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Hullabaloo


Saturday, November 07, 2015

 
Well hell, those emails weren't classified after all. #ooops

by digby

This is an amazing story about how a scandal can be stoked out of nothing. Political bureaucrats with an agenda (or just inane incompetence) and the press working together can make a juicy story when they want to:
Source: Key Clinton emails did not contain highly classified secrets

The U.S. intelligence community has retreated from claims that two emails in Hillary Clinton’s private account contained top-secret information, a source familiar with the situation told POLITICO.

After a review, intelligence agencies concluded that the two emails did not include highly classified intelligence secrets, the source said. Concerns about the emails' classification helped trigger an ongoing FBI inquiry into Clinton's private email setup.


Intelligence Community Inspector General I. Charles McCullough III made the claim that two of the emails contained top-secret information; the State Department publicly stated its disagreement and asked Director of National Intelligence James Clapper’s office to referee the dispute. Now, that disagreement has been resolved in State’s favor, said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

A spokesman for Clapper said the review of the emails has not been completed. "ODNI has made no such determination and the review is ongoing," Clapper spokesman Brian Hale said.

However, the source said State Department officials had already received instructions from intelligence officials that they need not use the strictest standards for handling the two emails in dispute – meaning that they aren’t classified.

Hale declined to comment on whether any changes had been made in recent days to the handling requirements for the disputed emails.

Intelligence officials claimed one email in Clinton’s account was classified because it contained information from a top-secret intelligence community “product” or report, but a further review determined that the report was not issued until several days after the email in question was written, the source said.

"The initial determination was based on a flawed process," the source said. "There was an intelligence product people thought [one of the emails] was based on, but that actually postdated the email in question."
Smart people like Marcy Wheeler pointed out that the classification of these emails was nonsense but the press slavered over the accusation like a bunch of starving dogs with a slab of meat.

And look what happened:
A top expert in classification procedures called the reported determination about the disputed emails "an astonishing turn of events."

"It's not just a mistake," Steven Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists said of the initial "Top Secret" claim. "It was a transformative event in the presidential campaign to this point. It had a potential to derail Clinton's presidential candidacy."

Aftergood said Clapper's office should be credited for seriously reconsidering the earlier conclusions by intelligence agencies.

"Usually, when an agency commits itself to a judgment that is this consequential, the agency will tend to dig in its heels and insist — no matter what — it was right. What's unusual here is an agency said we reconsidered and we changed our mind. That's a difficult thing to do, and they're liable to be attacked for doing it," Aftergood said.

A spokesman for Clinton's presidential campaign welcomed the reported development, while allies said the news vindicates her.

"The inspector general’s determination always seemed arbitrary and questionable, and we are grateful that it appears the DNI may be confirming that," spokesman Brian Fallon said. "This would illustrate the subjective nature of the classification rules that are at the heart of this matter."

"DNI Clapper’s determination is further evidence that there was no wrongdoing by Secretary Clinton," said Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.). "The classification process is complex and subjective, but this confirms Secretary Clinton did not send classified information through her email account. It’s time to put this issue behind us and move on.”
That won't happen but it's a nice thought.

I don't know whether McCullough had an ax to grind to against Clinton personally or if it was one of those ridiculous state vs CIA things, but the ramifications are obvious. This has impacted the electoral process which is very creepy.
In an Aug. 11 memo to 17 lawmakers, McCullough said the two emails "include information classified up to TOP SECRET//SI/TK/NOFORN." The subject of the emails has never been publicly confirmed, but published reports have said one refers to North Korea's nuclear program and another to U.S. drone operations. The acronym "SI" in the classification marking refers to "signals intelligence," and a footnote in McCullough's memo references the work of the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, which oversees U.S. spy satellites.

Turns out that was bullshit.Go figure.

This Politico article actually buried the lede in my opinion. I don't think most people know what happened here:

Concerns about the four emails McCullough's investigators isolated appear to have set in motion a series of critical events in the email saga. State stepped up its efforts to have Clinton's private attorney David Kendall return thumb drives.

State decided back in May that one email in the Clinton collection contained "Secret" information about arrests possibly linked to the attack on U.S. facilities in Benghazi. At that time, Undersecretary of State for Management Patrick Kennedy asked Kendall to delete all copies of that email and return all paper copies to the department. Kendall declined to delete the electronic copies because of outstanding preservation requests from inspectors general and congressional committees.

However, the classification of that email as secret did not set off the scramble that began in late July when the intelligence inspector general flagged the set of four from the sample of 40. The flagging of those four emails by the ICIG led to a formal referral to the FBI of a potential counterintelligence breach.

Within days, the FBI contacted Kendall asking him to turn over the thumb drive, which he did in early August. On July 31, Kennedy also sent urgent letters to lawyers for two top Clinton aides, Cheryl Mills and Huma Abedin, asking that all the federal records in their possession be immediately returned to the government, along with all copies.

FBI Director James Comey has since confirmed his agency is conducting a review of the matter. An FBI spokeswoman declined to comment when asked what impact the classification developments would have on the agency's ongoing probe.

While disclosures of information classified at the "Secret" level can trigger an investigation, Aftergood said the conclusion that the two emails were not "Top Secret" could have some impact on how the FBI proceeds.

"That would tend to reduce the urgency of the initial referral," he said.

One would think so. but from the selective leaks coming from the FBI and James Comey's comments it sounds as though they have some investigators who are looking hard for something to nail her with.

It wouldn't be the first time.

.