Fact check: Not if your name was Hillary Clinton. A veteran took the opportunity at last night’s “Commander-in-Chief Forum” on MSNBC to put Hillary’s e-mail scandal and serial mishandling of classified information in its proper perspective. The veteran, who served in both the Air Force and Navy and held clearances at the highest levels, told Hillary she’s lucky she’s on stage and not on trial:
An Air Force and Navy veteran, who said he held “the top secret sensitive compartmentalized information clearance,” challenged Clinton’s actions as secretary of state live on MSNBC’s commander-in-chief forum.
“Had I communicated this information not following prescribed protocols, I would have been prosecuted and imprisoned,” said the veteran, identified by MSNBC as a Republican. “Secretary Clinton, how can you expect those such as myself who were and are trusted with America’s most sensitive information to have any confidence in your leadership as president when you clearly corrupted our national security?”
Hillary’s response was, well … not terribly responsive:
“Well I appreciate your concern and also your experience, but let me try to make the distinctions that I think are important for me to answer your question,” Clinton responded. “First, as I said to Matt, you know and I know, classified material is designated. … And what we have here is the use of an unclassified system by hundreds of people in our government to send information that was not marked, there were no headers, there was no statement top secret, secret, or confidential.”
Those are at best half-truths, and at points flat-out lies. At least some of the classified information on e-mail chains in which Hillary participated did have markings, specifically “(C)” for CONFIDENTIAL. She told the FBI that she thought it was an alphabetical marking, an absurd explanation made even more absurd by the presence of “(SBU)” markings on other paragraphs. Moreover, the “unclassified system” in question was Hillary’s own creation, for which she had no authorization, and the reason people used it was because she refused to get an e-mail account on an official State Department e-mail system.
On top of all of that, as the veteran could have reminded her, a security clearance comes with the responsibility to recognize when information might be classified and to take corrective action when put out into the clear. That’s also a point I made in my column for The Week yesterday when it came to a glaringly obvious example of Hillary’s lies on the subject:
The onus falls on cleared personnel to discern what requires protection even when markings may be absent, let alone when they are present. Instead of pursuing that contradiction, the FBI swallowed one of the biggest whoppers of all. When asked whether a discussion of an upcoming covert operation should have prompted her to recognize the classified nature of the information, she told the FBI that “deliberation over a future drone strike did not give her cause for concern regarding classification.”
It doesn’t take von Clausewitz to know that discussions of military and intelligence operations require secrecy, especially covert operations such as the drone-strike program and its targets. To accept these answers at face value, one would have to consider Hillary Clinton an idiot, and especially dangerous if put in charge of the military as commander-in-chief.
Hillary’s answer to this question insults the years of service this veteran provided to the US, and everyone else’s intelligence.
Addendum: Just to repeat my previous disclosures on this topic, I worked as a technical publications quality assurance inspector/technical editor for a major defense contractor between 1984-88, with a SECRET security clearance (a level which sounds more impressive than it actually is). As part of my job, I worked on many documents with classified information, from the draft stage all the way through printing and publication, and had to attend security briefings to maintain my clearance.