Team Clinton seized on this report yesterday, claiming it was an email scandal "game-changer" that shifts the terrain of a controversy that has plagued Hillary's campaign for months. It is, and does, nothing of the sort, for reasons we'll address in a moment. First, the basics, via Politico:
Former Secretary of State Colin Powell said the FBI has contacted him about his use of personal email when he was the nation's top diplomat, as a review conducted by the State Department inspector general concluded that Powell and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice both received classified information through private email accounts...The State Department inquiry identified 10 messages sent to Rice's immediate staff that were classified and two sent to Powell, according to Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the ranking member on the House Oversight and Benghazi committees. The emails, Cummings said, appear to have no classification markings, and it is still unclear if the content of the emails was or should have been considered classified when the emails were originally written and sent. In an interview with POLITICO Thursday. Powell vigorously disputed the sensitivity of the information sent to him through personal email, but he acknowledged the law enforcement interest in his email routine. "The FBI has come to us," Powell said. Two FBI agents visited Powell in December for a discussion an aide described as a casual conversation about email practices during his term as secretary from 2001 to 2005...Powell seemed exasperated by State's latest claim. The agency has designated the two messages "Confidential," which is the lowest tier of classification. "Now, 11 or 12 years later, as part of a whole process of reviewing things somebody in the department says, 'Well, they're classified.' My response to that is no they were not," Powell said. " You can say your judgment is they should have been classified but at the time they were not classified.
Hillary pounced on this development at last night's Democratic debate, expressing "100 percent" confidence that this email nuisance will come to nothing in the end:
Nothing to see here, she assures nervous Democrats, casting the ongoing and expanded FBI investigation as a mere formality. A few points:
(1) Yesterday evening, Hillary said, "I never sent or received any classified material," without her (legally irrelevant) "marked" caveat. This is a flat falsehood. It is an established fact that she personally sent and received classified material. The State Department's review has discovered more than 1,600 classified emails on her server thus far, with another batch still outstanding -- to say nothing of the 32,000 messages she unilaterally deleted, some of which we now know did pertain to official business.
(2) She also blames this controversy on the issue of retroactive classification, which Powell complains about, too. This gripe may apply to some of Hillary's emails, and to both of Powell's, but Hillary is being deeply disingenuous here. The nonpartisan IC Inspector General has determined that a number of her classified emails were absolutely classified at the time they originated, including top secret and beyond-top-secret intelligence. There was nothing "retroactive" about these classifications. News organizations have also confirmed that scores of her emails were, in fact, classified at the time. It was her duty to identify and protect highly sensitive information, regardless of markings, a responsibility she acknowledged and swore to uphold upon assuming office:
(3) "See? Condi and Colin did it, too!" relies on a thoroughly bogus equivalency. Above all else, neither Rice nor Powell set up and used a recklessly unsecure private emails server on which they conducted all of their official business, against "clear cut rules" implemented in 2005. (A former CIA director and Secretary of Defense have each stated that her vulnerable server was likely penetrated by foreign powers like the Russians and Chinese). This review identified ten -- total -- emails that have now been assigned retroactive, low-level classification levels. Only two of them went to then-Secretary of State Powell, with the others going to Rice's aides, and both of those are now classified at the lowest level ("confidential"). As mentioned above, Hillary's server contained 1,600 classified emails and counting, including the most sensitive level of intelligence in existence (SAP, beyond-top-secret). There is no comparison between the conduct of Hillary Clinton and that of her immediate predecessors. Beyond her exclusive use of an improper and unsecure server, Sec. Clinton was personally and specifically warned about the vulnerability of her email scheme in 2011, when a State Department security expert sounded the alarm over foreign hackers seeking to infiltrate US secrets by targeting high-ranking officials' private emails. Mrs. Clinton carried on with her arrangement anyway.
In summary, Hillary Clinton's server is the scandal. It's possible that Rice's aides and Sec. Powell may have acted improperly (though the email rules were set forth after Powell left office). They may have been sloppy with a small number of low-level classified information on an ad hoc basis. The rules and laws pertaining to the US government's data security must be followed. By everyone. But Clinton mishandled hundreds upon hundreds of classified emails, which held state secrets at the highest classification levels. In fact, just this week, the State Department deemed another seven Clinton emails too sensitive to release in any form, even with redactions, bringing that total to 29. Intelligence officials who've seen some of the documents in question say they betray operational intelligence, the leakage of which puts covert missions and lives at risk. A former NSA official has intelligence community sources who say Clinton's emails included the true identities of CIA operatives and assets, including foreign nationals working for the agency. Unlike Powell and Rice, Mrs. Clinton exhibited ongoing gross negligence by exposing reams of sensitive and classified intelligence to foreign governments. She ignored her sworn duty to safeguard secrets, "marked and unmarked," and declined to alter her behavior after she was admonished of an explicit vulnerability pertaining to personal email use. And unlike Powell and Rice, Hillary has consistently lied about this scandal. Her smug assertion that the (twice expanded) FBI investigation won't go anywhere amounts to waving a red flag in front of career investigators and intelligence officials, who are reportedly fuming over her irresponsible, and likely criminal, conduct. Remember, the probe reportedly entails more than just her email misconduct, Gen. David Petraeus was charged for classified intelligence spillage that was far more limited and contained, and a former US Attorney General says there's already sufficient evidence to justify an indictment. Clinton seems confident that her political power and privilege will shield her from accountability in the end, sending a less-than-subtle message to the Justice Department, which has already been influenced by two public White House statements. I'll leave you with an interesting point from Gabriel Malor:
!!! State Dept that didn't meet court-ordered deadline on Clinton emails had time to go through Powell, Rice emails. https://t.co/BoFZeS8HKz— Gabriel Malor (@gabrielmalor) February 4, 2016
Prepared by State IG, sent to Cummings, who leaks to ABC. Cute. https://t.co/7BOXxEqQGH— Gabriel Malor (@gabrielmalor) February 4, 2016
Parting thought: Colin Powell says the FBI has contacted him about his two "confidential" messages sent prior to the revamped email rules being established. Hillary Clinton recently claimed she hasn't been interviewed by the FBI in connection to its serious and growing probe that focuses on her practices. Is that still true?