The office of the Director of National Intelligence James Clapper has reportedly concluded that two emails received by then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton did not contain top secret information, a reversal from the Intelligence Community inspector general's prior claim that they did, according to a Politico report. Media had previously used the notion that the two emails were highly classified to suggest that Clinton or her aides had engaged in criminal behavior.
In July, the New York Times published an article -- which it subsequently had to correct twice -- about a security referral the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community (IG IC) made to the executive branch about whether there was any classified material on Clinton's email account during her time as secretary of state. The IG IC highlighted four allegedly classified emails and subsequently stated that two of those four emails contained “top secret” information. The State Department disagreed about whether the material in the emails was actually highly classified. As Politico is now reporting, “that disagreement has been resolved in State's favor” and the previous claim that the emails contained top secret information is wrong.
Despite the original disagreement between the two federal agencies, Fox News initially responded by 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, and claiming that even if the emails hadn't been marked classified, Clinton should have known they contained highly classified information.
But Politico reported on November 6 that the office of the Director of National Intelligence has now overruled the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community's prior conclusion that two emails received by Clinton contained highly classified information. As Steven Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists explained to Politico, this “mistake” is nothing short than “astonishing” because "[i]t was a transformative event in the presidential campaign to this point. It had a potential to derail Clinton's presidential candidacy." From the article:
The U.S. intelligence community has retreated from claims that two emails in Hillary Clinton's private account contained top secret information, a source familiar with the situation told POLITICO.
The determination came from Director of National Intelligence James Clapper's office and concluded that the two emails did not include highly classified intelligence secrets. Concerns about the emails' classification helped trigger an on-going FBI inquiry into Clinton's private email set-up.
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 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.
Intelligence officials claimed one email in Clinton's account was classified because it contained information from a top secret intelligence community “product” or report, but a further review determined that the report was not issued until several days after the email in question was written, the source said.
“The initial determination was based on a flawed process,” the source said. “There was an intelligence product people thought [one of the emails] was based on, but that actually postdated the email in question.”
A top expert in classification procedures called the development “an astonishing turn of events.”
“It's not just a mistake,” said Steven Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists. “It was a transformative event in the presidential campaign to this point. It had a potential to derail Clinton's presidential candidacy.”
Aftergood said Clapper's office should be credited for seriously reconsidering the earlier conclusions by intelligence agencies.