By: Roger Aronoff
Accuracy in Media
The number of confirmed classified documents found among Hillary Clinton’s emails in a State Department review has climbed to 60, and yet she was joking about it this past weekend in Iowa. “You may have seen that I recently launched a Snapchat account,” said Mrs. Clinton. “I love it. I love it. Those messages disappear all by themselves.” But it may not be such a laughing matter for her. There are new reportsof Democrats worried about the viability of her candidacy, new polls showing Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) ahead of Mrs. Clinton in New Hampshire and Iowa, and reports of Vice President Joe Biden appearing more likely than ever to enter the race as a way to try to save the Democratic Party from a potential disastrous election next year.
Hillary’s story has been evolving, from her statements that she had never sent or received classified material on her private email server, which was her only server throughout her four years as secretary of state, to later asserting that nothing in her emails was classified at the time it passed through her server, although some may have become classified later on. But when faced with the charge by Obama appointed inspectors general that four of the first 40 emails that they sampled were in fact classified at the time they were on her server, she claimed that though that may be true, they weren’t marked classified. So how was she to know?
In a Wall Street Journal article this weekend by former Attorney General Michael Mukasey, he took Mrs. Clinton to task: “It is no answer to say, as Mrs. Clinton did at one time, that emails were not marked classified when sent or received. Of course they were not; there is no little creature sitting on the shoulders of public officials classifying words as they are uttered and sent. But the laws are concerned with the sensitivity of information, not the sensitivity of the markings on whatever may contain the information.” Her decision to erase her emails, argues Mukasey, may put her in further legal jeopardy for obstruction of justice.
Earlier reporting indicated that Inspectors General for the Intelligence Community found four classified emails, and it urned out that two of those four were Top Secret, one of the highest levels of classification. This would appear to contradict Mrs. Clinton’s claim that at the time this information was on her email server it wasn’t marked as classified, and therefore she wasn’t aware that it belonged in that category; or else that it wasn’t classified at that time.
“Clinton’s argument ignores her actual misconduct,” wrote Citizens’ Commission on Benghazi member and former Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee Pete Hoekstra and former Deputy Assistant Attorney General Victoria Toensing on August 13. “The reason the documents were not marked is because she never submitted them for clearance.”
“The reason government officials with security clearances are required to keep their correspondence on the appropriate government server is so the material can be vetted and classified prior to hitting ‘send’ to an uncleared recipient,” Hoekstra and Toensing wrote for The New York Post on August 11.
“Let’s cut the spin and identify her email transgressions for what they are: gross mismanagement of classified material that happens to violate the law,” they argue at Fox News.
On Wednesday of last week, the FBI took possession of Mrs. Clinton’s email server. She claims that she handed it over, implying voluntarily. According to The Washington Post, it was stored at Platte River Network (PRN), the company hired by the Clintons to manage their server for security since mid-2013, in New Jersey. PRN said it “was blank” and contained no usable data because everything on it was transferred during a 2013 upgrade. PRN said they don’t think they have anything from that old server.
But that story changed over the weekend, with ABC News now reporting that PRN is saying that “it is ‘highly likely’ a full backup of the device was made and that the thousands of emails Clinton deleted may still exist.”
Mrs. Clinton had refused to hand the server over to a neutral party at the request of the House Select Committee on Benghazi since it was first requested in March of this year.
According to an article in The Daily Beast, “Hillary Clinton [had] little choice but to hand over her server to authorities since it now appears increasingly likely that someone on her staff violated federal laws regarding the handling of classified materials. On August 11, after extensive investigation, the Intelligence Community’s Inspector General reported to Congress that it had found several violations of security policy in Clinton’s personal emails.”
The article, by John R. Schindler, said that “Most seriously, the Inspector General assessed that Clinton’s emails included information that was highly classified—yet mislabeled as unclassified. Worse, the information in question should have been classified up to the level of ‘TOP SECRET//SI//TK//NOFORN,’ according to the Inspector General’s report.”
Furthermore, adds Schindler, “Claims that they ‘didn’t know’ such information was highly classified do not hold water and are irrelevant. It strains belief that anybody with clearances didn’t recognize that NSA information, which is loaded with classification markings, was signals intelligence, or SIGINT. It’s possible that the classified information found in Clinton’s email trove wasn’t marked as such. But if that classification notice was omitted, it wasn’t the U.S. intelligence community that took such markings away.”
The network news coverage of the story played down the significance, and largely treated it as a “distraction” for Mrs. Clinton, and a partisan issue for Republicans running for the GOP nomination, but it is, nonetheless, starting to get traction. On Sunday’s Meet the Press, for example, host Chuck Todd talked of how surprised he was to find so many Democrats at the Iowa State Fair who are expressing great concern about Hillary being their nominee, in light of these recent revelations.
Mrs. Clinton has systematically concealed her actions and routinely lied about them afterwards, creating what Chris Cillizza of The Washington Post labeled on August 12 a significant “trust deficit with the public.”
The deceit over Mrs. Clinton’s private email extends much further than Mrs. Clinton herself, implicating President Barack Obama, his advisors, and State Department staff.
“A federal judge has intervened to block Cheryl Mills, Hillary Clinton’s chief of staff at the State Department, from deleting any emails in her possession after her attorney informed the State Department last week that she had instructed her client to do so,” reported The Daily Caller’s Chuck Ross on August 10. Attorney Beth Wilkinson “did not provide a reason for her instructions to Mills to scrub her email account,” reports Ross.
David Kendall, Mrs. Clinton’s attorney, likewise, wrote in March that “no emails … reside on the server or on any backup systems associated with the server,”according to CBS News. However, Kendall was given a thumb drive with 30,000 emails from Ms. Clinton’s server. Kendall, ironically, was also the attorney for David Petraeus in the case for which he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor offense of mishandling classified information. Petraeus received a sentence of two years’ probation and a $100,000 fine. According to reports, Petraeus “admitted that he improperly removed and retained highly sensitive information in eight personal notebooks that he gave the biographer, Paula Broadwell, to read.” Many have noted how Petraeus’s mishandling of classified material pales in comparison to Mrs. Clinton’s. She is arguing that in four years of holding the office of Secretary of State, she never sent or received emails that contained classified information. That is utterly absurd.
It is also unclear how Mrs. Clinton’s decision to turn over her server will impact her upcoming October scheduled hearing before the Select Committee on Benghazi. Rep. Trey Gowdy, the chairman of that Committee, was on a couple of the Sunday shows taking some well deserved credit for his Committee having started the process of prying loose her emails and email server.
What is clear is that no further information is necessary to expose the Benghazi cover-up and Mrs. Clinton’s role in it.
Few knowledgeable about the security situation in Libya, or Mrs. Clinton’s role encouraging the initial intervention in Libya, can argue that there is no reason to investigate her misconduct. Mrs. Clinton didn’t just fail to provide the State Department with some of her messages, she altered some of the ones that she handed over.
“It has already been shown that in [Sidney] Blumenthal’s production of emails to the Benghazi Committee, they included at least 15 Clinton emails related to Benghazi that are nowhere to be found in Clinton’s production to the State Department,” write Hoekstra and Toensing. “Is this obstruction of justice?”
As the Citizens’ Commission on Benghazi revealed in its 2014 Interim Report, the Obama administration switched sides in the War on Terror. Its political leadership chose to not continue truce talks with Muammar Qaddafi, instead facilitating arms to the al-Qaeda-linked rebels. The result has been a conflict-ridden terror safe haven.
Some in the media have finally woken up to the reality of Mrs. Clinton’s lies, even if they continue to dismiss the Benghazi scandal as “phony” and try, at every turn, to undermine the Select Committee’s investigation.
“There’s simply no way to see these latest development in the long-running e-mail story as anything but bad news for Clinton,” comments Cillizza for the Post. “The turning-over of her private server not only takes control of its contents out of her hands but also likely ensures this story will be in the news for far longer than she’d like.”
It is possible that the media have begun preparing the way for another, less scandal-prone Democratic candidate in the form of Joe Biden, yet some in the media are arguing that it may already be too late for a Biden to come save the day. Clearly Biden would be President Obama’s preference over Mrs. Clinton, and there is speculation that what’s going on here is no less than an effort by the Obama administration to throw Hillary under the bus. It’s hard to imagine this Justice Department investigating the prohibitive favorite to win the Democratic nomination without having gotten the green light from the President.
Mrs. Clinton’s lies and deception have become undeniable, even for those in the mainstream media. But President Obama and Mrs. Clinton’s attempts to blame four deaths in Benghazi, Libya on a YouTube video were equally blatant deception. When will the media recognize that attempts to cover up a more important scandal—the Benghazi scandal—have already failed?
Updated 9:38 a.m.