NYT: Second review of Hillary e-mails confirms Top Secret/compartmented info

Despite weeks of denials, a second review by the originating agencies confirms that Hillary Clinton improperly received Top Secret/compartmented information on her unsecured and unauthorized e-mail server. The New York Times’ Michael Schmidt reported late last night that both the CIA and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) agree on that point, backing up the referral from two Inspectors General a month ago to the Department of Justice:

A special intelligence review of two emails that Hillary Rodham Clinton received as secretary of state on her personal account — including one about North Korea’s nuclear weapons program — has endorsed a finding by the inspector general for the intelligence agencies that the emails contained highly classified information when Mrs. Clinton received them, senior intelligence officials said.

Mrs. Clinton’s presidential campaign and the State Department disputed the inspector general’s finding last month and questioned whether the emails, which are being released to the public, had been overclassified by an arbitrary process. But the special review — by the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency — concluded that the emails were “Top Secret,” the highest classification of government intelligence, when they were sent to Mrs. Clinton in 2009 and 2011.

This relates to the original intel-community review of 40 sample e-mails from Hillary’s data, reviewed only after its existence came to light in the Benghazi select committee probe. Hillary received these two e-mails from an unspecified source, but as a cleared member of leadership as well as the originator of the secret system on which it got transmitted and stored, Hillary would have had responsibility to correct this “spillage” when it occurred. If the data came from NGA, which uses satellites to derive intelligence data, then the need to protect the data should have been obvious, especially to a Secretary of State.

Team Hillary and State both responded with further obfuscations. Nick Merrill released a statement on behalf of the campaign citing “bureaucratic infighting among the intelligence community,” but that’s precisely the opposite of this finding. The intel community — CIA and NGA — both agree on the classification of this information.

State’s John Kirby claimed classification is a partnership decision:

“Classification is rarely a black and white question, and it is common for the State Department to engage internally and with our interagency partners to arrive at the appropriate decision,” he said in a statement. “Very often both the State Department and the intelligence community acquire information on the same matter through separate channels. Thus, there can be two or more separate reports and not all of them based on classified means. At this time, any conclusion about the classification of the documents in question would be premature.”

This also is nonsense. The State Department doesn’t develop the NGA’s satellite data, and even if it did, it would also be classified at the highest levels for the same reason. Regardless of whether State wants data declassified, that is the purview of the originating agency and its command structure, not the State Department. An Executive Order updated by Barack Obama but which dates back to at least Bill Clinton’s presidency makes that clear.  While those agencies consider information classified, State and any other agency would be bound to treat the data with its current classification until an appeal could be completed.

Did State ever ask for this data to be declassified to the extent that it could get transmitted on an unsecured, non-governmental e-mail system? If the answer is no, then Kirby’s entire statement is moot. As John Schindler put it last night, State’s opinion on its classification is of no weight:

The FBI and the Department of Justice will have to take some kind of action at this point. A federal grand jury will get them off the hook politically, at least for a short period of time, and that may be their best option under the weight of a presidential campaign.