Clinton email disclosure slowed by security concerns
Dozens of emails that traversed Hillary Clinton’s private, unsecure home server contain national security information now deemed too sensitive to make public, according to the latest batch of records released Friday.
In 2,206 pages of emails, the government censored passages to protect national security at least 64 times in 37 messages, including instances when the same information was blacked-out multiple times. Clinton has said she never sent classified information from her private email server, which The Associated Press was first to identify as operating in her home in New York.
The Friday release brings the volume of emails publicly released by the State Department to roughly 12 percent of the 55,000 pages Clinton had turned over to department lawyers earlier this year. That falls short of the 15 percent goal set by a court ruling in May, a lag the State Department attributed to interest by the inspector general of the U.S. intelligence community in the possible compromise of classified information.
There were no obviously stunning revelations in the emails released Friday, which reflected the workaday business of government. Some of the documents could reflect favorably on Clinton, such as a message in August 2009 about a 10-year-old old Yemeni girl who had been married and divorced, and had been portrayed as unhappy in a CNN story.
“Is there any way we can help her? Could we get her to the US for counselling and education?” Clinton asked an aide, who began making calls.
Others could be controversial, such as 2009 messages from former national security adviser Sandy Berger about how to pressure Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over negotiations with Palestinians.
Some emails show the extent to which her closest aides managed the details of her image. Top Clinton aide Huma Abedin, for example, sent her an early-morning message in August 2009 advising her to “wear a dark color today. Maybe the new dark green suit. Or blue.” Clinton later held a joint news conference with the Jordanian foreign minister. She wore the green suit.
Clinton’s decision not to use a State Department email account has become a political problem for her, as Republicans seize on the disclosures to paint her as untrustworthy and willing to break rules for personal gain.
There is also the matter of the classified information that found its way onto her insecure email system.
Memos sent by the inspector general of the intelligence community alerted the FBI to a potential security violation arising from Clinton’s use of a private server located in her home.
The inspector general said his office has found four emails containing classified information while reviewing a limited sample of 40 of the emails provided by Clinton. Those four messages were not marked as classified but should have been handled as such because they contained classified information at the time they were sent, the inspector general said.
Clinton has repeatedly defended her email usage, saying her private server had “numerous safeguards” and placing responsibility for releasing the documents on the State Department.
“They’re the ones that are bearing the responsibility to sort through these thousands and thousands of emails and determine at what pace they can be released,” she said after meeting with labor leaders Thursday in Maryland. “I really hope that it will be as quickly as possible.”
Sens. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Ron Johnson, R-Wis., chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, said they were concerned that Clinton’s attorney, David Kendall, apparently holds thousands of Clinton’s emails — including some that may contain classified information — on a thumb drive at his Washington office.
Grassley wrote a letter to FBI Director James Comey asking him to explain what the FBI is doing to ensure that classified information contained on Kendall’s thumb drive is secured and not further disseminated.
Among Clinton’s exchanges now censored as classified by the State Department was a brief exchange in October 2009 between her and Jeffrey D. Feltman, then Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs. Clinton emailed Feltman about an “Egyptian proposal” for separate signings of a reconciliation deal with Hamas after the militant organization balked at attending a unity ceremony. Both Clinton’s email and Feltman’s response are marked B-1 for “classified” and completely censored from the email release.
A longer email sent the same day from Clinton to former Sen. George Mitchell, then the special envoy for Middle East Peace, is also censored as classified despite the fact that Clinton did not send the original message on a secure channel. Mitchell later responded to Clinton that “the Egyptian document has been received and is being translated.”
Other now-secret material involved a battle over whom to appoint as the head of the United Nations cultural agency.
The September 2009 issue was over the candidacy of an Egyptian official who had once threatened to burn Israeli books. Abedin on Sept. 22 forwarded to the Secretary of State a chain of emails from department staff summing up the maneuvering over the issue. One sentence in that chain was released redacted, with a code for national security interests as the stated reason.
Previous emails released by the agency revealed that Clinton received information on her private account about the deadly 2012 attack on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya, that was retroactively classified as “secret” at the request of the FBI.
The emails released Friday raised new questions about Clinton’s stated reason for routing all her work-related emails through a private server. On several occasions, Clinton received messages not only at her home email server — email@example.com — but also on a BlackBerry email account through her cellphone provider.
In March, a Clinton spokesman said the only reason Clinton had her own account is because she “wanted the simplicity of using one device” and “opted to use her personal email account as a matter of convenience.”
There was no indication from emails released so far that Clinton’s home computer system used encryption software that would have protected her communications from the prying eyes of foreign spies, hackers or any other interested parties on the Internet.
Current and former intelligence officials have said they assume the emails were intercepted by foreign intelligence services.
Earlier this year, a district court judge mandated that the agency release batches of Clinton’s private correspondence from her time as secretary of state every 30 days starting June 30.
The regular releases of Clinton’s correspondence all but guarantee a slow drip of revelations from the emails throughout the Democratic presidential primary campaign, complicating her efforts to put the issue to rest. The goal is for the department to publicly unveil all 55,000 pages of her emails by Jan. 29, 2016 — just three days before Iowa caucus-goers cast the first votes in the Democratic primary contest.
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