Recently released FBI notes pertaining to the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server reveal that Fox News’ interview and subsequent hyping of claims made by imprisoned Romanian hacker Marcel Lehel Lazar were all based on a lie. The FBI report states that “analysis” showed no “evidence that Lazar hacked the server,” and also notes that Lazar “admitted to lying to FOX News.” Fox’s willingness to report an imprisoned hacker’s claims as fact doesn’t represent the first time the network has been burned by sources in an attempt to scandalize Clinton’s use of a private email server.
FBI Report: Hacker “Admitted He Lied To FOX News,” And Analysis Of Clinton’s Server “Did Not Identify Evidence That Lazar Had Hacked The Server”
FBI: Hacker Marcel Lehel Lazar, Known As “Guccifer,” “Admitted He Lied To FOX News About Hacking The Clinton Server.” According to documents released by the FBI in relation to its investigation of Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while she was secretary of state, “FBI forensic analysis of the Clinton server during the timeframe Lazar claimed to have compromised the server did not identify evidence that Lazar hacked the server.” Additionally, the documents reveal that during questioning by the FBI, Lazar “admitted he lied to FOX News about hacking the Clinton server.” From the FBI documents:
Fox News Had Run With Hacker’s Claim Despite Lack Of Evidence
Fox’s Catherine Herridge: Lazar “Claimed He Easily -- And Repeatedly -- Breached Former Secretary Of State Hillary Clinton’s Personal Email Server.” Fox News’ chief intelligence correspondent, Catherine Herridge, reported in an “exclusive” FoxNews.com article that she had interviewed Lazar, who “claimed he was able to access the server -- and provided extensive details about how he did it and what he found.” Herridge acknowledged that “Lazar's claims cannot be independently verified,” but she claimed that the server “may have an electronic record that would confirm or disprove Guccifer’s claims.” From Fox’s May 4 report:
EXCLUSIVE: The infamous Romanian hacker known as “Guccifer,” speaking exclusively with Fox News, claimed he easily – and repeatedly – breached former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s personal email server in early 2013.
“For me, it was easy ... easy for me, for everybody,” Marcel Lehel Lazar, who goes by the moniker “Guccifer,” told Fox News from a Virginia jail where he is being held.
Guccifer’s potential role in the Clinton email investigation was first reported by Fox News last month. The hacker subsequently claimed he was able to access the server – and provided extensive details about how he did it and what he found – over the course of a half-hour jailhouse interview and a series of recorded phone calls with Fox News.
While Lazar's claims cannot be independently verified, three computer security specialists, including two former senior intelligence officials, said the process described is plausible and the Clinton server, now in FBI custody, may have an electronic record that would confirm or disprove Guccifer’s claims. [FoxNews.com, 5/4/16]
Fox & Friends Hosts: “Well, He Said It Was Really Easy, So If He Said It Was Easy, Maybe A Whole Bunch Of Other People Did Too.” While pushing Lazar’s claims, Fox & Friends co-host Ainsley Earhardt said that “if there is truth to” what Lazar said and Clinton’s server was “hacked by a third party,” that “could mean [Clinton] is indicted.” Co-host Steve Doocy added that the hacker “said it was really easy, so if he said it was easy, maybe a whole bunch of other people did too.” From the May 5 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends:
STEVE DOOCY (CO-HOST): Regarding her last point, apparently he was interviewed by NBC before he was extradited from Romania, which would have been, I believe, seven weeks ago. And he said he easily cracked into Hillary Clinton's email server. Why did NBC sit on the story for two months during this big presidential race?
AINSLEY EARHARDT (CO-HOST): Without making it public.
DOOCY: Yeah, I wonder why. Why?
EARHARDT: The mainstream media. Well, if there is truth to this --
DOOCY: Are they trying to help somebody?
EARHARDT: If he is convicted for hacking into her email account, this does make the case that she was hacked by a third party, which could mean she is indicted as well.
DOOCY: Well, he said it was really easy, so if he said it was easy, maybe a whole bunch of other people did too. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 5/5/16]
Fox’s Eric Bolling: Clinton’s Server “Was Getting Hacked Repeatedly By Guccifer.” On the May 5 edition of The Five, co-host Eric Bolling hyped Guccifer’s baseless claims, saying that Clinton’s server “was getting hacked repeatedly by Guccifer.” [Fox News, The Five, 5/5/16]
Fox’s Kimberly Guilfoyle: Lazar’s Claims Are “Significant … This Is Evidence That” Clinton’s Server “Was Breached.” Fox host Kimberly Guilfoyle claimed that the Lazar’s claims were “significant” and were “evidence that” Clinton’s server “was breached.” From the May 5 edition of Fox News’ The Five:
KIMBERLY GUILFOYLE (CO-HOST): I think this is significant, it really establishes a prima facie case against her. So, this is the type of information that exactly the Justice Department, the FBI should be looking at. It really establishes -- you don’t have to prove that she had the specific intent or to willfully violate or be reckless with it, you’re just not supposed to do what she did. This is evidence that it was breached. And as we sit here right now, do we really know exactly what information that he was able to get access to? Who knows. And this is all during that time, as well, during Benghazi, during Chris Stevens, when you’re privy to all of that confidential communication, access, location, timetables, scheduling, anything in terms of travel and what different diplomats around the world are doing and where they’re stationed, their movements. [Fox News, The Five, 5/5/16]
Hacker’s Bogus Claims Are Not The First Time Fox Has Been Burned By Sources In An Attempt To Scandalize Clinton Emails
Herridge Used Anonymous Source In Report That 150 FBI Agents Were Assigned To Clinton's Email Server Investigation
Fox Reports “About 100 Special Agents” And 50 Additional Temporary Agents Assigned To Clinton's Email Server Investigation. Fox News chief intelligence correspondent Catherine Herridge and senior executive producer Pamela K. Browne reported that an anonymous source told them that “about 100 special agents” were assigned to investigate Hillary Clinton's private email server, "with as many as 50 additional agents on 'temporary duty assignment.'” From a January 11 FoxNews.com article:
Fox News is told that about 100 special agents assigned to the investigations also were asked to sign non-disclosure agreements, with as many as 50 additional agents on “temporary duty assignment,” or TDY. The request to sign a new NDA could reflect that agents are handling the highly classified material in the emails, or serve as a reminder not to leak about the case, or both. [FoxNews.com, 1/11/16]
Washington Post And Others Later Report Similar Number. On March 27, The Washington Post cited an anonymous source to claim that 147 FBI agents were investigating Hillary Clinton's private email server. Right-wing media quickly repeated the “staggering” figure. [Media Matters, 3/31/16]
The Number Of FBI Agents Has Been Grossly Overstated
Wash. Post Issued Correction And Reported Estimate Of 147 FBI Agents Working On Clinton's Emails Was “Too High.” Following an erroneous report based on information provided by an unnamed lawmaker, The Washington Post was forced to issue a correction reporting that the number of FBI agents working on Clinton's emails, which the paper originally claimed was 147, was “fewer than 50”:
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article incorrectly said that Clinton used two different email addresses, sometimes interchangeably, as secretary of state. She used firstname.lastname@example.org as secretary of state. Also, an earlier version of this article reported that 147 FBI agents had been detailed to the investigation, according to a lawmaker briefed by FBI Director James B. Comey. Two U.S. law enforcement officials have since toldThe Washington Post that figure is too high. The FBI will not provide an exact figure, but the officials say the number of FBI personnel involved is fewer than 50. [The Washington Post, 3/27/16]
NBC News: “About 12 FBI Agents Working On Clinton Email Inquiry.” NBC reported on March 30 that the number of agents working on the email inquiry was closer to 12. NBC's source called the earlier figures “ridiculous” and said, “You need an act of terrorism to get 50 agents working on something”:
Sources close to the FBI investigation of Hillary Clinton's email are knocking down suggestions that 147 federal agents are working on the case, a figure first reported -- and now revised -- by the Washington Post, citing a lawmaker.
The Post updated the figure on Tuesday, stating that while the “FBI will not provide an exact figure,” there are “fewer than 50” FBI personnel involved in the case.
But a former federal law enforcement official with direct knowledge of the Clinton investigation tells MSNBC an estimate anywhere near 50 agents is also off base.
“There are currently about 12 FBI agents working full-time on the case,” says the source, who would only speak anonymously about an open investigation. [NBCNews.com, 3/30/16]
Herridge Used Anonymous Source To Falsely Claim Clinton Emails Were Unequivocally Classified
Herridge Cited “A Source Close To The Email Investigation” To Make False Claim That Clinton Received Classified Email. On August 26, 2015, Herridge penned a piece headlined “State Dept.-released Clinton email had classified intel from 3 agencies, in possible violation,” which quoted an unnamed source who argued that it was “not negotiable” that the emails were classified when they were sent:
Fox News is told that in late spring, all three agencies confirmed to the intelligence community inspector general that the intelligence was classified when it was sent four years ago by [Huma] Abedin to Clinton's private account, and remains classified to this day.
The State Department spokesman also said last Wednesday they are seeking a second opinion on the classification of some emails from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, who leads the intelligence community.
“I made clear that we've asked the Director of National Intelligence for another assessment of those two, the two that the ICIG had determined should have been classified - or at least portions of which should have been classified top secret. So we've asked the DNI to look at that and we'll see what happens,” spokesman John Kirby said.
But a source close to the email investigation emphasized there is no such appeals process, and the finding that the intelligence was classified by the agencies who owned it is “not negotiable.” [FoxNews.com, 8/26/15]
Emails Were Retroactively Classified After Clinton Received Them And Are Product Of Interagency Dispute
AP: 1,274 Of Clinton's Emails Have Been Retroactively Classified. On January 1, the Associated Press reported that the State Department said 1,274 of Clinton's emails had been classified after the fact. [Associated Press, 1/1/16]
Wash. Post: “Different Government Agencies Often May Disagree About The Level Of Classification.” In a February 4 article, The Washington Post’s Fact Checker explained that agencies in the government often dispute and fight about the level of classification for intelligence:
Different government agencies often may disagree about the level of classification. One good example are the memoirs of former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice and former vice president Richard B. Cheney. Both discussed a policy debate over North Korea. Cheney mentioned traces of enriched uranium on materials obtained from North Korea -- which had been reported years earlier in The Washington Post -- after receiving clearance to do so from the CIA. But to her frustration, Rice was not able to mention the uranium, though she wanted to, because the State Department refused to give her clearance -- even though the information was already in the public domain. [The Washington Post, 2/4/16]
Politico: State Department Appealed To Director Of National Intelligence In Interagency Dispute Over Classification. Politico reported on November 6 that at the request of the State Department, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence reportedly overruled the inspector general of the intelligence community's prior conclusion that two emails received by Clinton contained highly classified information. Politico also pointed out that “there is an interagency committee to hear appeals on declassification issues, the Interagency Security Classification Appeals Panel.” [Politico, 11/6/15]
Herridge Used Anonymous Sources To Claim Email Markings Had Been Changed To Hide Classified Information
Herridge Relied On Two Anonymous Sources To Push Claim That “Clinton Email Markings Changed To Hide Classified Info.” On September 1, 2015, Herridge reported that two sources, “one congressional, the other intelligence,” claimed that the markings on at least four Clinton emails were changed to “hide the true extent of classified information”:
At least four classified Hillary Clinton emails had their markings changed to a category that shields the content from Congress and the public, Fox News has learned, in what State Department whistleblowers believed to be an effort to hide the true extent of classified information on the former secretary of state's server. The changes, which came to light after the first tranche of 296 Benghazi emails was released in May, was confirmed by two sources -- one congressional, the other intelligence. [FoxNews.com, 9/1/15]
State Department Previously Said There Was No Indication Clinton Or Staff Changed Markings
State Department Spokesperson: “No Indications” There “Was At All Any Stripping Of Classification Markings.” In an August 13, 2015, U.S. Department of State daily press briefing, in response to a similar anonymous allegation, department spokesperson James Kirby said he had “no indications” there “was at all any stripping of classification markings on these [documents]”:
QUESTION: John, thank you. I have two quick questions on Secretary Clinton's server. Has the State Department been able to determine whether each of the four classified emails sent to Secretary Clinton's server originated within the State Department or whether they originated within another agency?
MR KIRBY: I don't have any updates for you in terms of original sourcing on those emails.
QUESTION: And secondly, has the State Department been able to determine whether any classification markings may have been stripped from any of those documents from anyone within the State Department?
MR KIRBY: We have no indications that there were any - that there was at all any stripping of classification markings on these. [U.S. Department of State, 8/13/15]