Since revelations Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton used an unsecure private email server to conduct all of her government business during her time as Secretary of State came to light earlier this year, we've heard every excuse imaginable for the practice. As we've learned in recent weeks that top secret, classified information was sent, received and stored on the server, the excuses have gotten worse.
First, Clinton claimed during a press conference in March that there was "no classified information."
"I did not email any classified material to anyone on my email. There is no classified material. So I'm certainly well-aware of the classification requirements and did not send classified material," Clinton said during the press conference.
Then the story became Clinton never sent or received any information that was marked classified.
"I did not send classified material, and I did not receive any material that was marked or designated classified," Clinton said in New Hampshire recently.
Earlier this week, Clinton Press Secretary Brian Fallon tried to ease tensions surrounding a criminal FBI investigation into Clinton's personal email use and mishandling of top secret classified information by claiming she was a "passive recipient of unwitting information that subsequently became classified."
But a new report from Reuters shows that according to basic rules, the information contained on Clinton's private server was classified from the beginning, not after the fact or when team Clinton decided it was a convenient time for it to be so.
In the small fraction of emails made public so far, Reuters has found at least 30 email threads from 2009, representing scores of individual emails, that include what the State Department's own "Classified" stamps now identify as so-called 'foreign government information.' The U.S. government defines this as any information, written or spoken, provided in confidence to U.S. officials by their foreign counterparts.
This sort of information, which the department says Clinton both sent and received in her emails, is the only kind that must be "presumed" classified, in part to protect national security and the integrity of diplomatic interactions, according to U.S. regulations examined by Reuters.
"It's born classified," said J. William Leonard, a former director of the U.S. government's Information Security Oversight Office (ISOO). Leonard was director of ISOO, part of the White House's National Archives and Records Administration, from 2002 until 2008, and worked for both the Bill Clinton and George W. Bush administrations.
"If a foreign minister just told the secretary of state something in confidence, by U.S. rules that is classified at the moment it's in U.S. channels and U.S. possession," he said in a telephone interview, adding that for the State Department to say otherwise was "blowing smoke."
In other words, Clinton knew she was handling classified information on a personal server and didn't care. Further, she shared classified information with her aides through unsecure personal accounts with little regard for protecting national security.
HRC has tried blaming: -GOP -@nytimes -email senders -Obama bureaucracy -phony labeling issue -phony GOP precedent Only fault is hers— Ron Fournier (@ron_fournier) August 21, 2015
If Lady Justice is truly blind, Clinton will be held to the same standard as everyone else when it comes to mishandling top secret information. General David Petraeus has suffered the consequences as have a number of military service members who have improperly handled classified information. There is no doubt she should be indicted.