Classified messages included Benghazi, military intel

Late yesterday, Fox News identified two e-mails that began a cascade of revelations about Hillary Clinton’s secret e-mail server and the likely exposure of highly classified material. These two are not the communications later flagged by intelligence community Inspectors General as containing Top Secret/compartmented information on signals intelligence, but one used military intelligence to describe Libyan troop movements, risking the sourcing of the intel. The other dealt directly with the deteriorating security situation in Benghazi. Both went through two of Hillary’s top aides at the State Department, and who now work on her presidential campaign:

Fox News has identified two of the Benghazi-related emails on the server that were deemed to contain classified information at the time they were sent.

The first was forwarded by Clinton adviser Huma Abedin and contained classified material from military intelligence sources. The 2011 email forwards a warning about how then-Ambassador Chris Stevens was “considering departure from Benghazi” amid deteriorating conditions in a nearby city. The email was mistakenly released by the State Department in full, and is now considered declassified.

The second was sent by Clinton aide Jake Sullivan and contained classified information as well as sensitive law enforcement information on Benghazi. The partly redacted November 2012 email detailed how Libyan police had arrested “several people” with potential connections to the terror attack.

The Hill goes into greater detail on the first e-mail, which was written by State Department aide Timmy Davis to Huma Abedin, who then forwarded it to Hillary:

That document, which is completely unredacted, includes information on military movements.

“AFRICOM reported Qadhafi’s forces took the eastern and western gates of Ajdabiyah, with 5 vehicles at the eastern gate and 50 at the western gate. More Qadhafi forces are heading to Ajdabiyah from Brega,” the document reads.

Davis’s original email included an “SBU” designation, indicating it was sensitive but unclassified in his eyes. A government official told CBS News that since the email contained military intelligence it should have been marked “classified.”

This is why Jennifer Palmieri and Team Clinton tried to get ahead of this yesterday by claiming that Hillary was nothing more than a “passive recipient of information that subsequently became classified.” First, that’s not true; information from military intelligence about a hot war in real time will almost always be classified. This actually became subsequently unclassified, and only because State didn’t redact it when they published the e-mail this spring. Besides, it’s worth noting that federal law prohibits the transmission of sensitive information over unsecured channels as well. In 18 USC 793, the word “classified” is never mentioned; all that is necessary is that the “note” or “information” relates to national security, and that gross negligence or malign intent causes it to be exposed. Classification makes that easier to prove, but isn’t a required component.

Legally, all of these officials could be in trouble, and that’s not even counting the two TS/compartmented e-mails that prompted the referral to the Department of Justice. If Davis used classified military intelligence and routed it as SBU through an unsecured communications channel, those are two serious violations. But both Huma Abedin and Hillary Clinton should have recognized this, too; their security briefings would have made it clear how to recognize classified material (especially intel) and how to deal with security violations. And we know that Hillary got trained on this topic, because State’s Diplomatic Security unit bragged about her training in 2009 (page 21 in the booklet):

So professions of ignorance, such as those from Jennifer Palmieri yesterday, don’t cut it — and should be viewed as an embarrassment anyway. Even if one wants to credit Hillary with only being a “passive recipient” of classified material sent through unsecured channels, one has to also include that the person who forced her aides to use that that unsecured channel was Hillary Clinton herself. Hillary set up the private e-mail server; she is the one who chose to use it exclusively rather than use a State Department e-mail that would have provided more security; and she did nothing about the numerous security violations and classified-material retention at her house during the four years she served as Secretary of State. There is nothing passive about Hillary’s role in this gaping hole in national security.

The other e-mail is very interesting for other reasons. Chris Stevens was recommending that the US shutter its consulate in Benghazi a year prior to the attack. Why didn’t we? And what did Hillary Clinton do to improve the security situation in Benghazi in response to Stevens’ concerns? I wonder what difference it might have made at that point if Hillary had listened to that advice.

Addendum: I also wonder whether Congress or the so-called Accountability Review Board ever saw that Stevens e-mail and its contemplation at the highest levels of State before the exposure of Hillary’s secret server. I’d bet the answer is no.