More Myths And Facts On “Top Secret” Materials In Hillary Clinton's Email

Media continue to use the news that two emails Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton turned over to the State Department from her time as secretary of state may be retroactively classified as “top secret” to push myths about Clinton's handling of government information and scandalize her email use.

FACT: There Are “No Indications” That Emails Have Been Stripped Of Classifications

FACT: Officials Say Emails Include Discussion Of News Article And “Nothing In The Message Is 'Lifted' From Classified Documents”

FACT: Clinton Voluntarily Turned Over Her Email Server

For additional myths and facts about the allegedly “top secret” materials in Clinton's email server, click here

Intelligence Community IG Says Two Emails From Clinton's Server Should Be Marked “Top Secret”

Intelligence Community Inspector General Says Two Emails From Clinton's Server Contain “Top Secret” Information. The inspector general for the Intelligence Community (ICIG), I. Charles McCullough, reportedly informed leaders of key congressional oversight committees that two classified emails previously discovered on Hillary Clinton's server contain “top secret” information. As McClatchy reported:

The inspector general for the Intelligence Community notified senior members of Congress that two of four classified emails discovered on the server Clinton maintained at her New York home contained material deemed to be in one of the highest security classifications - more sensitive than previously known.

The notice came as the State Department inspector general's office acknowledged that it is reviewing the use of “personal communications hardware and software” by Clinton's former top aides after requests from Congress. [McClatchy DC, 8/11/15]

ICIG Says Information In Emails Derived From Communications Intercepts And Satellite Imagery. In his letter to congressional leaders, McCullough wrote that the emails in question “include information classified up to ”TOP SECRET // SI/TK/ /NOFORN." “SI” indicates information derived from communications intercepts, while “TK” indicates information derived from satellite imagery. [McCullough letter,8/11/15] [Intelligence Community Classification and Control Markings Implementation Manual, 5/31/11]

State Department: It Remains Unclear Whether Material In Two Emails Should Be Retroactively Classified. NBC noted that the State Department is still working with the Intelligence Community to determine whether the information in the two emails should in fact be labeled as classified:

Clinton aides have maintained that nothing on her server was classified at the time she saw it, suggesting that classified messages were given the label after the fact.

John Kirby, a spokesman for the State Department, said that was the case with two emails, adding that it remained unclear “whether, in fact, this material is actually classified.”

“Department employees circulated these emails on unclassified systems in 2009 and 2011, and ultimately some were forwarded to Secretary Clinton,” Kirby said Tuesday. “They were not marked as classified.” [NBC News, 8/12/15]

MYTH: Clinton Aides Illegally “Stripped” Emails Of Classified Markings

Fox News Wildly Pushed Anonymous Source's Claim That Clinton Aides Illegally “Stripped” Classified Markings From Emails. Fox News spent much of August 13 running with speculation from an anonymous State Department official that aides to Hillary Clinton had “stripped” the classification markings from emails that she received in her private email server, going so far as to state the claim as fact and speculate that Clinton aides Huma Abedin and Cheryl Mills may have done the alleged deed. [Media Matters8/14/15]

FACT: There Are “No Indications” That Emails Have Been Stripped Of Classifications

State Department Spokesperson: “No Indications” That Classification Markings Were “Stripped” From Emails. State Department spokesman Adm. John Kirby said during his August 13 briefing that the State Department has “no indications” that classification markings were stripped from the emails (emphasis added): 

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]

MYTH: Clinton Should Have Known Emails Were Classified Because They "Contained Satellite Imagery And Signal Intelligence"

Fox Repeatedly Suggested That Clinton Should Have Known Emails Were Classified Regardless Of Whether They Were Marked. Fox News hosts and contributors repeatedly suggested that even if the emails she received were not marked as classified, Clinton should have known they were because they contained original communications intercepts and satellite images. On August 13, Fox senior judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano claimed “the new information is that the top secret email was satellite views of a foreign country” and Fox correspondent Peter Doocy alleged the emails “contained satellite imagery and signal intelligence.” [Media Matters8/14/15

FACT: Officials Say Emails Include Discussion Of News Article And “Nothing In The Message Is 'Lifted' From Classified Documents”

Associated Press Sources: Emails Don't Include Any “Form Of Sensitive Sourcing.” The Associated Press reported that their sources indicate that “nothing in the emails [Clinton] received makes clear reference to communications intercepts, confidential intelligence methods or any other form of sensitive sourcing.” The AP also reported that their sources disagreed about whether the emails contained classified information. From the AP (emphasis added):

The officials who spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity work in intelligence and other agencies. They wouldn't detail the contents of the emails because of ongoing questions about classification level. Clinton did not transmit the sensitive information herself, they said, and nothing in the emails she received makes clear reference to communications intercepts, confidential intelligence methods or any other form of sensitive sourcing.

The drone exchange, the officials said, begins with a copy of a news article that discusses the CIA drone program that targets terrorists in Pakistan and elsewhere. While a secret program, it is well-known and often reported on. The copy makes reference to classified information, and a Clinton adviser follows up by dancing around a top secret in a way that could possibly be inferred as confirmation, they said. Several officials, however, described this claim as tenuous. 

But a second email reviewed by Charles McCullough, the intelligence community inspector general, appears more suspect. Nothing in the message is “lifted” from classified documents, the officials said, though they differed on where the information in it was sourced. Some said it improperly points back to highly classified material, while others countered that it was a classic case of what the government calls “parallel reporting” - different people knowing the same thing through different means. [Associated Press, 8/14/15]

MYTH: The FBI “Seized” Clinton's Private Email Server

Fox's Kelly File: “FBI Seizes Private Clinton Email Server.” In a August 13 report on Fox's The Kelly File, substitute host Shannon Bream opened a segment by stating, “Breaking tonight, new questions after the FBI seizes the private email server that Hillary Clinton used as secretary of state, investigators taking possession of the server from a New Jersey data center.”

[Fox News, The Kelly File, 8/13/15, via Nexis]

FACT: Clinton Voluntarily Turned Over Email Server 

ABC News: “The Server Was Handed Over Voluntarily.” On August 12, Hillary Clinton's team arranged for the technology company Platte River Networks, which managed her email system previously, to give her private email server to the FBI. ABC News reported that the server “was handed over voluntarily” and was transferred “with no subpoena.” From the article:

Barbara Wells, a lawyer for Platte River Networks, the technology company that has managed Clinton's email server since 2013, said the company turned the server over to the FBI Wednesday afternoon at a New Jersey facility.

She said the server was handed over voluntarily, under an agreement between Platte River and Clinton's presidential campaign, with no subpoena. [ABC News, 8/13/15]