By Bill Taylor
It seems to me that the more information we get about the private, unsecured e-mail server used by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for government business, the more certain the ultimate conclusion to this matter appears. We, of course, don’t know when that will happen because the investigation is “ongoing” and the head honcho of the FBI has stated there is no urgency to wind up the inquiry.
What we do know from the bits and pieces of material that trickles out is that the probe has developed some interesting and unexpected implications. For example, one recent commentary indicated some CIA operations and operatives may have been “outed” in the “unclassified” e-mails handled by this server. Oops.
One reason this situation is of such interest locally is that around these parts we have an unusually large population of folks who currently have security clearances. I would estimate there are tens of thousands of military, government civilian employees, and government contractors who deal with classified material daily.
There are also more tens of thousands of military and government civilian retirees or former company employees who no longer have active clearances, but remain well versed in how classified material is handled because the principles and procedures were part of our everyday lives and aren’t easily forgotten.
One result of this inquiry is that, after extensive review, nearly 2,100 e-mails on the server had their proper classification level restored by the State Department – including 22 which were restored to the “Top Secret” category. According to the oft-repeated claim of Mrs. Clinton these e-mails were not marked as “classified” at the time they were sent or received – but this leads to an interesting point.
When classified material, whether in print or any other form such as photographs, is generated it is classified by the originator when it is created – not by some reviewing authority some time after the fact. Each paragraph of a document, for example, is marked with the appropriate classification and “caveats” or special handling warnings according to the content and perhaps the origin of that particular paragraph. In addition the top and bottom of each page is marked.
Classified material is stored and transmitted in “compartments”, that is, segregated according to classification and other restrictions. “Top Secret” documents, for example, have special handling requirements that are much more restrictive than for “Confidential” or even “Secret”. Some “compartments” not only have additional “caveats” or warnings, but require special transmitting or couriering and require additional restrictions for access. Regardless of the specific classification, however, everything is clearly identified with appropriate markings.
Ok, so what does all this have to do with the “unclassified” e-mails that turned out to contain classified material? Well, if the documents were classified by the originator and were found on the server without the classification, the only way this could have happened was that the markings were deliberately removed before the e-mails were sent – and that is a big “no-no” by any stretch of the imagination.
Skilled investigators can undoubtedly determine the origin of these documents and trace their transmission history. This should help determine where the markings were deleted and quite possibly who did the alterations. The crucial question is – who authorized such a scheme? Not some low level worker bee who thought removing classification markings from documents would be a nice thing to do. Nope, this operation was concocted by some high level person or persons with the participation of a number of folks who knew about and used the server thus avoiding the security restrictions ordinary folks must follow or face going to jail.
So where will all this lead? Well, Mrs. Clinton has repeatedly stated there would be no indictments or charges filed over her e-mail server. How could she be so certain? Our Chief Executive, who has endorsed Mrs. Clinton’s presidential candidacy and is the guy the Justice Department and FBI work for, has publicly stated he believes Mrs. Clinton didn’t jeopardize America’s national security with her private e-mail server but that “there’s a carelessness in terms of managing e-mails” that she has recognized. Care to read those tea leaves? It’s not too difficult to envision nothing will come of this ruckus. Everyone walks.
As I’ve noted before “rank has its privileges and the ranker the individual the greater the privileges” – and this is about as rank as it gets. At least that’s how it seems to me.
Bill Taylor, a Greene County Daily columnist and area resident, may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.