By Alistair Bell and Jonathan Allen
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Dozens of emails on the private email account that Hillary Clinton used when secretary of state were recently classified by the government, the State Department said on Friday, giving Republican critics more ammunition against the Democratic presidential hopeful.
The emails, released by the State Department under a judge's order, date from the early period of Clinton's 2009-2013 tenure as the United State's top diplomat.
Many of them were heavily redacted and marked as "confidential" only this week before they were made public, meaning that Clinton was not aware when she sent or received them that their content might later be regarded as classified.
The front-runner for the Democratic Party nomination in the November, 2016 election, Clinton is under scrutiny for her use of a private email account linked to a server at her home in New York state for her work as secretary of state.
Opponents accuse her of sidestepping transparency laws and
being lax with secret information, but Clinton says she broke no laws or rules by eschewing a standard government email account.
The 1,356 emails released on Friday were the third batch of
emails from 30,000 or so from Clinton's private account that she handed over to the State Department late last year, nearly two years after she left office. She says she had another 30,000 emails deleted because they were private.
A judge ordered the State Department to release in batches the 30,000 in its possession. State Department spokesman Mark Toner said government agencies that reviewed the latest collection before release have deemed that 37 of them contain material that is "confidential," the lowest level of classification.
The government has to believe information could "cause damage" to national security if disclosed to mark it confidential.
"As we go through the contents of these e-mails... we need to look at whether portions of them need to be upgraded in terms of classification," Toner told reporters.
"These were upgraded to confidential, so none of these documents were classified at the time they were sent," he said.
The classified emails released on Friday dealt with a range of topics from the formation of a new cabinet in Lebanon to a meeting between a U.S. senator and Myanmar opposition figure Aung San Suu Kyi.
While Clinton is way ahead in polls of Democratic candidates, several recent polls have found a majority of voters find her untrustworthy, a perception exacerbated by
controversy over her emails.
(Writing by Alistair Bell; Editing by Andrew Hay)