More than two months ago, Hillary Clinton told the media at a UN presser that she never accessed classified material through her private e-mail server, which produced considerable skepticism at the time. Secretaries of State access all kinds of classified material — diplomatic cables, intelligence, and military information — and since she didn’t use the State Department e-mail system, it seemed unlikely that she was telling the truth. The Associated Press reports today that she wasn’t — maybe:
Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton received information on her private email server that has now been classified about the deadly attack on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi.
The email in question, forwarded to Clinton by her deputy chief of staff Jake Sullivan, relates to reports of arrests in Libya of possible suspects in the attack.
Why maybe? The information that has been redacted wasn’t classified at the time:
The information was not classified at the time the email was sent but was upgraded from “unclassified” to “secret” on Friday at the request of the FBI, according to State Department officials. They said 23 words of the Nov. 18, 2012, message were redacted from the day’s release of 296 emails totaling 896 pages to protect information that could damage foreign relations.
Because the information was not classified at the time the email was sent, no laws were violated, but Friday’s redaction shows that Clinton received sensitive information on her unsecured personal server.
QUESTION: Were you ever — were you ever specifically briefed on the security implications of using — using your own email server and using your personal address to email with the president?
CLINTON: I did not email any classified material to anyone on my email. There is no classified material. So I’m certainly well-aware of the classification requirements and did not send classified material.
As Sean noted at the time, Hillary wasn’t asked about classified materials. She was asked about passing along sensitive materials on an unsecured server. She reframed the question to limit the context — and still arguably didn’t tell the truth. Arguably.
That will set up the mother of all Clintonian parsing, as Team Hillary will practically leap out of their seats to point out that Hillary technically wasn’t lying in March. The information contained in this particular email wasn’t classified until after the presser, so her statement was technically accurate, they’ll say, which will have all of the charm and nostalgia of a debate over the definition of the word is.
However, there may be a question about FOIA exemptions claimed by State on other e-mails:
This still largely misses the point. Hillary’s private e-mail server had poorly designed security and got hacked at least once, from which we knew that Sid Blumenthal was passing along intel from a private network to Hillary while she was Secretary of State. The point was that Hillary’s server had sensitive information that hostile countries and organizations would want, and operating on an amateur e-mail system made it readily accessible to them. The fact that the FBI classified this data when they finally got a chance to see it shows just how sensitive some of that data was.
There are sensitive matters of other kinds discussed in today’s first taste of the Hillary Clinton e-mail data trove. Apparently, after the collapse of the false “YouTube video” Benghazi narrative, Hillary got a little worried that she might have to eat her words. She put her staff to work in determining her political vulnerability:
— Brent Scher (@BrentScher) May 22, 2015
Note the e-mail address on this message — not the hdr22 address that the Clintons have insisted was the only one used by Hillary, but the hrod17 address that got exposed a few days ago. In this e-mail, it looks like Hillary used this address for her more political issues, although without looking at the whole record, it would be difficult to establish that kind of a pattern. This does show, though, that Hillary understood the significance of the collapse of that false narrative, and got her State Department staff to do pre-emptive oppo research on her behalf.
Don’t forget that this is just the first release of material. We will likely see more problems along the same lines, and that may or may not include issues of classification.