• Does Over-Classification Matter With the Hillary Emails?

    April 15, 2016

    Tags: , ,
    Posted in: Democracy, Post-Constitution America

    Rules are for fools, and in this case the fools in question are you, me and what’s left of the American democratic system. Obama, in an interview, basically made it clear nobody is going to indict Hillary Clinton for exposing classified material via her unclassified email server, even if it requires made-up rules to let her get away with it.

    The president’s comments in an interview last Sunday that “there’s classified and then there’s classified” made clear he imagines national security law allows for ample, self-determined fudge room when exposing classified material.

    Does Over-Classification Matter?

    In case you are still not sure, nope, that is not the way the law works, and everyone (including me, for 24 years) who has held a security clearance knows it.

    Obama’s and Clinton’s defenders claim that much of what Hillary exposed was over-classified, and perhaps some should never have been classified at all. Maybe. After reading documents at the Top Secret level and above over more than two decades I can say, sure, sometimes it seemed odd that something was regarded as as secret as it was.

    That said, one’s personal opinion is not relevant. The document is what it is and one is bound to handle it appropriately. The same rules apply to the lowest new hire to the highest officials. Just because the secretary of state, or the president, does it does not make it legal.

    Originating Agency

    Clinton mishandled two broad categories of documents, those classified by her own State Department and those classified by other government agencies, such as the CIA. Had she believed that the documents were wrongly classified, she had recourses for both sets. She did not act on those available recourses.

    With documents originally classified by her State Department, Hillary had the authority to declassify them herself while Secretary of State (both Obama and current SecState John Kerry still hold that authority and could declassify any of Hillary’s redacted emails right now with the stroke of a pen.) The thing is if Clinton did choose to declassify a document, she would have had to follow procedure, including seeking internal recommendations, make her action public and of course be willing to release the document newly-declassified. She did not do any of that.

    For the other agency documents, Hillary did not have the authority to declassify them. Only the CIA, for example, can declassify a CIA document in this process. Hillary did however have the authority to request a review aimed at declassification by the originating agency. She did not do any of that.

    No Blood, No Foul?

    In addition to his made-up assertion that “there’s classified and then there’s classified,” Obama disingenuously stated Hillary did not expose any information of value to America’s adversaries and so should suffer not sanction, the national security equivalent of no blood, no foul.

    The Federal laws that control classified information, up to and including the Espionage Act, do not require proof that the disclosed material aided America’s adversaries, or that the information even reached America’s adversaries. Motivation to disclose the information is also not considered relevant, whether than motivation was sincere whistleblowing or inadvertent mishandling. Guilt is based on the disclosure alone. This is why Chelsea Manning was not allowed to defend herself in this way, and why Ed Snowden believes he cannot have a fair trial in the U.S.

    Snowden had the last word on Obama’s statements.

    “If only I had known,” tweeted Snowden. “Anyone have the number for the Attorney General?. Asking for a friend.”

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    Copyright © 2020. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity.

  • Recent Comments

    • Ed Grange said...


      Did you have a JWICS account? If not, how did you access TS?

      State folks are so confused about how the actual national security information laws apply, it is amazing. I’m not surprised a civilian SecState could get caught up in such a mess when almost everyone at State screws this up. I’ve seen so much classified information mishandled at State and typed into OpenNet docs that I gave up trying to rat it out.

      The Clinton off-site server is one issue which broke the archive law. Mishandling classified is a second issue and is a problem whether she was using OpenNet or the off-site server.

      04/15/16 9:57 AM | Comment Link

    • wemeantwell said...


      I had a SIPR account for some things, and, somewhat sadly, while I was there State also handled a lot of higher end classified information on paper.

      04/15/16 10:01 AM | Comment Link

    • rich bauer said...


      The Wall Street War Party makes and breaks the rules. It can and does kill Americans with impunity, so what’s the big deal about Hillary’s security violations? Obama figures he doesn’t have to hide behind that “change we can believe in” crap.

      04/15/16 11:17 AM | Comment Link

    • Bruce said...


      The buck Stops THERE! He KNEW or Should HAVE Known and is consequently Criminally COMPLICIT !! And so, is Prejudiced RENEGER on transparency AND Constitutional LAW !!!

      04/15/16 9:56 PM | Comment Link

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    • John Poole said...


      Others have to also notice how Obama puts on a sheepish look when being deceptive. I guess he was destined to be a weakling male being raised by an unattractive doofus mother who was easy prey for insincere dusky men. The whole thing will be sorted out in the distant future by clinical historians. There might even be a term they coin- Obama syndrome. a person with no core values due to racial confusion.

      04/16/16 9:19 AM | Comment Link

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    • bloodypitchfork said...


      There is only one reason why Clinton will NEVER be prosecuted. Her little black book of secrets. Clinton knows more secrets about every who’s who in WDC. After all..she learned the hard way,…along time ago. Especially Obama. I mean..c’maan.. the bitch was his SOS. So no..nothin’s gonna happen to the wicked witch of the west. Zero. Zilch. Nada.
      Frankly..I don’t know which one I’d be more afraid of as POTUS. Mr. Walking Vomit.. or her.

      04/16/16 3:04 PM | Comment Link

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