Major national print outlets, and most Sunday morning political talk shows, ignored a Politico report indicating that the U.S. intelligence community was “retreat[ing] from claims” that two key emails received by then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton contained highly classified information.
Intelligence Community Reportedly “Retreats” From Claim That Clinton Had Highly Classified Information In Emails
Politico: Allegedly Suspect Clinton Emails Did Not Contain “Highly Classified” Material. After months of speculation, an anonymous source told Politico that the intelligence community was backtracking from claims that two emails on Hillary Clinton's private server contained “highly classified secrets.” These emails were part of four flagged by the Intelligence Community's inspector general, which set off “critical events in the email saga,” including a referral to the FBI of “a potential counterintelligence breach.” But the source told Politico that “the initial determination was based on a flawed process” :
After a review, intelligence agencies concluded that the two emails did not include highly classified intelligence secrets, the source said. Concerns about the emails' classification helped trigger an ongoing FBI inquiry into Clinton's private email setup.
Intelligence Community Inspector General I. Charles McCullough III made the claim that two of the emails contained top-secret information; the State Department publicly stated its disagreement and asked Director of National Intelligence James Clapper's office to referee the dispute. Now, that disagreement has been resolved in State's favor, said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
A spokesman for Clapper said the review of the emails has not been completed. “ODNI has made no such determination and the review is ongoing,” Clapper spokesman Brian Hale said.
However, the source said State Department officials had already received instructions from intelligence officials that they need not use the strictest standards for handling the two emails in dispute - meaning that they aren't highly classified.
Various officials have confirmed that none of the Clinton emails was marked classified, although hundreds have now been deemed as such by State, nearly all at the Confidential level -- the lowest tier of classification.
McCullough's August memo said Congress would be provided “updates” on the situation. However, it's unclear whether any written notification of the withdrawal of the “Top Secret” classification has been shared with lawmakers. A spokeswoman had no immediate comment for this story.
State or other agencies may eventually determine that the emails in question contain classified information, but the recent action cleared State to handle the two emails in State's standard FOIA system, which is authorized only for information classified up to the “Secret” level -- the middle of the three main tiers of national security information.
While disclosures of information classified at the “Secret” level can trigger an investigation, Aftergood said the conclusion that the two emails were not “Top Secret” could have some impact on how the FBI proceeds.
“That would tend to reduce the urgency of the initial referral,” he said. [Politico, 11/6/15]
Major Print Outlets Ignore The Report
National Print Outlets Silent On Politico Report. The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, and The New York Times have not mentioned the Politico report in the two days following its publication.
NBC And CBS Political Talk Shows Highlight Report
CBS's Dickerson Asked Guest For His Reaction To The Report On Face The Nation. On the November 8 edition of CBS's Face The Nation, host John Dickerson asked former deputy director of the CIA Michael Morell if he was surprised by the claim in the report that the two emails to Clinton were not highly classified. Morell responded he wasn't surprised because people who review classifications “have a bias toward saying something is classified,” and stated that both while he worked at the CIA and after he had left, he had disagreements over whether material was classified. From Face the Nation:
JOHN DICKERSON (HOST): The last 30 seconds we have there was report that -- Politico reported Friday that Hillary Clinton's emails were not actually classified material. If it's possible, taking the politics out of it, does that surprise you, that judgement?
MICHAEL MORELL: John, it does not. The working level people in the intelligence community whose job it is to look at a piece of paper and decide whether that's classified or not are really good people, they are really working hard, but they have a bias toward saying something is classified. Why? Because they only get in trouble when they look at something that is classified and say it's not. So they have a bias in favor of saying it's classified. I have personal experience with this on both sides. So when I was deputy director of CIA I often was an adjudicator, looking at a judgment somebody made and saying, no, that's not classified. And then when I wrote my book I was on the other side and I had senior people saying, that's not classified. [CBS, Face the Nation, 11/8/15]
On NBC's Meet The Press, Panelist Gwen Ifill Points Out “Nobody Covered” Politico Report. On the November 8 edition of NBC's Meet The Press, PBS host Gwen Ifill invoked the Politico story to rebut conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt's claim that a double standard exists in the tone of media coverage between Republican and Democratic presidential candidates:
CHUCK TODD (HOST): Gwen, you've been on the trail a long time over the years. Personal stories...
GWEN IFILL: Thanks.
TODD: No, no, no, I don't mean. You know, and I guess it, to me the danger for Dr. Carson is the fact that his candidacy is built on biography and built on honesty.
IFILL: It is built on saying this is who I am, these are my bootstraps and we all admire that. The interesting thing about people, are the outsiders we talk about so much, is that they all seem surprised what it takes to run for president. And what it takes to run for president is scrutiny. When Dr. Carson says there has never been scrutiny like there has been directed at him, that is just not so. I think -- I mean, we were all there when Bill Clinton went through the whole thing with killing Vince Foster, with the airstrip in Mena, Arkansas, still we're talking about Barack Obama's birth certificate years after he was president. There's always this scrutiny and each and every one of those times those folks hated it. They complained. They felt like victims and of course this is the way Dr. Carson, who has great self-regard, as he deserves to because he accomplished -
HEWITT: His objection is the double standard. This week there is the NDA story in the Free Beacon, there is the story of Teneo refusing to answer. Mrs. Clinton is not being covered in the same way Ben Carson is.
IFILL: And Mrs. Clinton would say, you know what, there was also a report saying that those two emails that were supposed to be classified, were not classified and nobody covered that. [NBC, Meet the Press, 11/8/15]
Fox, CNN, ABC Sunday Political Shows Did Not Mention Politico Report
Sunday News Shows Ignored Report In Broadcasts. ABC's This Week, Fox Broadcasting Co's Fox News Sunday, Fox News' Media Buzz, and CNN's State of the Union and Reliable Sources, failed to mention the Politico report and any reaction to it.