With each passing day, Hillary Clinton’s political and legal difficulties relating to EmailGate continue to pile up. While her supporters have taken some glee from the revelation that Caroline Kennedy, while serving as U.S. ambassador to Japan, inappropriately used personal email for official business — as Hillary did exclusively — there’s less here than meets the eye. Kennedy was putting Sensitive But Unclassified information (a State Department term for what the Intelligence Community calls For Official Use Only, meaning information that is not classified yet cannot be released to the public without agency approval), which is an administrative, not legal matter. In other words, it’s a lot less serious than what Hillary stands accused of having done at Foggy Bottom.
Team Hillary’s catch-all has been that her attorney, David Kendall, had her unclassified-but-actually-classified emails under proper lock and key for months, before he handed them over to the FBI. While it was generally known that Kendall had a security clearance — this is not uncommon for high-flying DC lawyers who deal with national security cases — the details have come to light:
Kendall says he got a Top Secret/Sensitive Compartmented Information clearance from the Justice Department in November 2013 and a Top Secret clearance from the State Department about a year later. Kendall says his Williams & Connolly law partner, Katherine Turner, also got a Top Secret clearance from State in December 2014.
“These State Department security clearances remain active. We obtained them in order to be able to review documents at the Department of State, to assist former Secretary Clinton in preparing to testify before the House Select Committee on Benghazi,” Kendall wrote on Monday,
The devil lurks in the lawyerly details here, so allow me to unpack the argument. We can infer from Kendall’s statement that his TS/SCI clearances received from DoJ do not remain active, and that’s critically important here, since the Intelligence Community’s Inspector General has determined that, from only the forty (of some 30,000) of Hillary’s emails they investigated, two actually had TS/SCI information in them (specifically also TALENT KEYHOLE and NOFORN, making it even worse to have put this on an unclassified and unencrypted server). If Kendall’s SCI was not active when he received and held Hillary’s emails classified at that level, he too was in violation of Federal law.
Additionally, per Federal law, TS/SCI information must always be placed in a Secure Compartmented Information Facility, a special, purpose-built room designed to protect against physical and electronic intrusion. A full-blown SCIF surely Kendall did not possess. It has been reported that the State Department belatedly supplied Kendall with a safe to store his client’s thumb-drives and emails, which was nowhere near adequate to protect TS/SCI information. Not to mention that he apparently kept Hillary’s materials unsecured for months before he received the DoS safe in July. While a hardened safe in an unclassified office can store classified information up to the Secret level, TS/SCI requires a complete SCIF. Anything less is a clear violation of Federal law. Hillary has placed herself and her attorney in a precarious position here.
To make matters worse, it has been reported that Huma Abedin, Hillary’s trusty sidekick/factotum/mini-me, while serving as her State Department super-staffer, placed information relating to embassy security matters into unclassified email — again, on her boss’s unencrypted server (which Huma, too, had an account on: just how many of Hillary’s inner circle had privileges on said server will be an important matter for the FBI to unravel). Embassy security information is something that is always considered classified, given the all-too-common attacks that befall American embassies and diplomats worldwide. Even worse, Huma placed TS/SCI information from three difference intelligence agencies and sent them to Hillary’s unclassified server.
Why, then, Abedin remains free and not in FBI custody seems a relevant question right now. As does whether Hillary retains her security clearances. Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) has pointedly asked if Clinton’s clearances remain active, and this is an important matter. In any normal investigation of potential security leaks, those under investigation have all clearances suspended at once, for as long as the case is open, to prevent further leaks. If Hillary still has active clearances at this point, that’s more proof that there are two sets of laws in this country: one for average citizens and one for our elites, especially Clintons.