Multiple sources within the intel community tell the Washington Times’ John Solomon that one of the two Top Secret/Compartmented breaches in Hillary Clinton’s e-mail server dealt with critical satellite information about North Korea’s nuclear weapons. This information was one of the reasons that the intel Inspectors General referred the matter to the Department of Justice. If true, this also debunks the defense of Hillary Clinton that the information was unknown to be sensitive when transmitted:
One of the most serious potential breaches of national security identified so far by the intelligence community inside Hillary Rodham Clinton’s private emails involves the relaying of classified information concerning the movement of North Korean nuclear assets, which was obtained from spy satellites.
Multiple intelligence sources who spoke to The Washington Times, solely on the condition of anonymity, said concerns about the movement of the North Korean information through Mrs. Clinton’s unsecured server are twofold.
First, spy satellite information is frequently classified at the top-secret level and handled within a special compartment called Talent-Keyhole. This means it is one of the most sensitive forms of intelligence gathered by the U.S.
Second, the North Koreans have assembled a massive cyberhacking army under an elite military spy program known as Bureau 121, which is increasingly aggressive in targeting systems for hacking, especially vulnerable private systems. The North Koreans, for instance, have been blamed by the U.S. for the hack of Sony movie studios.
Allowing sensitive U.S. intelligence about North Korea to seep into a more insecure private email server has upset the intelligence community because it threatens to expose its methods and assets for gathering intelligence on the secretive communist nation.
This would be the “Talent/Keyhole” data, a compartmented subset of the Top Secret classification that deals with satellite information from the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency. We knew earlier this month that the messages contained information relating to satellite images and data from TK sources, and that the IGs told the DoJ that it should have been classified as“TOP SECRET//SI//TK//NOFORN,” with the final designation a restriction to Americans only. Until now, though, we didn’t know what subject matter it covered.
If this turns out to be true, we also know that this was … very bad. We’re not talking about keeping an eye on warming patterns over the Arctic (which wouldn’t be TK anyway), but about our ability to track the most dangerous weapons in the hand of an unstable regime in a critical corner of the world. If North Korea got its hands on this information, they might be able to design ways to defeat our intelligence-gathering operations, leaving us in the dark about their plans and their actions, and even their capabilities. As Solomon notes, Pyongyang has proven its ability to hack poorly secured systems rather spectacularly of late, and an unsecured system like Hillary’s would be a piece of cake.
It’s interesting to see this leak out now. The last two releases of information have come from the State Department with hundreds of e-mails showing redactions, but mostly classified at the Confidential level. The intelligence agencies have not exactly been welcomed in this process ever since the IGs’ referral, although State says they are cooperating with their reviewers. Perhaps the intelligence community wants to remind people of the real damage Hillary has done to national security rather than getting lost in the weeds of personal exchanges between Hillary and her aides, which is where much (but not all) of the national media have focused.
So … consider this a reminder of the stakes involved. And don’t be surprised to see more reminders from a very angry intelligence community as this rolls forward.