Fox News repeatedly hyped the debunked claim made by Republicans on the House Select Committee on Benghazi that Hillary Clinton sent “classified information” endangering national security by including the name of a CIA source in an email sent from her private server. The claim was debunked by the CIA -- who said the email did not contain classified information - but then Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), who chairs the select committee, accidentally revealed the source's name himself in material he released publicly.
Rep. Trey Gowdy Claimed Clinton Sent Email Containing “Classified Information” On Intelligence Source In Libya
Trey Gowdy Letter: Clinton Sent Email Containing “Some Of The Most Protected Information In Our Intelligence Community” Concerning A “Human Source” In Libya. Gowdy sent an October 7 letter to Benghazi Select Committee Ranking Member Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) that claimed Clinton “apparently received classified information” in an email from confidant Sidney Blumenthal. Gowdy wrote that Clinton then forwarded the email to a State Department employee, “debunking her claim that she never sent any classified information from her private email address.” Gowdy claimed that Clinton's action “could jeopardize not only national security but also human lives.” [House of Representatives Select Committee on Benghazi, 10/7/15]
Cummings Debunked Gowdy Claims: CIA Told The Select Committee That The Information Was Not Classified
Cummings Letter On Gowdy's Accusation: “You Failed To Check Your Facts Before You Made It, And The CIA Has Now Informed The Select Committee That You Were Wrong.” In an October 18 letter to Gowdy, Cummings wrote that Gowdy's claim was wrong and the CIA had informed the committee that the information in Blumenthal's email was not classified:
On October 7, 2015, you sent me a 13-page letter making a grave new accusation against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Specifically, you accused her of compromising national security and endangering lives.
The problem with your accusation--as with so many others during this investigation--is that you failed to check your facts before you made it, and the CIA has now informed the Select Committee that you were wrong. I believe your accusations were irresponsible, and I believe you owe the Secretary an immediate apology.
To further inflate your claim, you placed your own redactions over the name of the individual with the words, “redacted due to sources and methods.” To be clear, these redactions were not made, and these words were not added, by any agency of the federal government responsible for enforcing classification guidelines.
Predictably, commentators began repeating your accusations in even more extreme terms, suggesting in headlines for example that “Clinton Burns CIA Libya Contact.”
Contrary to your claims, the CIA yesterday informed both the Republican and Democratic staffs of the Select Committee that they do not consider the information you highlighted in your letter to be classified. Specifically, the CIA confirmed that “the State Department consulted with the CIA on this production, the CIA reviewed these documents, and the CIA made no redactions to protect classified information.”
Unfortunately, you sent your letter on October 7 without checking first with the CIA. Now that we have done so, we have learned that your accusations were incorrect. [Select Committee on Benghazi, 10/18/15]
Fox Repeatedly Pushed Gowdy's Claim Even After CIA Debunked It
Fox's Judge Napolitano Falsely Claimed Clinton Sent Aid “Classified Material” Containing “Undercover CIA Agent” Name. On the October 19 edition of Fox News' The Kelly File, senior judicial analyst Judge Napolitano hyped the myth that Clinton sent “classified material” from her private email account. He also botched several key facts of Gowdy's allegation, falsely claiming that Clinton sent the CIA source's name to Blumenthal and falsely claiming that the individual in question was “an undercover CIA agent working overseas” rather than a Libyan intelligence source:
JUDGE NAPOLITANO: I don't think she'll be laughing on Thursday because they have some very serious questioners and some very serious questions. Just this weekend it developed that she received an e-mail on her non-secure personal server which identified the name of an undercover CIA agent working overseas. Instead of deleting it as she should and as she's been instructed to when something like that mistakenly comes to her, she sent it to her friend Sid Blumenthal, to his non-secure server.
MEGYN KELLY: Who she wasn't even supposed to be working with.
NAPOLITANO: Precisely. She wasn't supposed to be working with him, she certainly wasn't supposed to be sending classified material to him because he lacked the classified security clearance she had. [Fox News,The Kelly File, 10/19/15]
Napolitano Falsely Alleged Clinton Sent Email Containing “The Actual Name Of A CIA Undercover Agent, Which Is Per Se Top Secret.” On the October 20 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, Napolitano repeated falsehoods based on Gowdy's letter, including the false claim Clinton sent an email containing “the actual name of a CIA undercover agent which is, per se top secret” and the false claim that Clinton sent the source's name to Blumenthal:
JUDGE NAPOLITANO: Remember General Petreaus kept the hard copy, the printed copy of his calendar and the supporting documents that he had to look at for each day in a loose-leaf, in an unlocked desk drawer in his guarded home, convicted of failure to care for secure information. Mrs. Clinton now has sent or received over 400 emails through her private server, the most recent revelation of which is the actual name of a CIA undercover agent, which is per se top secret.
STEVE DOOCY: There were over 400 top secret documents that she said didn't exist before?
NAPOLITANO: Over 400 classified, top secret is the highest category. But this most recent one is what the government goes to great lengths to protect, because it's a human being operating undercover. She received that, she shouldn't have, she stored it on her server. She should have deleted it, she sent it to her friend Sid Blumenthal who worked for the Clinton Foundation and it was on his server, we don't know what happened to it there. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 10/20/15]
Fox's The Five Host: Email Is “Clearly” Classified. On the October 19 edition of Fox News' The Five, Eric Bolling claimed the Libyan source, which is “clearly” classified, was “outed by name.”
ERIC BOLLING: But let's not forget Benghazi begat email servers, email servers begat Hillary's response to email servers, email servers also begat the fact that ultra-classified, top secret classifications were sent through her email server. And the other one, a Libyan source, was outed by name through an email, now named on an email. If those aren't classified - [they] clearly are. She's lying about it. So she can laugh it off all she wants. [Rep.] Kevin McCarthy , [and] the other bozo from New York, [Rep. Richard] Hanna who decided to jump on this Kevin McCarthy bandwagon, they can do that all they want. I don't blame Trey Gowdy for being really mad, like really mad. He's showing a lot of restraint because he's spent the better part of two years now investigating this stuff, finding a lot of things out. And they are kind of giving Hillary a get out of Benghazi jail for free card that she doesn't deserve. [Fox News, The Five, 10/19/15]
Despite Claims On Fox, Clinton Did Not Send The CIA Source's Name To Blumenthal
The Email Was Sent To Clinton By Blumenthal. An October 19 article by Yahoo News explained that the email containing a CIA source's name was sent to Clinton from her “close friend and adviser Sidney Blumenthal.” Clinton then forwarded the information to a colleague at the State Department. The actual occurrence of events contradicts Fox's repeated claims that she sent the email to Blumethal:
The email was sent by her close friend and adviser Sidney Blumenthal and forwarded by Clinton to an aide. It contained the “name of a human source” for the CIA in Libya and was therefore “some of the most protected information in our intelligence community, the release of which could jeopardize not only national security but human lives,” Gowdy wrote in an Oct. 7 letter. [Yahoo, 10/19/15]
Source Was Not A CIA Agent, Despite Fox Claims
Despite Repeated Claims On Fox, The Source Was Not An “Undercover CIA Agent,” But Rather, Moussa Koussa, Gaddafi's Former Intelligence Chief. Business Insider reported that the CIA source in question was Moussa Koussa, and that his identity “was not considered by the [CIA] to be secret at all” :
The CIA has told Congress that the name of an alleged secret agency source, mentioned but then partially redacted by the U.S. State Department from an email received on Hillary Clinton's private server was not considered by the agency to be secret at all.
At issue is Moussa Koussa, a one-time intelligence chief for Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, and the question of whether or not his name should have been treated as a secret in an email Clinton received four years ago from a close confidant.
Republicans, who are trying to show Clinton mishandled classified information while secretary of state, have argued that Koussa's name should not have been included in the email she got on her private server from Sidney Blumenthal.
But the CIA, weighing in after the Republicans made their accusation earlier this month, has told lawmakers that Koussa's name was not classified, according to correspondence between the spy agency and officials of the House of Representatives panel set up to investigate the Sept. 11, 2012 attacks on a U.S. diplomatic facility and nearby spy base in Benghazi, Libya. [Business Insider, 10/19/15]
Gowdy Himself “Accidentally” Made The Name Of The CIA Source Public
At Gowdy's Direction, Benghazi Committee Released Email From Blumenthal To Clinton. An October 19 article in Politico reported that Gowdy “accidentally” released the CIA source's name by releasing an email with Koussa's name, though he blamed the State Department for the “disclosure.”
House Benghazi Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy appears to have accidentally released the name of a CIA source in the midst of a back-and-forth with Democrats about how sensitive the information was and whether its presence in former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's private email account constituted a security breach.
The email posted Sunday on the panel's website included in one instance the name of “Mousa Kousa,” an alternative spelling of Moussa Koussa, a former Libyan government spy chief and foreign minister. The name appeared to have been redacted in several other instances but was included in a subject line of a forwarded email.
The redacted email was released at Gowdy's direction “so the American people could decide for themselves regarding concerns about sources and methods,” the Benghazi Committee said in a statement. By Monday morning, the committee had replaced the document online with another version in which Koussa's name does not appear. [Politico, 10/19/15]