Former NY Times editor Jill Abramson gave an interview to Politico’s Glenn Thrush in which she suggested the Hillary Clinton’s email story did not seem like a very big deal because all of the emails were “classified after the fact.” In fact, two Inspectors General said that was not the case 8 months ago. From Politico:
“It depends on, you know, what your definition of ‘big deal’ is, but I’m not going to play Bill Clinton for you here,” she said, referring to the former president’s infamous what-the-meaning-of-is-is monologue during his Monica Lewinsky deposition. “The issue, to me, that’s at the crux is that everything that we know that was classified was classified after the fact, after the emails were sent. And so, why is that a big deal?”
It’s true that the State Department and the Clinton campaign have been saying for months that everything found in on her server was classified retroactively so it’s perhaps not surprising that some people have that impression. However, the Inspectors General for the State Department and the Intelligence Community said last July that some of the material in the emails was classified at the time it was sent. Here is an excerpt from the statement released by the Inspectors General on July 24, 2015 [emphasis added for Jill Abramson]:
The IC IG found four emails containing classified IC-derived information in a limited sample of 40 emails of the 30,000 emails provided by former Secretary Clinton. The four emails, which have not been released through the State FOIA process, did not contain classification markings and/or dissemination controls. These emails were not retroactively classified by the State Department; rather these emails contained classified information when they were generated and, according to IC classification officials, that information remains classified today. This classified information should never have been transmitted via an unclassified personal system.
It is also true that the State Department appealed these classifications to the Director of National Intelligence, apparently hoping the “top secret” classification would be downgraded. That appeal failed as the classification of both emails was upheld at the time they were sent (one of the emails was downgraded to “secret” but not to the time it was sent).
More recently, the Inspector General for the Intelligence Community indicated in a letter to Congress that there were several dozen emails found on Clinton’s server which the Intelligence Community has stated in “sworn declarations” were taken from “top secret” material they had generated. Here is Fox News Catherine Herridge reporting on the letter sent to congress:
“To date, I have received two sworn declarations from one [intelligence community] element. These declarations cover several dozen emails containing classified information determined by the IC element to be at the confidential, secret, and top secret/sap levels,” said the IG letter to lawmakers with oversight of the intelligence community and State Department. “According to the declarant, these documents contain information derived from classified IC element sources.”
If the material was taken from “top secret” information gathered by the IC, then it was “top secret” at the time it was sent. In fact, the State Department agreed the material was too sensitive to release in any form.
The irony here is that after stating, contrary to the facts, that all of the material in Clinton’s emails “was classified after the fact,” Abramson goes on to say most people don’t seem to know any details about these controversies:
“When you actually dissect these things and moreover when you ask either voters, as I have, or my students who read about Whitewater. If you actually ask people like what about any of these controversies bothers them they don’t know anything specific about any of them. I won’t say nothing — but very little.”
Apparently that goes for former editors of the NY Times as well.