Right-Wing Media Falsely Claim 305 Clinton Emails Contained Classified Information

Right-wing media figures jumped to the false conclusion that 305 Clinton emails contained classified information after the State Department announced that those emails were under review by intelligence agencies. In reality, it is not yet clear how many of the emails, if any, contained classified material, and such reviews are “common in large FOIA requests that involve documents from multiple agencies.”

Intelligence Agencies Flag 305 Clinton Emails For Review

Intelligence Agencies Flag 305 Clinton Emails For Review To Determine Whether They Contain Classified Material. The Washington Post reported on August 17 that the intelligence agencies reviewing Clinton's emails had identified 305 additional emails for further review, “to see whether they contain classified material that should not be released to the public.”  A State Department attorney noted "[t]hose agencies may not ultimately conclude that the e-mails contain classified information":

A State Department official told a federal judge Monday that 305 more of former secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton's e-mail messages have been flagged for further review by intelligence agencies, to see whether they contain classified material that should not be released to the public.

Clinton turned 30,000 e-mails over to the State Department in December 2014, and the department now has a team reviewing the correspondence to determine what should be released and what should be redacted under laws that allow the government to withhold public documents from release on a variety of grounds, including national security.

[...]

In the status update to the court, an attorney for the State Department indicated that the reviewers from the intelligence community have identified 305 e-mails out of a sample of 20 percent of Clinton's e-mails to send for further review by their agencies. Those agencies may not ultimately conclude that the e-mails contain classified information. [The Washington Post8/17/15]

Right-Wing Media Claim 305 Emails Contained Classified Information

Rush Limbaugh:  “We're Now Up To 305” Clinton Emails With Classified Material. On the August 18 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show, Limbaugh claimed “We're now up to 305 -- this was as of yesterday, it may even be more now -- up to 305 emails with classified material that have been found in a sample of the emails that she did not delete.”  [Premiere Radio Networks, The Rush Limbaugh Show8/18/15]

Sean Hannity: "As Many As 305" Emails Had Classified Information And That Number Is “Going Higher Every Day.”  On The August 18 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Sean Hannity Show, Hannity claimed “now we're up to as many as 305” emails that had classified information, and argued that the number “is going higher every day.”  [Premiere Radio Networks, The Sean Hannity Show8/18/15]

Fox's Ed Henry: It Appears There's “Hundreds Of Emails With Classified Information That Got Out There.”  On the August 18 edition of Fox News' Hannity, correspondent Ed Henry claimed, “what's new here, what's also facts, are that it appears that [Clinton] leaked classified information - that, you know, that these two inspectors general are saying there's hundreds of emails with classified information that got out there.”  [Fox News, Hannity8/18/15]

Fox's Brian Kilmeade: 306 Emails “Have Already Been Found To Have Classified Information.”  On the August 19 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade falsely asserted that 306 emails “have already been found to have classified information.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends8/19/15]

Emails Have Been “Flagged For Further Review,” But Intelligence Agencies May Not Conclude They Contained Classified Material

305 Of Clinton's Emails Have Been Flagged For Review, But Do Not Necessarily Contain Classified Material. As The Washington Post reported, the attorney for the State Department indicated that the intelligence community responsible for reviewing the emails Clinton turned over to the State Department has identified 305 emails for further review by their agencies, but they “may not ultimately conclude that the e-mails contain classified information” (emphasis added):

A State Department official told a federal judge Monday that 305 more of former secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton's e-mail messages have been flagged for further review by intelligence agencies, to see whether they contain classified material that should not be released to the public.

[...]

In the status update to the court, an attorney for the State Department indicated that the reviewers from the intelligence community have identified 305 e-mails out of a sample of 20 percent of Clinton's e-mails to send for further review by their agencies. Those agencies may not ultimately conclude that the e-mails contain classified information. [The Washington Post8/17/15]

State Department Spokesperson John Kirby: The Review Is “A Healthy Thing,” It “Doesn't Mean That All 300” Emails Will Contain Classified Information. Speaking to reporters, State Department spokesperson John Kirby explained that the review of Clinton's email is “a healthy thing. It's a good thing. It doesn't mean that all 300 are going to end up at some level of upgrade.”  As The Washington Post reported:

“What you're seeing here is exactly what we want to see, which is the proper care and scrutiny being applied to this,” State Department spokesman John Kirby told reporters Monday. “It's a healthy thing. It's a good thing. It doesn't mean that all 300 are going to end up at some level of upgrade. I suspect some will, and I suspect some won't.” [The Washington Post8/17/15]

Classification Review Is Common And “Says Nothing About Whether Classified Information” Was In The Emails. As Buzzfeed noted, reviewing documents for classification is “common in large FOIA requests that involve documents from multiple agencies, and there is a low bar for flagging such documents for consultation.” :

However, such referrals are common in large FOIA requests that involve documents from multiple agencies, and there is a low bar for flagging such documents for consultation.

According to Justice Department guidance, any document found in the course of a FOIA review that “originated with another agency, or another component within their agency, or which contain information that is of interest to another agency or component” is to be referred to that other agency for consultation.

The consultation only reveals that the 305 emails either originated with an intelligence agency or contain information of interest to an intelligence agency; it says nothing about whether classified information is contained in the emails. [Buzzfeed, 8/17/15]