A new report in the Wall Street Journal reveals emails in which then-Secretary of State Clinton approved CIA drone assassinations in Pakistan from her unsecured Blackberry.
Top Secret/SAP Messages
The timing and location of these strikes are considered Top Secret/SAP [special access program], in that revealing such data could allow the targeted humans to escape, and embarrass U.S. ally Pakistan, whom many believe is tacitly allowing the United States to conduct such military operations inside its sovereign territory.
At specific issue are 22 emails that were on Clinton’s private server. These messages were not publicly released, withheld entirely. However, the broad contents were leaked to the Journal by anonymous congressional and law-enforcement officials briefed on the FBI’s investigation.
Clinton’s role in approving the drone kills stems from concerns by lower State officials that the attacks’ timing and location might interfere with broader diplomatic engagement. So, from 2011 on, the State Department had a secret arrangement with the CIA, giving it a degree of say over whether or not a drone killing would take place.
Then-Ambassador to Pakistan Cameron Munter reportedly opposed certain covert operations that occurred during especially sensitive points in the U.S.-Pakistani relationship. As he later described the process “I have a yellow card. I can say ‘no.’ That ‘no’ goes back to the CIA director. Then he has to go to Hillary. If Hillary says ‘no,’ he can still do it, but he has to explain the next day in writing why.”
Clinton allegedly objected only to “one or two” attacks out of thousands.
Clinton Says None of That is True
As regards these emails, Clinton has said “the best we can determine” is that the emails in question consisted solely of a news article about drone strikes in Pakistan. “How a New York Times public article that goes around the world could be in any way viewed as classified, or the fact that it would be sent to other people off of the New York Times site, I think, is one of the difficulties that people have in understanding what this is about.”
However, the Wall Street Journal states the e-mails were not merely forwarded news articles, but consisted of informal discussions between Clinton’s senior aides about whether to oppose upcoming CIA drone strikes in Pakistan. When a potential strike was imminent, or if it occurred during a weekend or holiday when State Department staffers were away from government computers, the covert operation was then debated openly over unsecured wireless networks that anyone with a modicum of knowledge could intercept.
As a matter of speculation, the Russian and Chinese embassies in Washington DC likely employ people with a modicum of knowledge about wireless communications.
A Matter of Personal Convenience
One official said “If a strike was imminent, it was futile to use the high side [classified communications], which no one would see for seven hours.”
There is no built-in delay in classified communications. The official is likely referring to an unwillingness by Clinton’s staff to return to the office to conduct classified business on the proper system. Since there has been no suggestion or evidence that CIA officials also used unclassified systems to discuss drone strikes, one can assume they were willing to be at the office when U.S. national security issues mattered.
Copyright © 2015. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity. Follow me on Twitter!
When her use of an unclassified email server first broke in March 2015, Hillary Clinton’s earliest statements were that no classified information was sent or received.
She quickly changed her standard reply to say nothing sent or received was marked classified at the time. As recently as Wednesday of last week, she told reporters, “nothing that I sent or received was marked classified. And nothing has been demonstrated to contradict that. So it is the fact. It was the fact when I first said it. It is the fact that I’m saying it now.”
(The statement is itself an outright lie. Some information — the names of CIA undercover personnel, imminent drone strikes, details on U.S. NSA sources and methods, for example — is inherently classified and does not need to be marked to restate that. In addition, many suspected classified documents that were marked as such were simply retyped minus the marker when they were sent to Hillary. Leaving the marker off does not “declassify” information, and is in fact a national security crime.)
However, even Clinton’s statement that nothing was marked classified has now been proven a lie.
One of her just-released emails carries a clear classification marking known as a portion marking. That marking was on the email when it was sent directly to Clinton’s account.” Nothing done retroactively, though retroactive classification is a standard tool used throughout the government and validly changes a document.
Portion marking is used when a document contains paragraphs of various levels of classification. Paragraph one may be marked as (U) for unclassified, paragraph two as (S) for secret and so forth.
Everything after that (C) was fully redacted before it was publicly released by the State Department. One can only guess that someone sending Clinton the information via an unsecured device forgot to delete the (C), and then in the clearance process at State the (C) portion marker was overlooked. Accidents do happen. People make mistakes.
So, you want a smoking gun? You got it.
For Hillary Supporters:
It does not matter whether the classification was a high or low level one. You simply cannot include any classified information on an unclassified system. To do so is a violation of law. It does not matter if, in your opinion, whether or not he material should have been classified, or was over-classified. Clinton could have declassified it following standard procedures but did not do so (see, because you can retroactively classify something, you can also retroactively declassify something.)
But what is most significant here is that Clinton lied. Stone cold lied. There was marked classified on her unclassified server. And that does matter.
Copyright © 2015. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity. Follow me on Twitter!
Emails recently released by the State Department give more information on how a securities trader and big-money Clinton donor was appointed by her office to the International Security Advisory Board (ISAB), a group that advises the Secretary of State on nuclear weapons and other security issues.
According to the State Department’s own website, members are “national security experts with scientific, military, diplomatic, and political backgrounds.” The current members show a lot of generals, ambassadors and academics.
So it seemed odd to ABC News that Clinton felt that Rajiv K. Fernando, above, qualified for the group, since his background is in high-frequency stock trading and Internet “ventures.” He has donated heavily both to the Clinton Foundation, Hillary Clinton’s two presidential campaigns, and the Obama campaigns.
The newly released emails show he was added to the panel by then Clinton chief of staff Cheryl Mills. ““Raj was not on the list sent to [the Secretary of State]; he was added at their insistence” reads one 2011 email from Wade Boese, Chief of Staff for the Office of the Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security, to a press aide.
Fernando’s appointment even confused some staffers, the emails reveal. One press aide wrote internally, “it appears there is much more to this story that we’re unaware of,” and “it’s natural to ask how he got onto the board when compared to the rest of the esteemed list of members.”
That press aide wrote in a separate email: “We must protect the Secretary’s and Under Secretary’s name, as well as the integrity of the Board. I think it’s important to get down to the bottom of this before there’s any response.”
— Fernando declined to comment at the time, and promptly resigned from ISAB.
— The Clinton campaign declined to comment. Why did she decline to comment on a person she hand-selected to advise her? If it’s all just a witch hunt, say so, and explain why.
— The State Department put out a statement saying the ISAB is meant to reflect “a balance of backgrounds and points of view.” Including apparently unqualified points of view. That’s diversity, Clinton-style!
BONUS: Raj Fernando is a superdelegate for Clinton!
Copyright © 2015. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity. Follow me on Twitter!
The State Department this week, apparently with a straight face, defended its claim that releasing all the emails sought by the Republican National Committee (RNC) would take 75 years.
“It’s not an outlandish estimation, believe it or not,” spokesman Mark Toner told reporters. “It’s an enormous amount of FOIA [Freedom of Information Act] requests,” he added. “Very broad and very complex.”
The RNC has sued the State Department seeking all emails to or from Clinton’s former chief of staff, Cheryl Mills, senior adviser Jacob Sullivan and undersecretary for management Patrick Kennedy from 2009 to 2013. The State Department has claimed that the result would yield roughly 1.5 million pages of documents that it and other federal agencies would need to go through page by page.
The Department claimed in a court filing last week trying to kill the RNC lawsuit that the emails are “complex” and include “classified documents and interagency communications that could have to be referred to other agencies for their review.”
Because the State Department expected that it could process roughly 500 pages per month, processing all 450,000 pages would take 900 months, or 75 years.
— If Clinton had not used her private server while in office, any FOIA requests for her documents would have been processed all along from 2009 forward, instead of being clumped into a huge pile just months before the election. If blocking FOIA was indeed her goal (it was), she did an excellent job.
— Also, that bit about “classified documents and interagency communications that could have to be referred to other agencies for their review” is kinda noteworthy given that any emails to and from Clinton traveled via unclassified means. But whatever.
— Lastly, it is sort of quaint that State’s estimated processing time seems based on the assumption that however many people are now working on the FOIA review will not increase despite increased demand and despite the delays being caused by Clinton’s own decision to not use official email.
I gotta say, State is really betting the farm, the cow and the corn on this one, hoping Clinton is elected and that most of this will just fade away, or really be sucked down a 75 year long tunnel as the Republicans hold hearings until the end of time. Because a Republican administration would basically at this point gut the State Department and turn the main building into a Trump mini-mall.
But wait, seriously, 75 years? How the hell can a spokesperson say those things without a room full of reporters throwing their pens at him?
BONUS: But it’s just a fishing expedition, says every Hillary supporter. To which one must consider saying, f*ck you. The Freedom of Information Act requires the government to turn over records for whatever purpose. There is no part of the Act that allows anyone to judge the reason for the request, so just go away and shut up, because you’ll vote for her even if she skins a puppy alive on the Jimmy Fallon show. The rest of us still are in possession of our critical thinking skills for the time being.
Graphic courtesy of friend of the blog Mac Beaulieu
If not Donald, someone else would be Trump. America has been waiting for him.
Trump is a racist, who feeds back to angry white America what it wants to believe, that its problems are the cause of Blacks, Latinos, women, immigrants and fill in the blank _____ and not related to a broad reorganization of American society into a tiny one percent of controlling wealth holders and everyone else. Trump’s supporters want to think those groups rose up to take their jobs, but instead do not realize they themselves were just pushed down into the same ranks America’s traditional oppressed occupy. Trump tells them they are victims of an unfair world, ironically true in a way that must make him snigger off stage.
Trump is a fascist, who promotes an America at war with anyone who challenges its self-image. For the past 15 years politicians and media have fed the raw meat of revenge to Americans, so it should be no surprise that Trump’s shouts to invade and bomb and torture are so enthusiastically received (some may argue, and it is not a tough argument to make, that such war fever has been fanned from the day WWII ended and the war on terror is just the continuation of the war on communism.)
Trump is a bully, literally making calling others names a cornerstone of his public discourse. The coarsening of American public life has been a steady factor in our lifetimes, beginning perhaps with Bill Clinton, whose ideas of how to act in the nation’s highest office made it a daily occurrence to hear the term oral sex on TV news. After calling the president a whoremonger, it is a straight shot to Little Mario. And of course, don’t the guys on late night TV use funny names for politicians anyway? And now the Democrats have picked it up, making up names like “Dangerous Donald.”
Trump is an opportunist, knowing that social issues such as gun control bring in the crowds (no one is going to repeal the Second Amendment) while mattering not a whit to the world he and the other power brokers care about. What is really important is maintaining the military industrial complex and being able to manipulate the tax/economic/investment systems. In their minds, only stupid poor people worry about guns, gays, transgender toilets and the like, so feed them that as a distraction. We don’t need bread and circuses, we have a world of right wing talk radio that makes Fox look middle-of-the-road.
Welcome to Weimar: America is Now Ready for Trump
Others have tried to be Trump and failed. Nixon had most of the pieces in place, but fell victim to a media that still cared back then to do its job. That’s no longer a problem.
Reagan came very close and set much in motion, but had America’s reliable Russian enemy pulled out from under him and could never get up enough fear over his signature wars in Central America. The various evangelistic candidates of the 80s and 90s also tried hard, but most fell victim to sex and money scandals.
In 2016, America was ready for its little Hitler.
The Bush years weakened the institutions of America (the press in particular; how’d that Iraq thing go? Ready to condemn torture yet? You guys realize more Americans get their news from TV comedians now than newspapers, right?)
The Republican party, by pushing forward Caligula’s horse in the form of Sarah Palin, laid bare its contempt for the electorate.
Obama, full of pretty words, cynically picked up his office and that Nobel while twisting the knife into the corpse of democracy with drones.
The Congress threw away its Constitutional role and empowered a strong man executive because it could not agree on anything else.
The 24/7 news cycle, which meant Americans were never without fear being thrust into their faces, combined with the “see something, say something” report-your-neighbors mentality and insured a population ripe for exploitation.
The one percent nailed things after the 2008 economic crisis (Throw them in jail? They got the government to pay off their financial malfeasance for them), pretty much ensuring their hold forever on power, even as we down here argue over what level of poverty a minimum wage should allow us.
A Man of His Time
Trump sensed all this perhaps without even understanding it, like a predator catches a scent and knows it’s dinner. He added in his own amazing media skills. He realized he could say anything, and contradict himself from speech to speech. The media and public certainly wouldn’t care, they’d encourage it as entertainment. And of course if neither your public nor your journalists know any history, then you can lie to them to your heart’s content.
All that said, no one should count Hillary out; she is armed with her own skills at manipulation, and has powerful backers. She indeed may end up as president. But that only means the next iteration of Trump, whoever he or she is, waits a bit longer. The broader processes of history, in this case the sad end of our democratic experiment, can be delayed but not denied.
After all, Germany wasn’t built in a day.
The Internet is a blunt weapon, so a few things: I do not support Trump in any way, and I am writing to understand his rise, not to agree with it. Any references to Hitler are not to create a direct Trump = Hitler meme, but to illustrate how processes of history work. Now relax, and enjoy the show.
In a statement I never expected to see in print, half of voters said in a survey a presidential candidate should continue to run for America’s highest office even if she is indicted for national security crimes.
For those who want historical markers to look back on, charting decline in civilization and deviations from reality, well, there’s a good one.
The latest Rasmussen Reports survey, taken in late May, finds most voters (65%) believe Hillary Clinton is a lawbreaker, but half of all voters also say a felony indictment shouldn’t stop her campaign for the presidency.
Among Democratic voters, 71% believe Clinton should keep running even under indictment. Nearly half say it will have no impact on their vote. It is unclear that, in theory, that any of those surveyed understand a candidate indicted in the fall of 2016 could face trial/impeachment while in office in 2017.
Those surveyed are saying that even if the FBI releases a report saying their lengthy investigation shows there is enough evidence to bring Clinton before a grand jury, that does not matter to them.
In what I hope is a statistical anomaly, eight percent say indictment makes them more likely to vote for the former first lady.
Just to make this as clear as possible, Hillary Clinton is the only presidential candidate in the history of the United States to be running while under an FBI investigation for national security crimes that could reach as high as the Espionage Act. About 65% of American voters already believe she broke laws, ahead of the FBI results and when asked before the State Department Inspector General’s report was released.
But they’ll vote for her anyway. I am rarely at a loss for words, but this time I just don’t know what to say anymore.
You can look at the source documents yourself. This is not opinion, conjecture, or rumor. Hillary Clinton transmitted the names of American intelligence officials via her unclassified email.
From a series of Clinton emails, numerous names were redacted in the State Department releases with the classification code “B3 CIA PERS/ORG,” a highly specialized classification that means the information, if released, would violate the Central Intelligence Act of 1949 by exposing the names of CIA officials.
How FOIA Works
The Freedom of information Act (FOIA) requires the government to release all, or all parts of a document, that do not fall under a specific set of allowed exemptions. If information cannot be excluded, it must be released. If some part of a document can be redacted to allow the rest of the document to be released, then that is what must be done. Each redaction must be justified by citing a specific reason for exclusion.
But don’t believe me. Instead, look at page two of this State Department document which lists the exemptions.
Note specifically the different types of “(b)(3)” redactions, including “CIA PERS/ORG.” As common sense would dictate, the government will not release the names of CIA employees via the FOIA process. It would — literally — be against the law. What law? Depending on the nature of the individual’s job at CIA, National Security Act of 1947, the CIA Act of 1949, various laws that govern undercover/clandestine CIA officers and, potentially, the Espionage Act of 1917.
Names of CIA, NSA Officials Mentioned, Now Redacted
Yet Hillary’s emails contain at least three separate, specific instances where she mentioned in an unclassified email transmitted across the open Internet and wirelessly to her Blackberry the names of CIA personnel. Here they are. Look for the term “(b)(3) CIA PERS/ORG” Click on the links and see for yourself:
There are also numerous instances of exposure of the names and/or email addresses of NSA employees (“B3 NSA”); see page 23 inside this longer PDF document.
Why It Matters
— These redactions point directly to violations of specific laws. It is not a “mistake” or minor rule breaking.
— These redactions strongly suggest that the Espionage Act’s standard of mishandling national defense information through “gross negligence” may have been met by Clinton.
— There is no ambiguity in this information, no possible claims to faux-retroactive classification, not knowing, information not being labeled, etc. Clinton and her staff know that one cannot mention CIA names in open communications. It is one of the most basic tenets taught and exercised inside the government. One protects one’s colleagues.
— Exposing these names can directly endanger the lives of the officials. It can endanger the lives of the foreigners they interacted with after a foreign government learns one of their citizens was talking with the CIA. It can blow covers and ruin sensitive clandestine operations. It can reveal to anyone listening in on this unclassified communication sources and methods. Here is a specific example of how Clinton likely compromised security.
— These redactions show complete contempt on Clinton’s part for the security process.
BONUS: There is clear precedent for others going to jail for exposing CIA names. Read the story of John Kiriakou.
A Personal Aside: I just remain incredulous about these revelations seeming to mean nothing to the world. They’re treated in the media as almost gossip.
After losing the race for president in 2008, Hillary made plans to never have that happen again.
She believed — no, she was certain — that history had chosen her to be the first woman president of the United States. All the years of acting the role of First Lady, all the public humiliation with Bill’s sex life strewn across TV, it would all finally pay off.
And she wrote a damn good script. Once again swallowing her pride, Hillary came to publicly support Barack Obama, taking as her prize the job of Secretary of State. As Secretary, she amassed hours of B-roll footage of herself traveling around the world empowering women, talking tough to dictators, showing concern, lots of safe smoke with no dangerous fire.
About a year ago everything looked good.
She had a summer autobiography out with a not-running-for-president book tour to get her into the news ahead of a fall announcement to run. Bill was again at her side, the Old Dog returning some big favors by sharing his popular image. The Democratic National Party made sure the fix was in, assuring that she’d only have as “competition” loyal punching bag Martin O’Malley, who’d fight the good fight for awhile before graciously disappearing forever. And just in case, the superdelegate system was tweaked up to ensure Hillary didn’t even really need to win too many primaries. That would also bank campaign funds for the general election. She’d be on the offensive the whole time, controlling the message, basically running an 18 month general election campaign.
On the Republican side, Hillary faced no real challenge. A limp Jeb, a frustrating Mario, an unsteady Cruz and some has-beens and never will be’s. It’d be a turkey shoot.
But… but… Hillary just couldn’t stop being herself.
She is now struggling to just stay above water, hoping to limp to the nomination based on some funny delegate math and a few earlier victories in the South. If she is the nominee, she’ll be the least popular and least trusted nominee from her party in its history, with a negative campaign based nearly 100% on hoping people dislike Trump just a bit more than they dislike her.
And she did it all by herself.
Her endless paranoia led her to create that private email server as Secretary of State, despite advice to the contrary (as well as common sense.) She tried to hide it, until she got caught. Her reaction then was to sound like a desperate lawyer without much of case, parsing words and claiming she was the victim of a “vast right wing conspiracy.” Under pressure, she later issued a without-consequences faux apology and pleaded with people to forget the whole thing. Served by a compliant media, she was pretty successful.
But her lies and parsing and prevarications ended her up as the only candidate in U.S. history running for office while under investigation by the FBI.
She and her aides are being subpoenaed in multiple Freedom of Information Act cases. The State Department — her State Department — issued a scathing Inspector General report blowing holes in her multiple explanations for the server. State still has an open and ongoing conflict of interest investigation into Clinton’s decision to have senior aide Huma Abedin employed simultaneously by Clinton, the State Department, a Clinton-connected private firm and the Clinton Foundation. Accusations and investigations into the shady finances of and overseas donations to the Clinton Foundation swirl.
If any of this would have caught the public’s eye a few months sooner, Bernie Sanders would already have the Democratic nomination. If somehow the primary season had a few more months to go, Bernie Sanders would have the nomination.
The game is not over, and Clinton must survive the final primaries, an FBI report on her mishandling of classified materials on her email server, the convention, and of course the general election itself. Trump will be a rough opponent, and Clinton will be on the defensive much of the time. It is unclear how many of Sanders’ supporters will come over to her after such a bitter primary season.
Clinton may yet sneak through all this to claim her prize, floating on the apparent new standard for the presidency, “at least she’s not under indictment.” But is that really the way we want to now choose our leaders?
The State Department Inspector General’s (IG) investigation report leaked out a day early on May 25 makes a number of significant points. These matter, and need to be considered by anyone voting in November.
What’s in the IG Report
— Neither Clinton nor any of her senior staff would participate in the IG’s investigation.
— Clinton never sought approval, legal or technical, for her unprecedented private email system.
— IT staffers and others at State warned her against it.
— Had she sought approval, the State Department would not have granted it.
— Clinton violated Federal Records laws.
— Clinton did not turn over all of her work-related emails. Several (unclassified) were quoted in the IG report that had never been released.
— Clinton violated State Department policies and guidelines in place at the time, even as the State Department enforced those on the rank-and-file.
— IT staff at the State Department who raised concerns internally were falsely told the server was approved and ordered to not discuss it further.
— Clinton’s use of a non-standard email account caused many of her emails to not reach their recipients inside State, and ended up instead in Spam.
— State Department staffers not in Clinton’s inner circle aware of her private email address could not communicate with the head of their agency.
— His State Department bosses did not know their employee, Bryan Pagliano, was simultaneously working directly for Clinton maintaining her private server.
— The server came under severe enough hacker attacks that its administrator had to physically unplug it to prevent intrusions.
The question of classified material handling is, by agreement, being left by State to the FBI, and is thus not addressed in the IG report.
All of that is in the report. I’ve read the whole thing, and if you do not believe my summary, above, or wonder what specific laws and regulations are being cited, you can also read the whole thing and learn for yourself.
— For the first time, a set of actual facts of Clinton’s actions and decisions have been laid out by an independent, government entity. The IG was appointed by Obama and his report is dispassionate. No one can realistically claim this is a hit job. Sources are cited and laws footnoted.
— Clinton did break Federal Records laws and violate State Department regulations that her organization held others to.
— Despite repeated promises of transparency and cooperation, neither Hillary nor any of her senior staff would agree to participate in the IG’s investigation. Former Sectaries of State Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell and Madeleine Albright did participate fully and voluntarily in the investigation. Clinton alone did not.
— Clinton never sought approval, and ignored advice to stop what she was doing. She ran the server with no oversight. With no oversight, the only check on Clinton was Clinton herself.
— That lack of oversights extended to potential destruction of evidence. It was Clinton alone who determined which emails to turn over to the State Department as “work related” and which to delete, some 30,000. It was Clinton who made the decision to then try and wipe the server clean. It is unclear whether or not the FBI can forensically retrieve and review those 30,000 deleted emails.
Simply put, what she did wasn’t supposed to be done.
Why It Matters
— Hillary Clinton lied when she claimed her actions were approved. She lied when she said there were no regulations in place at the time of her server decisions. She lied when she said she broke no laws. She lied when she said this all was a Republican hit job. She lied when she said she would cooperate with any investigation.
— Hillary Clinton covered up her actions for four years as Secretary, then another two years after she left office, and only admitted to anything after it hit the news last year.
— Hillary Clinton asks voters to trust her with the most important job in America. She has not shown she is trustworthy.
— Hillary Clinton asks to be America’s leader. She did not lead her State Department, and she showed contempt for its rules. She did not lead by example.
— Hillary Clinton made clear by her actions that she believes rules that apply to others do not apply to her.
— Hillary Clinton by her actions succeeded in hiding all of her official emails from the Freedom of Information Act for six years in open contempt for that process and the American people.
— Hillary Clinton purposefully and willfully created a system that exempted her from the oversight applied to every other government employee.
— Hillary Clinton alone in the entire U.S. government conducted 100% of her official business on a private email server.
The other shoe has yet to drop. Though the Inspectors General from the intelligence community have stated unequivocally that Clinton did handle highly classified material on her unsecured server, the FBI report on the same matter has not yet been released.
For those who wish to defend Clinton with the “but everybody did it” argument, Condoleezza Rice did not send any emails on any unsecured system at all. Powell and Albright sent a handful in the early days of the web. All of them cooperated in the State IG investigation. None of them ran a fully private system for four years and most importantly, none of them are asking us to trust them now running for president.
If your support is whittle down to a sad Hillary is down to “well, she’s not Trump,” do be careful what you wish for. She’s not Trump, but she is all of the above.
For those who wish to defend Clinton by saying “she’s not indicted,” well, actual criminality is a pretty low bar to set for the most important job in America. Also, the FBI has yet to release its report which may point to actual national security violations.
And lastly, it is not about crime per se, but about trust and judgement.
BONUS: If Bernie Sanders will not discuss any of this publically, he does not want to be president.
Meet Joni Ernst. Could she be Donald Trump’s choice for Vice President?
The main attributes of a vice president are to balance the ticket, help raise money and then step back for four/eight years until it is her turn to run. You want someone good, but not too good, especially if you have an ego the size of Trump’s.
And with Hillary Clinton as the likely Democratic nominee, a woman VP on the Republican ticket would be no small advantage. Ernst is the first woman to represent Iowa in the United States Congress and the first female veteran to serve –from any state — in the Senate. Those kinds of things will pull a lot of the air out of Hillary’s calls to empower women in politics.
The Washington Post calls Joni Ernst, currently the Republican senator from Iowa, “a breakout star of the 2014 midterm election with her plain-spoken populism.” That matches some of Trump’s appeal, and plays well to the populism that fuels the Sanders campaign.
Ernst has been critical of Trump’s comments about women, which could be a smart way to make Trump appear more open-minded, and pull in additional female votes. He could also use Ernst’s criticism to soften his comments going forward, explaining she has helped him better see the error of his ways.
Ernst also aligns well with Trump and Republican positions.
She’s proposed eliminating the Internal Revenue Service, the Department of Education, and the Environmental Protection Agency to cut federal spending. She wants to eliminate the Department of Education “not just because it would save taxpayer dollars, but because I do believe our children are better educated when it’s coming from the state.” She is also no friend of Planned Parenthood, another signature Republican issue. In 2014, Ernst delivered the official GOP rebuttal to President Obama’s State of the Union Address.
And a bonus — Ernst is a good friend of the Koch Brothers, and her being on the ticket could help them feel better about a President Trump. A lot of Koch money flowed into Ernst’s Senate campaign via the Koch-backed consulting firm Aegis Strategic. The brothers are known to be wary of Trump, and having one of their own people in the White House would go a long way to garnering their support.
Keep an eye on Joni Ernst. She might make for some very smart politics by a guy who says he knows a good deal when he sees one.
(NOTE to long-time We Meant Well readers. This article is a prediction, not an endorsement. We’ll return to our regular programming soon.)
A team of North Korean election monitors left New York City in disgust, claiming that democracy was “dead to them.”
Following a long series of primary election issues across the United States, where local scams, manipulated caucuses and voter disenfranchisement ran wild, the United Nations requested the North Koreans provide a team of election monitors (above) to oversee the highly-contested New York primary. In choosing North Korea for the job, UN officials cited the “great similarities between the North Korean and American systems.”
“You people make me sick,” said team leader Kim Young Hee, spitting onto a homeless man living inside LaGuardia Airport who was clawing at his socks for nourishment. “All we hear on your stupid Voice of America shortwave broadcasts and smuggled laser discs of old American Idol shows is democracy this, democracy that from you capitalist pigs. Then we arrive and what do we find? A paper ballot-based voting system right out of the 1950s, run by ignorant old people who have no experience, little training and too much free time. In Pyongyang, they’d be working in the uranium mines, not hassling first-time voters and African-Americans!”
Comrade Kim went on to cite the unequal application of voter ID laws, the way polling sites were shifted around without notice, and the fact that some 150,000 registered voters in New York were left off the polling lists and were thus unable to vote. He also could not score Hamilton tickets after being promised by a guy in the men’s room “he’d be right back with change”, but said he would leave that out of his report to the UN.
“And all this when less than half of your eligible voters even bother to show up? In North Korea, we have 100% voter turnout every election, and stuff runs like clockwork. The Party would be locking up whole families of the officials involved in this kind of clusterfutz. Now, I’ll admit, we have only one candidate running like your Republicans do, but seriously, you’re America, the people who found a way through your ‘fast food’ to feed the masses even cheaper than we do in North Korea. Jeez people, you don’t have this computerized yet? Hell, we do, using a 286 Gateway PC running a pirated copy of DOS 4.0. Losers.”
Wiping a healthy dollop of dog crap off his shoe after having set foot on a New York sidewalk (“I’d eat the bastard for that if we were back home”) Comrade Kim reminded his American handlers that if for some reason Dear Leader Trump lost in November, he’d always be welcome in Pyongyang.
As the presumptive U.S. presidential nominees emerge, at least for now — Donald Trump for the Republicans and Hillary Clinton for the Democrats — more and more friends from abroad have started asking me to explain how a person like Trump could get so far, so fast, given utter lack of experience.
A few also ask questions about Hillary’s qualifications, mostly centered around the money flow from Wall Street, and the “donations” from foreign governments into the Clinton Foundation. Many from places where corruption is more surfaced recognize what is happening perhaps more clearly than Americans.
What I try to explain is that the success of Trump and Clinton, especially over the candidates they have defeated, is based on the same dark spot inside the American body politic now: our society is motivated by fear, and fear produced the 2016 versions of candidates Trump and Clinton.
For its faults — referring more to the American Soul than the American government — the pre-9/11 United States was a relatively hopeful place. Despite the underbelly of prejudices and the crushing of the middle class, there was a sense that things might get better, or at least not worse. War? The last big one was Desert Storm in 1991. Nobody would claim society was perfect, or even uniformly good, but it was different than now.
Then across the span of a day, September 11, 2001, America changed. We became, as a nation, afraid.
We were afraid of enemies most Americans had heard little about. We were afraid of what might happen next. We were afraid of an attack against the shopping mall, the school, the tiny place in our tiny town that didn’t show up well on most local maps, never mind one bin Laden might use. Our fears were carefully curated by opportunistic people in two successive administrations, who used that fear to manipulate democracy itself. They turned America’s vast spying apparatus inward, imposed a global gulag archipelago of torture sites and secret prisons, and institutionalizing the drone wars.
Amid the various causes and justifications, that it is all about oil, or empire, what it is all about at the root level is fear. Fear of the latest bogeyman, fear screeches of groups on YouTube are real, and that they are ready to strike what we now all call the Homeland. That word never existed in America prior to 9/11.
America lost its guts. We’re scared of scary things we can’t see and can only identify as monsters, like a child alone at night who hears every noise and assumes the worst.
So into that setting emerges the presidential candidates that had to emerge, our first true post-9/11 candidates, the ones who picked up on the fears of Americans as a predator catches a scent.
Donald Trump speaks pointedly to America’s fears — Mexicans swarming to take our jobs, trade agreements that will hand China the keys to the store (“They’re killing us!”), and weaknesses that allow Islamic State, Putin, the Iranians, and all the rest, to wait coiled on our borders. Afraid? Then you need Trump on that wall, you want him on that wall, for it is only because of rough men like him that you’ll be able to once again (“Make America Great Again”) sleep peacefully.
Trump’s form of fear-mongering is basically from the same toolbox every autocrat and dictator has used since government was invented. Trump plays on what one can call “positive fear,” fear of what will befall us if he is not there to stop it.
While Hillary Clinton is no stranger to calling up global demons, the biggest fear she plays on is American’s fear of change.
Clinton is well on her way to defeating Bernie Sanders by convincing Americans they do not want the same comprehensive health care system every other evolved nation on earth has, that they do not want the no-cost higher education most/all of Europe and Asia profits from, and that Americans do not want a political system less subject to influence buying. She told Americans she alone would continue decades of mediocrity, because there really was no other way. Convincing people to vote against their own self-benefit is not easy, but fear is a powerful motivator.
Clinton’s fear-mongering is more subtle than Trump’s. The fear she sells is not so much of something (Islamic State, Putin), but fear of the unknown, a kind of “negative fear.” So, despite the often ineffective health insurance provided under the Affordable Care Act, she tells supporters her opponent might even see that taken away if he reopens a debate with Republicans. She brushes off concerns about big money influence saying if it was good enough for Obama, then why change that?
The rest flows quite naturally. It is little surprise that both candidates are shaping a meme that while you may not like or even wish to support them actively, you should vote for them anyway, for fear that the other one will win.
Barring any unforeseen circumstances, either Trump or Clinton will take the White House, and fan the flames; fear requires regular booster shots, each one bigger than the last. And that should in fact make the rest of us very, very afraid.
“Oh, I have no idea at all officer,” Hillary said.
“You were speeding. Clocked you right here.”
“I didn’t do anything wrong,” Hillary said.
“Well, you did. You broke the law, you did something unsafe, you endangered others, you set a poor example for your whole organization, you compromised security.”
“Well, everybody does it,” Hillary said.
“No, they don’t. Most people drive safely.”
“Well, my predecessors at least did it,” Hillary said.
“Maybe once or twice on AOL, but for four years on your scale in the 21st century? And so what? Wrong is wrong. ‘Everybody does it’ is an excuse for five-year-olds.”
“Um, there was no law against it at the time,” Hillary said.
“Yes there was. Your own State Department, as well as common sense, was clear on that. Exposing classified material is against the law.”
“OK. I just did it for my own convenience,” Hillary said.
“That’s no excuse. Your convenience is not the deciding factor, especially where important things are concerned.”
“You’re just picking on me because my name is Hillary,” Hillary said.
“No, I’m talking to you because you did something wrong.”
“This is all just partisan stuff,” Hillary said.
“No, it is not. The FBI is not partisan, nor the Justice Department. Neither are two Inspectors General.”
“Well, I didn’t know there was anything wrong at the time, the road wasn’t marked,” Hillary said.
“Speeding is speeding. There’s a school over there. Someone with your years of driving should know what the speed limit is. Even if it is not posted, it is pretty clear what the right thing to do is. That’s it, isn’t it? Even if things fall just short of criminal, there is the right thing and the wrong thing.”
“But why does it matter?” Hillary said.
“It matters because of judgement. We have to trust you. We can’t monitor you all the time, and we can’t have someone in your position falling back on excuses, and then new excuses when those fall through. Someone in your position needs to be held to higher standards than simply ‘not currently indictable.’ You want to be a leader, you have to do it better than others, not try and slip by on excuses. You want to represent us, want us to trust you with our nation and indeed our lives. You have to be more, be better, set an example far beyond where you are now.”
“Hah, hah, I’ll just later wipe my driving record clean, with a rag!” Hillary said.
“And you can’t laugh it off. Madam, this is very serious business and if you think it is only about
“None of that matters,” Hillary said as she sped away, flipping her middle finger at the law.
The nuances of foreign policy do not feature heavily in the ongoing presidential campaign. Every candidate intends to “destroy” the Islamic State; each has concerns about Russian President Vladimir Putin, North Korea, and China; every one of them will defend Israel; and no one wants to talk much about anything else — except, in the case of the Republicans, who rattle their sabers against Iran.
In that light, here’s a little trip down memory lane: in October 2012, I considered five critical foreign policy questions — they form the section headings below — that were not being discussed by then-candidates Mitt Romney and Barack Obama. Romney today is a sideshow act for the current Republican circus, and Obama has started packing up his tent at the White House and producing his own foreign policy obituary.
And sadly, those five questions of 2012 remain as pertinent and unraised today as they were four years ago. Unlike then, however, answers may be at hand, and believe me, that’s not good news. Now, let’s consider them four years later, one by one.
Is there an endgame for the global war on terror?
That was the first question I asked back in 2012. In the ensuing years, no such endgame has either been proposed or found, and these days no one’s even talking about looking for one. Instead, a state of perpetual conflict in the Greater Middle East and Africa has become so much the norm that most of us don’t even notice.
In 2012, I wrote, “The current president, elected on the promise of change, altered very little when it came to George W. Bush’s Global War on Terror (other than dropping the name). That jewel-in-the-crown of Bush-era offshore imprisonment, Guantanamo, still houses over 160 prisoners held without trial. While the U.S. pulled its troops out of Iraq… the war in Afghanistan stumbles on. Drone strikes and other forms of conflict continue in the same places Bush tormented: Yemen, Somalia, and Pakistan (and it’s clear that northern Mali is heading our way).”
Well, candidates of 2016? Guantanamo remains open for business, with 91 men still left. Five others were expeditiously traded away by executive decision to retrieve runaway American soldier Bowe Bergdahl in Afghanistan, but somehow President Obama feels he can’t release most of the others without lots of approvals by… well, someone. The Republicans running for president are howling to expand Gitmo, and the two Democratic candidates are in favor of whatever sort of not-a-plan plan Obama has been pushing around his plate for eight years.
Iraq took a bad bounce when the same president who withdrew U.S. troops in 2011 let loose the planes and drones and started putting those boots back on that same old ground in 2014. It didn’t take long for the U.S. to morph that conflict from a rescue mission to a training mission to bombing to Special Operations forces in ongoing contact with the enemy, and not just in Iraq, but Syria, too. No candidate has said that s/he will pull out.
As for the war in Afghanistan, it now features an indefinite, “generational” American troop commitment. Think of that country as the third rail of campaign 2016 — no candidate dares touch it for fear of instant electrocution, though (since the American public seems to have forgotten the place) by whom exactly is unclear. There’s still plenty of fighting going on in Yemen — albeit now mostly via America’s well-armed proxies the Saudis — and Africa is more militarized than ever.
As for the most common “American” someone in what used to be called the third world is likely to encounter, it’s no longer a diplomat, a missionary, a tourist, or even a soldier — it’s a drone. The United States claims the right to fly into any nation’s airspace and kill anyone it wishes. Add it all together and when it comes to that war on terror across significant parts of the globe, the once-reluctant heir to the Bush legacy leaves behind a twenty-first century mechanism for perpetual war and eternal assassination missions. And no candidate in either party is willing to even suggest that such a situation needs to end.
In 2012, I also wrote, “Washington seems able to come up with nothing more than a whack-a-mole strategy for ridding itself of the scourge of terror, an endless succession of killings of ‘al-Qaeda Number 3’ guys. Counterterrorism tsar John Brennan, Obama’s drone-meister, has put it this way: ‘We’re not going to rest until al-Qaeda the organization is destroyed and is eliminated from areas in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Africa, and other areas.’”
Four years later, whack-a-mole seems to still be as polite a way as possible of categorizing America’s strategy. In 2013, the top whacker John Brennan got an upgrade to director of the CIA, but strangely — despite so many drones sent off, Special Operations teams sent in, and bombers let loose — the moles keep burrowing and he’s gotten none of the rest he was seeking in 2012. Al-Qaeda is still around, but more significantly, the Islamic State (IS) has replaced that outfit as the signature terrorist organization for the 2016 election.
And speaking of IS, the 2011 war in Libya, midwifed by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, led to the elimination of autocrat Muammar Qaddafi, which in turn led to chaos, which in turn led to the spread of IS there big time, which appears on its way to leading to a new American war in Libya seeking the kind of stability that, for all his terrors, Qaddafi had indeed brought to that country during his 34 years in power and the U.S. military will never find.
So an end to the Global War on Terror? Nope.
Do today’s foreign policy challenges mean that it’s time to retire the Constitution?
In 2012 I wrote, “Starting on September 12, 2001, challenges, threats, and risks abroad have been used to justify abandoning core beliefs enshrined in the Bill of Rights. That bill, we are told, can’t accommodate terror threats to the Homeland.”
At the time, however, our concerns about unconstitutionality were mostly based on limited information from early whistleblowers like Tom Drake and Bill Binney, and what some then called conspiracy theories. That was before National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden confirmed our worst nightmares in June 2013 by leaking a trove of NSA documents about the overwhelming American surveillance state. Snowden summed it up this way: “You see programs and policies that were publicly justified on the basis of preventing terrorism — which we all want — in fact being used for very different purposes.”
Now, here’s the strange thing: since Rand Paul dropped out of the 2016 presidential race, no candidate seems to find it worth his or her while to discuss protecting the Bill of Rights or the Constitution from the national security state. (Only the Second Amendment, it turns out, is still sacred.) And speaking of rights, things had already grown so extreme by 2013 that Attorney General Eric Holder felt forced to publicly insist that the government did not plan to torture or kill Edward Snowden, should he end up in its hands. Given the tone of this election, someone may want to update that promise.
In 2012, of course, the Obama administration had only managed to put two whistleblowers in jail for violating the Espionage Act. Since then, such prosecutions have grown almost commonplace, with five more convictions (including that of Chelsea Manning) and with whatever penalties short of torture and murder are planned for Edward Snowden still pending. No one then mentioned the use of the draconian World War I-era Espionage Act, but that wasn’t surprising. Its moment was still coming.
Four years later, still not a peep out of any candidate about the uses of that act, once aimed at spying for foreign powers in wartime, or a serious discussion of government surveillance and the loss of privacy in American life. (And we just learned that the Pentagon’s spy drones have been released over “the homeland,” too, but don’t expect to hear anything about that or its implications either.) Of course, Snowden has come up in the debates of both parties. He has been labeled a traitor as part of the blood sport that the Republican debates have devolved into, and denounced as a thief by Hillary Clinton, while Bernie Sanders gave him credit for “educating the American people” but still thought he deserved prison time.
If the question in 2012 was: “Candidates, have we walked away from the Constitution? If so, shouldn’t we publish some sort of notice or bulletin?” In 2016, the answer seems to be: “Yes, we’ve walked away, and accept that or else… you traitor!”
What do we want from the Middle East?
In 2012, considering the wreckage of the post-9/11 policies of two administrations in the Middle East, I wondered what the goal of America’s presence there could possibly be. Washington had just ended its war in Iraq, walked away from the chaos in Libya, and yet continued to launch a seemingly never-ending series of drone strikes in the region. “Is it all about oil?” I asked. “Israel? Old-fashioned hegemony and containment? History suggests that we should make up our mind on what America’s goals in the Middle East might actually be. No cheating now — having no policy is a policy of its own.”
Four years later, Washington is desperately trying to destroy an Islamic State “caliphate” that wasn’t even on its radar in 2012. Of course, that brings up the question of whether IS can be militarily destroyed at all, as we watch its spread to places as far-flung as Afghanistan, Yemen, and Libya. And then there’s the question no one would have thought to ask back then: If we destroy that movement in Iraq and Syria, will another even more brutish group simply take its place, as the Islamic State did with al-Qaeda in Iraq? No candidate this time around even seems to grasp that these groups aren’t just problems in themselves, but symptoms of a broader Sunni-Shi’ite problem.
In the meantime, the one broad policy consensus to emerge is that we shouldn’t hesitate to unleash our air power and Special Operations forces and, with the help of local proxies, wreck as much stuff as possible. America has welcomed all comers to take their best shots in Syria and Iraq in the name of fighting the Islamic State. The ongoing effort to bomb it away has resulted in the destruction of cities that were still in decent shape in 2012, like Ramadi, Kobane, Homs, and evidently at some future moment Iraq’s second largest city, Mosul, “in order to save” them. Four American presidents have made war in the region without success, and whoever follows Obama into the Oval Office will be number five. No questions asked.
What is your plan to right-size our military and what about downsizing the global mission?
Plan? Right-size? Here’s the reality four years after I asked that question: Absolutely no candidate, including the most progressive one, is talking about cutting or in any way seriously curtailing the U.S. military.
Not surprisingly, in response to the ongoing question of the year, “So how will you pay for that?” (in other words, any project being discussed from massive border security and mass deportations to free public college tuition), no candidate has said: “Let’s spend less than 54% of our discretionary budget on defense.”
Call me sentimental, but as I wrote in 2012, I’d still like to know from the candidates, “What will you do to right-size the military and downsize its global mission? Secondly, did this country’s founders really intend for the president to have unchecked personal war-making powers?”
Such questions would at least provide a little comic relief, as all the candidates except Bernie Sanders lock horns to see who will be the one to increase the defense budget the most.
Since no one outside our borders buys American exceptionalism anymore, what’s next? What is America’s point these days?
In 2012, I laid out the reality of twenty-first-century America this way: “We keep the old myth alive that America is a special, good place, the most ‘exceptional’ of places in fact, but in our foreign policy we’re more like some mean old man, reduced to feeling good about himself by yelling at the kids to get off the lawn (or simply taking potshots at them). Now, who we are and what we are abroad seems so much grimmer… America the Exceptional, has, it seems, run its course. Saber rattling… feels angry, unproductive, and without any doubt unbelievably expensive.”
Yet in 2016 most of the candidates are still barking about America the Exceptional despite another four years of rust on the chrome. Donald Trump may be the exceptional exception in that he appears to think America’s exceptional greatness is still to come, though quite soon under his guidance.
The question for the candidates in 2012 was and in 2016 remains “Who exactly are we in the world and who do you want us to be? Are you ready to promote a policy of fighting to be planetary top dog — and we all know where that leads — or can we find a place in the global community? Without resorting to the usual ‘shining city on a hill’ metaphors, can you tell us your vision for America in the world?”
The answer is a resounding no.
See You Again in 2020
The candidates have made it clear that the struggle against terror is a forever war, the U.S. military can never be big enough, bombing and missiling the Greater Middle East is now the American Way of Life, and the Constitution is indeed a pain and should get the hell out of the way.
Above all, no politician dares or cares to tell us anything but what they think we want to hear: America is exceptional, military power can solve problems, the U.S. military isn’t big enough, and it is necessary to give up our freedoms to protect our freedoms. Are we, in the perhaps slightly exaggerated words of one foreign commentator, now just a “nation of idiots, incapable of doing anything except conducting military operations against primitive countries”?
Bookmark this page. I’ll be back before the 2020 elections to see how we’re doing.
Clinton supporters, erroneously, make much out of the idea that of the many, many emails that passed through her private server, none were “marked” classified. They claim that, when in fact thousands of those same emails are indeed now marked classified, that is just after-the-fact Washington squabbling.
So this new information — that America’s intelligence agencies now say the contents of some of those unmarked emails match the contents of their own classified documents — is a big deal. It also suggests just how Clinton’s unclassified server came to be loaded up with classified material.
Several agencies have told Congress that Hillary Clinton’s home server contained some emails that should have been treated as TOP SECRET because their wording matched sections of some of the government’s most highly classified documents. These reports are the first formal declarations by intel agencies detailing how they believe Clinton violated government rules when highly classified information in at least 22 email messages passed through her unsecured home server.
So how this all work?
There is no physical connection between the U.S. government’s unclassified and classified systems; you absolutely cannot email a document from the dark side to the light. Properly configured, classified systems should not allow for removable media, to lessen the chance for information transfer (one of the reasons Chelsea Manning was able to smuggle out so much classified was because his computer was not properly set up, and included a DVD burner. We still don’t know how Ed Snowden got his documents out.)
Given these restrictions, the way anyone can move information from one system to the other is what’s called “sneakernet,” after the athletic shoes. You print out a marked, classified document, and then retype the parts you like into the unclassified system. You of course do not add the marking — TOP SECRET — because that would be like robbing a bank and then sticking a sign on your chest saying “Attention Cops, I’m the Guy Who Just Robbed a Bank.” Including the classification markings would be admitting to a crime.
So that is why Clinton’s emails had no classification marking on them even though the contents of those emails contained information that was indeed classified at the time it was transmitted. That is why the emails are a big deal, no matter what smokescreen Hillary wants to throw up.
As secretary of state, Clinton had access to America’s most sensitive information, the same things on her server now with their classification restored.
If the Department of Justice allows it that no one goes to jail over this, then someone should go to jail over that.
In the 2007 video below, when Hillary was last overtly running for president, at about the 0:37 mark she slips into a cliched African-American accent, kinda weird, and also weird that what appears to be a largely African-American audience applauds her. But that was 2007 and candidate Clinton shilling for Black votes.
And in that same year, 2007, here’s both candidate Clinton, hubby Bill and then-candidate Obama marching in Selma:
And here, in 2015, is Clinton in Selma:
Oh, wait, she wasn’t there that year. Obama and his family were there. Hell, even George W. Bush and his wife Laura attended. Where was Hillary (and for that matter, Bill) on this very important 50th anniversary?
In Miami, grifting at a Clinton Foundation Global Initiative event. The Clintons were in Miami, visiting Miami-Dade’s Coral Gables wealthy neighborhood for the weekend. Coral-Gables is 91 percent white and no doubt full of potential campaign donors. The Clintons did have time to drop by crappy Liberty City for a photo-op “community service” thing.
Like they say, it is all about priorities.
As Trey Gowdy and his Committee prepares to interview Hillary on Thursday, here are the next of our continuing series of “Questions for Clinton.” (Some previous queries.)
1) When Clinton’s private server was first made public in March, she stated there was no classified information on it. When emails released appeared to contain classified information (according to the Inspector General for the Intelligence Community), Hillary argued that the material was not classified at the time it was created, and that different agencies had different rules for classification. She did change her standard response to be “I did not send or receive anything marked classified.”
However, a recent email included a memo from then-Secretary of State Colin Powell that appears to turn all of that into a lie.
— The Powell document from 2002 is labeled SECRET/NOFORN (i.e., “NO FORreigNers” may see it.)
— The document was labeled as classified when it was created.
— The document was created by Hillary’s own agency, the State Department.
Can Clinton please explain how this document does not contradict her previous statements about no marked classified?
2) Clinton took office on January 21, 2009, but the first message she turned back over to the State Department was dated March 18, and the earliest-dated message she herself sent was on April 13, nearly three months into her time in office. Clinton stated the gap was because she continued using a previous account she’d used during her time as a senator for business at the beginning of her time as secretary. She claims she no longer has “access” to that account and thus those three months of email messages are simply gone.
What account was she using? Why did she use that account instead of the private server or an official State account? Why are those account’s messages deemed inaccessible? Who controls that account and its server? Did anyone at State approve the use of that account? Did Clinton seek State Department approval to use that account?
3) Clinton has stated, as recently as the CNN Democratic Debate, that she is committed to transparency. If we take Hillary at her word that she used some other email account between taking office in January 2009 and March 2009 when the first State Department emails show up in the tranche turned over to the State Department, where are those three months of emails? They are Federal records, and Clinton was obligated by law to preserve them.
Where is that account? Nothing on the Internet is truly “inaccessible.” The FBI should subpoena the administrator of that account, if for no other reason than to make those messages available for the Archives and FOIA.
4) On “Meet the Press” September 27, when asked about this discrepancy on when she began using the personal account, Clinton said “There was a transition period. You know, I wasn’t that focused on my email account, to be clear here.”
What account did she use on Day One? When did she start using the personal server? It seems the easiest thing was to use the State Department account you were no doubt offered. It seems she did focus on email. Can she explain why she did not use the State Department account in this “transition?”
5) Also on “Meet the Press” September 27, Clinton explained her use of a personal email account as “I did it for convenience.” In March she stated she used the account for the convenience of not having to carry multiple devices, yet almost immediately after that photos and video of her with multiple devices surfaced.
Exactly what convenience was the personal account serving? Given that the State Department provided a fully functional email system on her desktop from Day One, with both a classified and unclassified account, plus portable devices such as a Blackberry already configured to those accounts, please state in detail what the added convenience of a private account was?
I’ll begin today a new series, called “Questions for Clinton,” in which I’ll compile a set of questions Congressional Committees, media and the FBI should ask the former Secretary of State when they have a few free moments before the election.
The questions will be factual, and non-partisan under normal people’s definitions** of these terms.
**Normal people excludes anyone who has decided without further thought that there is nothing to see here, that asking questions itself is a partisan attack, and that “everybody does it” is a valid explanation for whatever happens. If you are not willing to examine or re-examine these issues, there is nothing for you to see here. Enjoy being ignorant, you’ve earned it, so click here.
Madame Secretary, please read the September 1 exchange below, between State Department spokesperson Mark Toner and the media. Here are the questions:
1) Who at the State Department, highest level, authorized your private email server. You stated it was permitted under State Department rules. Who made that determination and when? Was the determination ever reevaluated during your four years in office? If it is in writing, please produce the document. If it was not in writing, please explain why not.
2) Was there concern/opposition/protest/raising of issues within the State Department over your use of a private email server? What is the highest level that voiced that concern, and the highest level that received the concerns? How were those questions responded to? Did anyone in the State IT or State Information Security structure know about your server? How and when were they informed, or did they discover it on there own?
3) A person you placed into a State Department job, Bryan Pagliano, also at the same time administered your private server. Were his bosses’ at State aware of this? What was their reaction? Did they raise any concerns? If they were not informed, why not? As you are aware, State employees are required to report and vett any outside employment. Did he? If not, why not?
4) In March you stated the private server was simply because you did not wish to carry multiple devices, though obviously you did. You then stated in September the reason there was a private server was because as you took office you were simply too busy with matters of foreign affairs to focus on how email was processed. Which is it? Why have you offered two different explanations separated by six months of additional disclosures?
5) Your IT administrator from your 2008 presidential campaign was Bryan Pagliano. You had him hired by the State Department after you became Secretary of State, as a GS-15 civil service employee in his job as a special advisor and deputy chief information officer at the State Department. He earned around $140,000 per year from 2010-2012. You also paid him personally, on the side, to continue managing your private server from 2009 to 2013. Pagliano still works at the State Department, albeit now as a private contractor.
Was the job “special advisor and deputy chief information officer” created for him, or did it exist prior to him filling it? Who were his predecessors and what was their pay rate? Exactly and specifically, what were his duties? What is his contractor job now at State? Do you feel it may create some sort of conflict of interest, given the issues around your use of private email, that Pagliano still has access to the State Department computer networks where information concerning your situation is being processed?
6) If you do not know the answers, why not? Who will answer these questions for us if you cannot?
The Press Exchange
QUESTION: But do you know who signed off on her having a private server?
MR TONER: Who signed off on her? I don’t, no.
QUESTION: I mean —
QUESTION: Did anybody?
MR TONER: Again, I’m not going to answer that question. I’m not going to litigate that question from the podium.
QUESTION: So you’re saying that nobody signed off on her having a private server?
MR TONER: No. I’m saying – look, everyone – there were – people understood that she had a private server. I think we’ve talked about that in the past.
QUESTION: What level was that knowledge? How high did that go up in this building?
MR TONER: I mean, you’ve seen from the emails. You have an understanding of people who were communicating with her, at what level they were communicating at, so —
QUESTION: Was there anybody in this building who was against the Secretary having her own private server?
MR TONER: I can’t answer that. I can’t.
QUESTION: And just —
MR TONER: I mean, I don’t have the history, but I also don’t have – I don’t have the authority to speak definitively to that.
QUESTION: But —
MR TONER: Again, these are questions that are appropriate, but appropriate for other processes and reviews.
QUESTION: But not the State Department? She was the Secretary of State and —
MR TONER: No, I understand what you’re asking. But frankly, it’s perfectly plausible – and I talked a little bit with Arshad about this yesterday – is for example, we know that the State IG is – at the Secretary’s request – is looking at the processes and how we can do better and improve our processes. And whether they’ll look at these broader questions, that’s a question for them.
QUESTION: So last opportunity here: You don’t know who signed off on Secretary Clinton having her own server?
MR TONER: Again, I don’t personally, but I don’t think it’s our – necessarily our responsibility to say that. I think that that’s for other entities to look at.
Good Reason to Stay Awake for 100 hours: something to do with saving a life.
Bad Reason to Stay Awake for 100 hours: write a speech for Hillary Clinton no one remembers.
It was that Bad Reason that inspired Clinton aide, Hitler Youth cosplayer, Waylon Smithers-wannabe and all around dweeb Tomicah Tillemann, pictured.
Tillemann was the State Department’s senior adviser for civil society and emerging democracies in 2010, which must be so important as he looks to be about 29 years old and was a political appointee, and collaborated with Clinton on more than 200 speeches, according to his State Department bio.
The aspiring Obersturmfuhrer came to public attention after another Hillary sycophant sent an email to Clinton, suggesting she personally thank Tillemann for his work on one particular speech, which covered global Internet freedom.
“If you have the time or the inclination, it would be really nice if you could send an email to Tomicah, or phone him. He went for almost 100 hours without sleep to get the speech done, under unusually trying circumstances,” the email read.
Tillemann told Yahoo! that while neither he nor any other member of Clinton’s staff was ever asked to work for that long, he was inspired to do so. “I worked on a lot of speeches. I knew this one mattered,” he said. “I lost many members of my family in the Holocaust, and I felt this speech was a chance to protect key freedoms in our time. That kept me going.”
Internet, Holocaust, sure, that’s all related. If only they’d had the Internet and Hillary back then!
But, he admits, he had difficulty working after a while: “When things started to get fuzzy — and they did — teammates jumped in to help me across the finish line.”
Tillemann says he doesn’t drink coffee but “by the end I was ready to ink a sponsorship with Diet Coke.” He also says he took a nap after the speech was done, adding “it was awesome.”
MEMO to Tillemann:
Nobody cares. Nobody remembers your silly little speech, and Hillary likely didn’t even read it in advance and just mouthed the words. It didn’t matter. And what kind of speech takes 100 continuous hours to write anyway, dork boy? Entire books are written in that time, good books, too. Admit it — you knocked out the speech in about an hour and spent the other 99 panting to Hillary’s photo, didn’t you?
You know, the stuff you need from a world leader when the sh*it hits the fan at 3am and crucial decisions need to be made. Short-decision time frames, long-term consequences kinda stuff.
For added fun, I’ll restrict myself to only Hillary’s latest remarks on her server.
Here’s the money shot up front: Hillary said “You know, I was not thinking a lot when I got in. There was so much work to be done. We had so many problems around the world,” Clinton said. “I didn’t really stop and think what kind of email system will there be?”
— “I was not thinking a lot when I got in.” How’s that for a president’s explanation for, well, anything? Generally speaking, you want yer president to be thinkin’ all the time.
— Hillary, as Secretary of State, just did not want to pause from resolving all the world’s problems to consider what email system to use. So, instead of having Huma get her a password via one phone call (maybe there already was one on a yellow sticky under the keyboard) to use the existing State Department system already installed in her office and maintained by an existing staff, it seemed somehow better to create and use a fully independent system that she set up and paid for separately. Is such prioritizing, followed by such justifying, presidential?
— “They may disagree, as I now disagree, with the choice that I made. But the facts that I have put forth have remained the same.” Except those “facts” keep changing and growing. Week by week there are new facts to be discussed. That drip drip drip of confidence lost in one’s leader (check the damn polls, people), how presidential is that?
— Clinton seems to have a pattern of hiring people into public, taxpayer-paid roles (see Bryan Pagliano, her server guy, and Huma, her body man, to begin) while at the same time paying them as her private staff. Conflict of interest much? Public good versus personal employer good? Is that kind of thinking presidential?
Basically, the Clinton campaign now has left exactly three “positive” themes to promote:
Vote for me because I am non-male (better hope Elizabeth Warren stays out of the race);
Vote for me or you’ll end up with one of those Republicans (better hope Sanders quits and Biden stays out of the race);
Vote for me because as of today nothing indictable has come up (better hope the FBI works really slowly).
In shocking news, Hillary Clinton’s server was arrested and is now in an FBI detention facility in an undisclosed location.
After initial confusion that the “server” was the State Department political appointee moonlighting as Clinton’s sysadm, and later false reports that the “server” was actually a Mexican “intern” named Raoul hired by the former Secretary of State to paint her toenails and fetch her cool drinks at the tinkle of a small sterling silver bell, sources at the Justice Department clarified that the arrest was for the actual hardware itself.
“I can confirm,” said a Department of Justice spokesperson, “that today at 4 am agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation slapped the cuffs on a beige 1998 Gateway 486 computer box, running a Chinese bootleg copy of Windows 95. The hardware was arrested alongside a 2400 baud modem. The modem and 512k of the computer’s 640k worth of memory are fully cooperating with law enforcement to help us prosecute the PC itself. We are charging the PC with numerous violations of national security laws focused on wanton disregard for the protection of classified information and making repeated false statements to the public in an attempt to cover up those violations.”
The very unusual development — arresting and charging an inanimate object instead of a person — came about only after Justice officials realized Hillary Clinton could never be arrested or prosecuted for any crime whatsoever due to her status as the Chosen One.
“Look,” said one source now in the Witness Protection Program, “Hillary could murder another person on live TV, claim she was the victim of partisan politics and a smear campaign, and walk away. Look at the trail of bodies already behind her if you don’t believe me. Under those circumstances, you think we’re gonna get away popping her for some boring old emails about drone strikes? Jeez, the American people have been ignoring drone strikes and foreign affairs for a decade anyway.”
“At the same time,” the official continued, “what was done here was so egregious, illegal and detrimental to the security of the United States that we felt we sorta had to do something. Especially after we hung Petraeus out to dry over much less. We first considered a really snarky Facebook post, and then The House of Clinton offered us up our choice of several staffers to arrest, but even we felt that was unfair. So, we arrested the computer itself.”
Clinton herself had no comment other than to tell the inquiring reporter to “your family will be dead by nightfall.”
There is still time. Would a leader please stand up, someone people of good conscience can vote for? I am tired of voting defensively — better vote for Candidate A, or you’ll be stuck with B.
I get Bernie Sanders, and personally support most/all of his positions. But electoral history is pretty clear what happens to outlier and third party candidates. And at this point supporting someone with good ideas, but who lacks his party’s support, lacks the funds sadly needed to run a national campaign and is unlikely to capture undecided and Middle America votes, well, that’s certainly a feel-good-about-myself symbolic gesture, but I don’t really feel good about things right now.
Oh, Hillary. Can anyone be more of a worse enemy to you than you? Did you think no one would ever find out about your email mess, or did you think no one would care? Are you that cynical about America? About hiring Huma to work at State when she was already working for at least one private company and your Foundation? About all the money, known and still unknown, pouring through the Clinton foundation? The foreign influence buying via those juicy speech payments for you and Bill? That you could just let actual questions about Benghazi, Libya and your leadership (oh, they are not all partisan, spare me, read this list) hang indefinitely?
Really America, do we want four, or eight, years of this? Because we will get it. Because the Clinton’s won’t stop doing actual bad things, and their opponents won’t stop looking for them, real or made up. Partisan attacks are nothing new in politics, dating back to the Greeks, but can anyone find examples as egregious as the Clinton history? She didn’t need a private server. She didn’t need the Foundation as it is run. She wanted them, and the fall out is nearly entirely self-inflicted. No one could criticize you for them, Hillary, if you hadn’t done them.
Which leaves us to the several hundred Republican candidates. The current front runner is Donald Trump. Trump? The self-caricature guy from the reality TV shows? The guy who talks about women like it’s 1957? The guy who tosses out “ideas” like a Maginot Line along the Mexican border, or self-declaring parts of the Bill of Rights (i.e., 14th Amendment) unconstitutional? This is the person we want heading off to foreign countries representing us?
The rest? A handful of odd ball fundamentalists who prey on people’s fears of race? Who think the most critical issues facing our nation have something to do with stopping same-sex marriage, stopping abortion and guns? Who as a group think health care is a luxury item?
So, someone, please, save us from ourselves. None of the current candidates have deep support. The Democratic party in particular aches for someone who can represent a positive vision, instead of simply threatening “vote for me or it’s Trump and the nutters.”
Many supporters of Hillary Clinton say that since she committed no criminal offense, the whole thing about her private email server containing classified material is just partisan sniping.
So as a public service, let’s see if we can sort that out.
18 USC 1924, which is a law, is titled “Unauthorized removal and retention of classified documents or material.”
The text of the law says, inter alia, “Whoever, being an officer… of the United States, and, by virtue of his office, employment, position, or contract, becomes possessed of documents or materials containing classified information of the United States, knowingly removes such documents or materials without authority and with the intent to retain such documents or materials at an unauthorized location shall be fined under this title or imprisoned for not more than one year, or both.”
The law does not require the possessing person to “know” the information is classified.
This is the statute under which David Petraeus was prosecuted for keeping classified information at home.
Two Inspectors General stated Clinton’s email server, located part of the time at her home in New York, and part of the time at a commercial server farm in Colorado, held classified data. Neither site was an 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, making her the “possessor.”
Clinton’s possession of classified information on a personal server appears to be a violation of 18 USC 1924. So is transferring that information to the thumb drives held by her lawyer (himself unauthorized to possess high-level classified information.)
There it is. No partisan remarks. No right-wing attacks. Just facts. As a non-lawyer, what am I missing?
Seen the latest front-page Carter Center scandal? Hear about the six figure fees former president Jimmy Carter pulls in from shady foreign companies? Maybe not.
Take a moment to Google Jimmy Carter. Now do the same for Bill Clinton. The search results tell the tale of two former presidents, one determined to use his status honorably, the other seeking new lows of exploitation for personal benefit.
Carter’s presidency carries an uneven legacy. Yet his prescient but unwelcome 1979 warning that the country suffered a crisis of confidence, preventing Americans from uniting to solve tough problems, anticipated the faux bravado and true spiritual emptiness of Reagan’s “Morning in America.”
Many feel Carter has been a better ex-president than he was a president. His Carter Center focuses on impactful but unglamorous issues such as Guinea worm disease. When Carter left office, the disease afflicted 3.5 million people. Now it’s expected to be only the second disease, after smallpox, to ever be eradicated worldwide.
Carter, 90, still donates a week of his time each year to Habitat for Humanity. Not a photo-op, Carter goes out without the media in tow and hammers nails. Carter also tirelessly monitors elections in nascent democracies, lending his stature as a statesman to that work over 100 times already. Summing up his own term in office, Carter said “We never dropped a bomb. We never fired a bullet. We never went to war.”
He is the last president since 1977 who can make that claim.
Bill Clinton pushed the NAFTA agreement through, seen now by many as a mistake that cost American jobs. He pointlessly bombed Iraq and sent troops into Somalia (see Blackhawk Down.) Clinton is remembered most of all, however, for his oral affair with an intern, then fibbing about it, and ending up one of only two American presidents ever impeached as a result.
As a former president, Clinton is nothing if not true to his unstatesman-like form. Bill makes six-figure speeches to businesses seeking influence within the U.S. government, earning as much as $50 million during his wife’s term as secretary of state alone. TD Bank, the single-largest shareholder in the Keystone XL Pipeline, was also the single-largest source of speaking fees for Bill Clinton. He used a shell company to hide some of the income.
His own charity, humbly known as the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Global Foundation, is a two billion dollar financial tangle on par with a South American cartel. It spent in 2013 the same amount of money on travel expenses for Bill and his family as it did on charitable grants. Instead of volunteering for Habitat for Humanity, Bill takes his big donors on executive safaris to Africa. Many of those same donors also give generously to the Hillary Clinton campaign and its constellation of PACs.
Voters should judge a candidate not just on examples of past competency, but with an eye toward the core things that really matter: character, values, honesty, humility and selflessness. Perhaps this tale of two presidents has a lesson in it for 2016.
Have you noticed that Clinton’s explanations/excuses/defenses about her private email server and the classified information it held never seem to last very long, and are typically replaced in a week or two with something new?
Back in March the message was unambiguous: there was no classified material on her server. Then, after two Inspectors General said there indeed was classified material, the line was it was classified retroactively (as if that matters; see below). That soon fell to a line that the classified information was unmarked as such (as if that matters; see below). The newest is that well, Clinton herself did not send any of the classified emails. So, once again wrapped in new shiny paper, there’s nothing to see here, folks, let’s move along to the issues that really matter. I’ll tackle that as well, below.
No one has better summed up the official Clinton Child’s Treasury of Excuses better than Senator Dianne Feinstein, who somewhat randomly released a statement “in response to allegations” regarding Clinton’s emails.
Let’s break Feinstein’s statement down.
The Dog Ate My Homework
Feinstein: First, none of the emails alleged to contain classified information were written by Secretary Clinton.
Here’s your talking point, somnolent media. It’s someone else’s fault.
Of course, the Inspectors General were only allowed by the State Department to review 40 emails, four of which contained classified. So there are still some 30,000 left to look into to see if Clinton herself did respond to, forward or write any of them.
Next is that the classified emails, no matter 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 regulation.
She was the prime mover behind the lapses in security. And after all, the cops bust the owner of the crackhouse, not just the ‘heads inside. The “buck stops where” is the question. Clinton continues to claim total ignorance of the contents of her own email to this day. Is all that presidential?
Lastly, no matter who wrote the emails, once Clinton saw them they became her responsibility to act on and secure. In real life, failure to report and secure classified found in an unsecure situation is also a violation of national security law. With that access comes responsibility. Remember, if you see something, say something!
I Didn’t Know, Honest, Sir
Feinstein: Second, none of the emails alleged to contain classified information include any markings that indicate classified content.
There is no allegation. The Inspectors General of the State Department and the Intelligence community said the emails contain classified material.
What everyone who has ever held a security clearance knows, and what the media, from left to right, cannot grasp is this: the information itself is or is not classified. The markings are there to show you what level of secure handling is required.
I’ll try again for the slow learners at CNN.
You are handed a piece of paper marked TOP SECRET//SI//TK/NOFORN (explained here). On the paper are written the negotiating positions of the Chinese Foreign Minister, whom you will meet tomorrow. The paper says these were obtained via a spy satellite listening in on the Minister in his inner office via electronic emissions.
Now, cut off the part of the paper that says TOP SECRET//SI//TK/NOFORN. Does the sensitivity of the information change at that moment? Of course not.
If you have lived in a remote cabin all your life, you may not grasp the sensitivity of knowing your opponent’s positions a day ahead of time and the sensitivity that this information was derived by some of America’s most secret sources and methods. But if you have spent your entire life in government, you damn well know that that information is not unclassified, whether it shows up in your email unmarked or otherwise.
It really, really is that simple. Marked or unmarked, pro-active or retro-active, Clinton knew she was dealing with highly classified information on an unclassified system she herself set up and continued to use.
Retroactive classification means that something was classified when it was issued. The markings were applied later, but that does not relieve the holder of the information of the legal burden of protecting the information. Government employees have lost their jobs over this concept, and gone to jail. This has been confirmed as legal as high as the Supreme Court. See Department of Homeland Security v. Robert MacLean for the most recent case. Legally, citing retroactive classification is not a defense.
“Everybody does it.” No they don’t. No other government employee, never mind Cabinet-level official, has created her own private email server in the history of the United States. If Jeb Bush had a private server as governor of Florida, that is not a charm point for him, but he also did not handle America’s most sensitive information, or any classified information at all. John Kerry and Condi Rice said they do not send official emails outside of the State Department system. Madeleine Albright said she may have sent a few back in the dawn of the Internet 14 years ago via AOL or Yahoo, and no one has suggested she sent anything classified. Colin Powell as Secretary of State said he sent a handful of emails on his AOL account, and no one has claimed there was any classified involved.
Besides, “everybody does it” is an excuse that teenagers use when they’re caught smoking behind the school.
Now, as for that “let’s get back to the issues” meme that many Clinton supporters like to go to.
No one can anticipate what will happen during the four (or eight…) years of a presidency. So while experience matters significantly, judgement and trust matter perhaps even more. Those are the things that will see success or failure when the unexpected arises one night at 3 am.
Lastly, I think also the point needs to be made that if the only standard we apply to candidates’ wrongdoings is if it is not criminal and illegal, it does not matter, sets a pretty low bar. I’d like to vote for a president who, in addition to not being a convicted criminal, is also somewhat honest, with good judgement and who at least feigns putting the nation’s interests before his/her own.
If one cannot see that, at a minimum, Clinton exercised horribly bad judgement and cannot be trusted to protect America’s secrets, and if one cannot see that those are indeed issues for an election, then, well, I just don’t know what else to say here.
My thanks to The Examiner, OPSEC Team, The Hill and Daily Kos for their articles noting the discrepancy between how the State Department treated my non-disclosure of classified materials on an unclassified system, and Hillary Clinton’s actual disclosure of classified materials on an unclassified system. There seem to be double-standards being applied.
My first book, We Meant Well embarrassed the State Department by pointing out the failure of State’s efforts in Iraq. In retaliation for this, the State Department used its security bureaucracy infrastructure to push me into retirement after they failed to prosecute me, and then failed to fire me.
Here’s what they did
In October 2011 I wrote this blog post, which linked to an alleged State Department confidential cable on the Wikileaks site. The document in question was and still is online for all the world to see. State has never acknowledged publicly its authenticity or its classification.
I merely linked to it.
Based on that link, the State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security conducted a full investigation into my ability to continue to hold the Top Secret security clearance I had held without incident for 23 years. They concluded I was no longer to be trusted.
In fact, they said:
The SUBJECT is me. SBU stands for Sensitive But Unclassified, a made-up level of classification the State Department routinely assigns to all of its unclassified information to allow it to withhold documents from journalists and others as required. DS/ICI/PR is the State Department Office of Diplomatic Security, Professional Responsibility Division.
The investigation into my supposed misdeeds around classified materials included Diplomatic Security running the “hacker” program WGET against this blog, and amassing “Screen shots collected by the DS Computer Threat Analysis Division (DS/CTAD) from the article ‘Let’s Watch Qaddafi Get Beaten and (Maybe) Sodomized’ published on WeMeantWell.com on 10/26/2011.” Agents also printed out nearly my entire blog to preserve a paper copy, apparently in case I deleted the files from my server. Hmm.
I was interviewed three times in depth by a team of security agents, who characterized my linking as “transferring [classified] information from Wikileaks.org” to my own, unclassified, blog. I learned later that Diplomatic Security had been monitoring my State Department computer to ensure I did not misuse it. Security also searched my official email back several years and interviewed my neighbors looking for, well, something to use against me.
It was a lot of effort by a busy organization over what, even if it had been as they portrayed it, a pretty minor matter.
Clinton v. Manning: Protecting Classified Information
And of course during the Bradley/Chelsea Manning trial, itself concerning State’s Secret level cables, Hillary Clinton was clear on her position: “I think that in an age where so much information is flying through cyberspace, we all have to be aware of the fact that some information which is sensitive, which does affect the security of individuals and relationships, deserves to be protected and we will continue to take necessary steps to do so.”
I’ve focused here on my own situation not because it was important nationally, or out of bitterness (OK, maybe a little, I’m human) but primarily because it is the example I know most about.
But there are others.
The Intercept points out NSA whistleblower Tom Drake, for instance, faced years in prison, and ultimately had his career destroyed, based on the Obama DOJ’s claims that he “mishandled” classified information (it included information that was not formally classified at the time but was retroactively decreed to be such). Less than two weeks ago, “a Naval reservist was convicted and sentenced for mishandling classified military materials” despite no “evidence he intended to distribute them.” Last year, a Naval officer was convicted of mishandling classified information also in the absence of any intent to distribute it.
John Kiriakou was sent to prison in part for his alleged mishandling of a business card, unmarked as to classification, that the CIA claimed was sensitive. Robert Maclean, at TSA, lost his job because he revealed unclassified information that was later retroactively classified.
There are many examples.
What it means…
You are welcome to say what you wish about the merits or lack thereof of how I was treated by the State Department when the issue was handling of classified information. This article is not to open an old can of worms. I retired from my 24 years at the State Department and that’s that as far as that’s concerned.
The point here instead is that State appears to have a sliding scale of how it sees possible security violations by its employees — Hillary Clinton and me, in this instance. Because while all this was happening with me in 2011, Clinton was running her own email system, unclassified in name but with classified materials in fact.
And when you have double standards, as everyone knows, you really have no standards at all.
BONUS: That photo’s of me, on my last day of work at State, wearing my ‘Free Bradley Manning’ T-shirt on campus. Manning, of course, is in jail for disclosing Secret-level information. I lost my job over purported confidential information. Hillary’s server contained above Top Secret information, the same level of information Edward Snowden is accused of disseminating.
March 10: Hillary admits she used a personal email server while Secretary of State, claiming it was because she did not want to handle multiple devices. She adamantly said there was no classified on her server, and that she would never turn the hardware over to anyone. “I did not email any classified material to anyone on my email. There is no classified material.”
“We have no indication that Secretary Clinton used her personal e-mail account for anything but unclassified purposes,” State Department deputy spokesperson Marie Harf said.
The devices argument died instantly in a hail of photos of her using multiple devices. Information released yesterday shows that not only did Hillary have classified information on her server, the tiny sample the State Department allowed the Inspector General from the Intelligence Community to review contained very highly classified material. Hillary was forced to turn her hardware over to the FBI.
Let’s break it down a bit.
That Classified Material
Seven emails are currently being reviewed by an inter-governmental agency, led by the FBI, to determine whether or not they are classified. Two other emails were classified as top secret by the CIA, according to information circulated by Senator Chuck Grassley.
Grassley said in a statement that: “two of the four emails that the office had previously described as ‘above Secret’ were, in fact, classified at the Top Secret/SI level. According to the Intelligence Community Inspector General, the other two emails, which intelligence community officials said were classified by the State Department at the time they were sent, are being reviewed by the State Department to determine what the current appropriate level of classification should be.”
In fact, the two emails in question were marked TS//SI//TK//NF. What does all that mean?
TS = TOP SECRET
SI = Special Intelligence (SIGINT)
TK = TALENT KEYHOLE (from satellites)
NF = NOFORN (US eyes only)
America has a basic, three-tiered classification system: Confidential, Secret and Top Secret. Hillary exposed the highest level of classification, on par with what Edward Snowden and David Petraeus did. Chelsea Manning is in jail for only Secret level documents.
After information is considered Confidential, Secret or Top Secret, handling tags apply. These further indicate how the contents should be treated, given where it came from, those “sources and methods” one hears about that when known to an adversary, tell them not only what we know, but how we know it.
SI and TK together indicate the information came from electronic spying, eavesdropping of some sort, and satellite-based. An adversary would know, after seeing what was on Hillary’s server, that they were being monitored from space and that the U.S. satellites were specifically capable of picking up whatever was discussed in those emails. The argument about how, post-Snowden, all of the world “knows” they are being monitored is one thing, but hard proof in a specific instance is another level of “knowing” that will allow an adversary to take specific countermeasures.
Lastly, the NF means that the information is of such sensitivity that it cannot be disclosed even to America’s closest allies, typically the “Five Eyes” group: Australia, Canada, Great Britain and New Zealand. Sharing among the group is so broad that the U.S. even gave them access to information pulled electronically by the NSA from inside the equivalent of Japan’s Oval Office.
As for any security Clinton may have used on her server, it is important to note that Top Secret materials within the government are not only processed on special hardware, they must be read inside of special rooms with physical security.
A friend of this blog also wrote in to say:
“Unclass, class up to Secret, and TS/SCI are processed and retrieved on three distinct systems; employees have separate log-ons for each. You can’t ‘accidentally’ send a classified doc to an unclass address.
“So, for HRC or her colleagues to have gotten classified info into an unclass system, they would have had to copy or ‘gist’ it into the class system, while omitting the markings. As you and others have noted, the material remains classified. This is a deliberate decision to ignore law and regulations. If you then use a non-State server and your personal, unencrypted phones… the likelihood of compromise is high.”
It is also important to note that Clinton’s email server was not encrypted for at least her first three months of foreign travel, including her using the system on a visit to China.
With Clinton’s server (as well as the two thumb drives her attorney held with duplicate contents) now in possession of the FBI, all of the emails she did not delete are available for analysis. Depending on how the other emails, the ones she claimed were personal, were deleted, they may also be forensically salvageable.
Yet all that only will add to the growing pile of what happened.
The key question of what will be done with the amassed data, such as some sort of prosecution, remains hanging. It is not a partisan statement or an exaggeration to say that any other government employee found to have held such highly classified data on an unclassified system would have lost her job, her security clearance and likely faced judicial charges.
Clinton’s limited defense options are already in the trial balloon stage, fronted by a State Department that should be a neutral entity at this point now that the case has moved to the FBI.
“Department employees circulated these emails on unclassified systems in 2009 and 2011 and ultimately some were forwarded to Secretary Clinton,” said State Department spokesman John Kirby. “They were not marked as classified.”
What affect any of this will have on voters is even a larger question fully unresolved.
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.
Here’s the story behind the drive by the Inspector General of the State Department and the Intelligence Community Inspector General for the Justice Department open a full investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email account while she held the position of secretary of state.
Government investigators discovered classified information on the private email account that Hillary used while secretary of state, stating “unequivocally” that those secrets never should have been stored outside of secure systems.
The inspectors general of the State Department and the nation’s intelligence agencies said the information they found was classified when it was sent and remains so now. Information is considered classified if its disclosure would likely harm national security, and such information can be sent or stored only on computer networks with special safeguards. The inspectors have not revealed which of Clinton’s emails contained classified data, though the State Department has redacted portions of email it has released, and the FBI demanded data in some emails pertaining to the security situation in Libya be withheld.
Clinton has said for months that she kept no classified information on the private server that she set up. Her campaign said Friday that any government secrets found on the server had been classified after the fact.
There are multiple holes in Clinton’s latest set of excuses.
To begin, she has stated there was nothing classified on her server. It appears now there was. The source is not a partisan attack dog, but the State Department’s own inspector general and the intelligence community. She violated national security, which require cleared individuals, such as Hillary, to protect sensitive information. Exposing classified data is a crime; that is what Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden are accused of doing. It does not matter if the info can be proven to have reached the media or an adversary, the crime is the exposure itself, not the results.
A person in Hillary’s position, and certainly with her claimed experience in government, should know what is and is not classified, sensitive or otherwise needs to be protected. In my own 24 years with the State Department, I saw that almost everything that reached the secretary’s office needed to be classified, either because of the contents itself, or because it was part of the tiny fraction of information that bubbled up that high. Of all the issues in the world, an adversary knowing what the secretary was personally focused on, or how the data was being presented to her, was valuable in its own right.
Some/much of the information Hillary was dealing with originated within her inner circle, particularly email sent between her and her closest advisors that helped shape her decisions. It is the originating person that is charged inside State with assigning a classification. If Hillary’s staff did not assign a classification, well, then one was not technically included with the data. But that’s a fudge; it is the data itself that matters, with or without a label, and as part of the responsibility for holding a clearance a person is expected to make judgements to protect information. Hillary knew how sensitive the information was at times. It is a veneer of deniability.
There have also been multiple public cases where the government has taken action against individuals because they “should have known unclassified” data “should have been classified” and thus protected. Google up those of TSA’s Robert MacLean, NSA’s Thomas Drake and, sadly, my own. All of us were punished, fired or threatened with jail over the alleged release of unclassified data that the government deemed ex post facto should have been considered classified. This is not speculation, it is precedent.
Criminal? Maybe. Irresponsible? Likely. Not very presidential? Certainly.
Hillary and Bill earned $30 million since January 2014, mostly for giving paid speeches, according to financial disclosure forms filed on Friday.
Around $25 million of the total came from giving speeches, while Hillary Clinton earned around $5 million from her book. “The Clintons’ income puts them at the upper end of the top 0.1 percent of earners in the U.S. population,” notes Reuters.
Show Me the Money
This is all on top of the funding for offices, travel expenses and whatever’s came to the Clinton’s out of the generous donations and friendly spending habits of the charity Clinton Global Initiative.
It all shows how just how far the couple has come since 2001, when they left the White House and Hillary Clinton described the family as being “dead broke.” Since leaving the White House, the Clintons have earned at least $130 million in speaking fees.
But so what, right? This is America; people should get paid for speeches they give, and hey, if someone is willing to pay you half a million dollars for a one hour talk, why shouldn’t you accept that? There’s nothing illegal here, nothing criminal, and anyone who tries to paint all this money as anything wrong is just reciting the Repub attack points. Hah, maybe the Republicans are just jealous. Who the hell is gonna pay Ted Cruz even bus fare to speak?
And that of course is the point. No one will pay Ted Cruz much, if anything, to speak, because Ted Cruz is a lousy investment. Hillary has a very good chance of being president in 18 months. And that of course is the point.
I’ve heard Bill speak in person, and seen plenty of Hillary speeches on video. They talk pretty, good grammar and all. But like most politicians, they tend not to say much of significance. Nothing remotely controversial, just “global this” and “empower technology for future that.” Could it thus be that the real reason organizations are willing to pay out fantastic fees for that is because they are trying to buy off the next president, who, along with her spouse, seems to have the appetite of a hungry hyena to suck up as much money as she can?
Who pays Hillary to speak? Since leaving the State Department, Clinton has given paid speeches to Goldman Sachs, Fidelity, the Carlyle Group, the National Association of Realtors and various pharmaceutical companies. All of these organizations have much business in front of the federal government at any time, and all depend heavily on lobbying to ensure they are regulated (or not) in accordance with their business interests.
Anybody who tries to tell you these groups are paying out large amounts of money simply to hear what Hillary has to say today is selling snake oil. The groups are buying access and paying forward for favors and favorable consideration.
And So What?
Oh, right, but everybody does it. No, they don’t. The Clintons are in it deep. Besides, the everybody does it argument didn’t work when your Mom caught you smoking in 8th grade, and it certainly is too trite to invoke when something as important as the last shreds of integrity in the presidency of the United States is on the line.
Then again, Americans, you get what you pay for.