reckless and even criminal in her private email account habits where will they throw their support? They want a bitch in the White House and Hag Hillary was the apotheosis of venal bitchdom. Where can they turn? I’m clueless.

      08/11/15 9:43 PM | Comment Link

    • bloodypitchfork said...

      15

      quote”Where can they turn? I’m clueless.”unquote

      Sara Palin. I’ve got ten bucks that says Donald the Hair will pick her for laughs and giggles. And that very vote. Besides..he wants to lay her.

      08/12/15 6:54 AM | Comment Link

    • bloodypitchfork said...

      16

      Goddamn…just the thought of Trump and Palin in the Whitehouse…

      BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!

      The US would become the daily laughing stock of the planet. ..at least until Palin “convinces” Trump to nuke Mexico. 🙂

      08/12/15 6:58 AM | Comment Link

    • bloodypitchfork said...

      17

      ps.. on a side note… in relation to one of Peter’s prior posts on the Korean “comfort women” used by the Japs…..

      http://www.latimes.com/world/asia/la-fg-man-sets-himself-on-fire-20150812-story.html

      Like Japan will do anything other than continue to rewrite history. What’s really astounding is ..they never learn. Despite most of the country’s citizen opposition, notwithstanding their post war constitution.. the Japanese PTB have decided to allow deployment of their greatly enlarged military forces should it become necessary..
      http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/17/world/asia/japans-lower-house-passes-bills-giving-military-freer-hand-to-fight.html?_r=0

      quote”Critics, including a majority of Japanese constitutional specialists, say the legislation violates the country’s postwar charter, which renounces war. But the legislation is supported by the United States, …”unquote

      The vote for Japanese expansion of war capabilities.. supported by the United States. right.

      whudda thunk.

      I submit there’s 100k dead WW11 vets rolling in their graves about now. This redefines the word “mocking”.

      08/12/15 7:16 AM | Comment Link

    • John Poole said...

      18

      Thanks Pitch: Palin from her DC perch I can see all the way to Delaware. I don’t like those types. Donald! Get a few Tomahawks prepped to fire on those heathens. Sure Sarah, I never liked that Biden guy anyway. This is gonna be fun!

      08/12/15 8:35 AM | Comment Link

    • RICH BAUER said...

      19

      Emails we’d like to see:

      Hillary: If those Keystone Pipeline fuckers don’t write the check, they can drown in their dirty sands.

      08/12/15 9:05 AM | Comment Link

    • Your Serve, Hillary: Email Scandal Deepens | Ghosts of Tom Joad - Peter Van Buren said...

      20

      […] has a basic, three-tiered classification system: Confidential, Secret and Top Secret. Hillary exposed the highest level of classification, […]

      08/12/15 10:08 AM | Comment Link

    • Understanding Why The Clinton Emails Matter | DailyDeceit said...

      21

      […] Submitted by Peter van Buren via WeMeantWell.com, […]

      08/12/15 10:29 PM | Comment Link

    • Understanding Why The Clinton Emails Matter | QuestorSystems.com said...

      22

      […] Submitted by Peter van Buren via WeMeantWell.com, […]

      08/12/15 10:43 PM | Comment Link

    • Understanding Why The Clinton Emails Matter | State of Globe said...

      23

      […] Submitted by Peter van Buren via WeMeantWell.com, […]

      08/13/15 12:23 AM | Comment Link

    • Understanding Why The Clinton Emails Matter | JPPress said...

      24

      […] Submitted by Peter van Buren via WeMeantWell.com, […]

      08/13/15 2:11 AM | Comment Link

    • Today’s News August 13, 2015 | The One Hundredth Monkey said...

      25

      […] Submitted by Peter van Buren via WeMeantWell.com, […]

      08/13/15 3:01 AM | Comment Link

    • Today’s News August 13, 2015 | Fiat Planet said...

      26

      […] Submitted by Peter van Buren via WeMeantWell.com, […]

      08/13/15 3:32 AM | Comment Link

    • Chico said...

      27

      Yes, and why weren’t Victoria Nuland and Geoffrey Pyatt fired after talking on an open cell phone about policy matters “Yat’s the man!” and “Fuck the EU!” in the fucking Ukraine?

      Exceptionally grave damage there, indeed. Or a welcome look into the beast.

      08/13/15 3:40 AM | Comment Link

    • Clinton’s Evolving Email Defense Does Not Hold Water | Ghosts of Tom Joad - Peter Van Buren said...

      28

      […] who wrote them, ended up in an insecure system because Clinton chose to do things that way in contravention of all good practice and rationality, if not actual law and […]

      08/14/15 10:41 AM | Comment Link

    • Reply to ‘Hillary Committed No Criminal Act’ | Ghosts of Tom Joad - Peter Van Buren said...

      29

      […] authorized location. We’ve long-since established that classified is classified whether it is marked or not. It does not matter who sent the emails; they were on Hillary’s server and thumb drives, […]

      08/19/15 8:10 AM | Comment Link

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