Perhaps the Department of Justice won’t prosecute Hillary Clinton, as Jazz argued this morning, but they will have an increasingly difficult time explaining why. John Schindler follows up on an issue regarding the exposure of NSA-derived intelligence in Hillary’s e-mails, after noting a conflict between NSA and State over the use of Blackberries in the Secretary’s offices. Hillary and her team did not want to use computer terminals to access their e-mails and lose access to their Blackberries for outside e-mails, but such devices are not allowed in Secure Compartment Information Facilities (SCIFs). This conflict at the start of Hillary’s tenure set the table for much of what followed in the e-mail scandal.
That argument is just the appetizer, though. The real problem Hillary has with the NSA is how their Top Secret/Compartmented information ended up in an e-mail from Sid Blumenthal through her secret server system:
As I explained in this column in January, one of the most controversial of Ms. Clinton’s emails released by the State Department under judicial order was one sent on June 8, 2011 to the Secretary of State by Sidney Blumenthal, Hillary’s unsavoryfriend and confidant who was running a private intelligence service for Ms. Clinton. This email contains an amazingly detailed assessment of events in Sudan, specifically a coup being plotted by top generals in that war-torn country. Mr. Blumenthal’s information came from a top-ranking source with direct access to Sudan’s top military and intelligence officials, and recounted a high-level meeting that had taken place only twenty-four hours before.
To anybody familiar with intelligence reporting, this is unmistakably signals intelligence, termed SIGINT in the trade. In other words, Mr. Blumenthal, a private citizen who had enjoyed no access to U.S. intelligence for over a decade when he sent that email, somehow got hold of SIGINT about the Sudanese leadership and managed to send it, via open, unclassified email, to his friend Hillary only one day later.
Blumenthal ran a private intel service with Tyler Drumheller, who had left the CIA years before this exchange took place. (Drumheller died in August 2015.) Neither one of the men should have been able to get their hands on NSA reports, especially those from a compartmented program. And yet, somehow Blumenthal was able to quote a GAMMA compartment report verbatim:
Now, over two months later, I can confirm that the contents of Sid Blumenthal’s June 8, 2011 email to Hillary Clinton, sent to her personal, unclassified account, were indeed based on highly sensitive NSA information. The Agency investigated this compromise and determined that Mr. Blumenthal’s highly detailed account of Sudanese goings-on, including the retelling of high-level conversations in that country, was indeed derived from NSA intelligence.
Specifically, this information was illegally lifted from four different NSA reports, all of them classified Top Secret / Special Intelligence. Worse, at least one of those reports was issued under the GAMMA compartment, which is an NSA handling caveat that is applied to extraordinarily sensitive information (for instance, decrypted conversations between top foreign leadership, as this was). GAMMA is properly viewed as a SIGINT Special Access Program or SAP, several of which from CIA Ms. Clinton compromised in another series of her “unclassified” emails.
Currently serving NSA officials have told me they have no doubt that Mr. Blumenthal’s information came from their reports. “It’s word-for-word, verbatim copying,” one of them explained. “In one case, an entire paragraph was lifted from an NSA report” that was classified Top Secret / Special Intelligence.
How Sid Blumenthal got his hands on this information is the key question, and there’s no firm answer yet. The fact that he was able to take four separate highly classified NSA reports – none of which he was supposed to have any access to – and pass the details of them to Hillary Clinton via email only hours after NSA released them in Top Secret / Special Intelligence channels, indicates something highly unusual—as well as illegal—was going on.
That leads Schindler to these basic set of questions:
How Mr. Blumenthal got hold of this Top Secret-plus reporting is only the first question. Why he chose to email it to Ms. Clinton in open channels is another question. So is: How did nobody on Secretary Clinton’s staff notice that this highly detailed reporting looked exactly like SIGINT from NSA? Last, why did the State Department see fit to release this email, unredacted, to the public?
Those are very good questions. The FBI certainly seems to be working hard to answer them. Reports on that effort put the number of agents involved in the investigation at 150, which if true would put it on par with the operation that caught Russian mole Robert Hanssen in February 2001. James Comey might not sit quietly if that kind of effort got shoved under the door at the DoJ if and when the probe results in actionable criminal referrals. Having Comey resign in the fall over such an attempt to quash prosecution wouldn’t do much for Hillary’s electoral chances, no matter how much Obama calls for party unity for his former Secretary of State.
Prosecution might not be likely, but it’s not impossible, either.