The Obama administration confirmed for the first time Friday that the unsecured, private email server used by Hillary Clinton in her time as secretary of State hosted “top secret” information. The State Department will release a new batch of Clinton’s emails later Friday, in compliance with an FOIA request. However, the department will withhold seven email chains, constituting 22 emails, which the agency now believes to include highly classified information.
Clinton has insisted that she never sent or received classified information over her private email account — at least not information that was classified at the time. The State Department has yet to disclose whether it is retroactively classifying information in the 22 withheld emails, or whether that information was already designated “top secret” when sent, contradicting Clinton’s claims. However, the agency’s Diplomatic Security and Intelligence and Research bureaus indicated to the Associated Press that they are “looking into that question.”
Brian Fallon, the Clinton campaign’s press secretary, called the State Department’s decision to withhold the emails an “overclassification run amok,” and then elaborated on that comment in an official statement. “We firmly oppose the complete blocking of the release of these emails,” he said. “Since first providing her emails to the State Department more than one year ago, Hillary Clinton has urged that they be made available to the public. We feel no differently today.”
One intelligence official told the AP that some of the withheld emails contain so-called “special access programs,” which the news service describes as “classified material that could point to confidential sources or clandestine programs like drone strikes or government eavesdropping.” The FBI is also looking into any irregularities in Clinton’s email setup, although little is known about the nature of that investigation. Independent experts have suggested that actual charges against Clinton are highly unlikely, as publicly available evidence has to indicate that she broke any laws.
But an action doesn’t have to be illegal for it to be hazardous to national security — or to a candidate’s political standing three days before the Iowa caucuses. The questions surrounding Clinton’s private server haven’t taken up much oxygen in the Democratic primary race, save for inspiring a popular meme. Possibly because the details are technical and opaque, Democratic voters have, to this point, been entirely uninterested in another alleged Clinton scandal.