Congressional Democrats accuse Inspectors General of being political

posted at 3:21 pm on March 11, 2016 by John Sexton

Congressional Democrats have sent a letter to the Inspectors General of the State Department and the Intelligence Community accusing them of being “too politicized.” The letter was sent on March 9th to both Inspectors General and is signed by seven Democrats including Sen. Diane Feinstein, Sen. Patrick Leahy and Rep. Adam Schiff. The letter, first published by Politico, reads in part:

Based on public reports and communications from your offices to Congress, we have serious questions about how this review is being conducted…

Classification determinations are complex, subjective, often in dispute between different agencies, and are not normally within the purview of Inspectors General. We are concerned that those involved in the review process have not sufficiently taken these complexities or the interagency differences on each email into account.

The letter goes on to state, “the State Department frequently obtains information through entirely unclassified channels that an intelligence agency may obtain through clandestine means.” That is a reference to so-called parallel information gathering. Last year the Clinton campaign and the State Department asserted that parallel information might be the reason one agency thought material was classified while another believed it was not.

However, the claim of parallel information sourcing has never been substantiated. In fact, the State Department’s appeal of the classification of several emails to the Director of National Intelligence was denied. Here’s Catherine Herridge’s report from last December:

An intelligence community review has re-affirmed that two classified emails were indeed “top secret” when they hit Hillary Clinton’s unsecured personal server despite a challenge to that designation by the State Department, according to two sources familiar with the review.

The sources described the dispute over whether the two emails were classified at the highest level as a “settled matter.”

Reading it closely, the letter sent by congressional Democrats doesn’t say that is what happened in this case it just offers up the idea as an example of what can happen. But again, there doesn’t seem to be any evidence it actually did. On the contrary, the a letter IC Inspector General sent to congress said the source of several emails had been verified as coming from the Intel Community:

“To date, I have received two sworn declarations from one [intelligence community] element. These declarations cover several dozen emails containing classified information determined by the IC element to be at the confidential, secret, and top secret/sap levels,” said the IG letter to lawmakers with oversight of the intelligence community and State Department. “According to the declarant, these documents contain information derived from classified IC element sources.”

So it appears the IC IG has already demonstrated that the thing congressional Democrats are claiming could happen, did not happen. Given that fact, why are Democrats sending this letter bringing up parallel reporting again? One possibility: It’s a fishing expedition.

The letter concludes with a list of things the Democrats want from the Inspectors General including a list of anyone the offices have spoken to outside of official press releases and information on the exact methods used to sample Clinton’s emails. This seems aimed at providing grist for future accusations of bias, which will obviously come in handy if the FBI faults Clinton or her aides’ handling of classified material in the next few months.

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