After ten months of reviewing former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s 52,000 pages of emails, the State Department finally released the last batch of emails the day before Super Tuesday primary day, Feb. 29, 2016. The State Department released almost 3,900 pages of emails on Monday, of which 261 were retroactively marked classified.
State Department spokesman John Kirby announced to the press on Monday, “There are no upgrades to ‘Top Secret’ in tonight’s production.” With the new release the classified list moved up to past 2,000 emails, with 2,079 emails in total marked classified at differing levels, the majority are at the lowest level confidential. The last batch added 23 emails marked classified as “secret,” a higher level of classified, there are a total of 65 “secret” messages. Additionally, 238 emails were added as “confidential” the lowest level of classified, there are a total of 2,028 “confidential” emails.
In January, the State Department retroactively classified 22 of Clinton’s emails as “top-secret,” the “highest level” of classified. The Department insisted they had not initially classified as such when the emails were originally sent and received. Clinton also sent “highly classified information” known as “special access programs” (SAP)” through her private email server. SAP means the information Clinton sent was “derived from sensitive intelligence sources.”
Two emails the State Department entirely withheld from being released include an “email conversation” between Clinton and President Barack Obama. The White House requested that all exchanges with the president be withheld according to the rules for presidential records, and 18 emails from the same conversation were already held back.
There were two emails that the Intelligence Community Inspector, General I. Charles McCullough III pressed to be marked top secret, but the State Department chose instead to just mark them as “secret.” One of the emails is dated July 3, 2009, and relates to North Korea ballistic missile tests. It had the subject line “Summary of the 1055 EDT DPRK Conference Call.”
The State Department heavily redacted the North Korea email for its release. The email was sent by Shelby Smith-Wilson a “senior watch officer in the department’s operations center” to “Clinton’s executive staff.” The email was part of a chain of five replies going to Clinton Chief of Staff Cheryl Mills, then to Clinton Deputy Chief of Staff Jake Sullivan in his personal and professional email accounts. The email then went to Clinton loyal and longtime aide and Deputy Chief of Staff Huma Abedin, who forwarded the email to Clinton.
The North Korea email and three others were the emails that led to questions about Clinton’s emails classification. They also prompted the FBI to begin their investigation into whether Clinton mishandled classified information and risked national security and investigation that is still ongoing.
Kirby explained about the emails new classification, “The State Department has been actively engaged in discussion with the intelligence community about this document since last year. Based on subsequent review, the intelligence community revised its earlier assessment and asked the State Department to upgrade a limited amount of information in this document to the ‘Secret’ level, not the ‘Top Secret’ level. The original assessment was not correct and the document does not contain ‘Top Secret’ information.” Kirby concluded, “The information available to diplomats and the judgments they form do not necessarily need to be classified just because there are parallel intelligence sources,”
As with other email releases, the emails released discussed routine tasks, and scheduling. Others went beyond State Department business; in 2009, Clinton followed and became marginally involved in the healthcare reform debate in Congress. Some other emails include “sensitive foreign policy gaffes,” showing Clinton losing her temper with her staff. As with other email releases there are a handful from former Clinton aide Sidney Blumenthal. In general, Clinton received more emails than she sent and most of her responses were short.
One email might indicate Clinton knew some emails sent to her could be classified information. Sullivan forwarded the email dated April 25, 2012, to Clinton about “a blog from a jihad media group” Clinton replied and also sent the email to her spokesman Philippe Reines. Clinton said, “If not classified or otherwise inappropriate, can you send to the NYTimes reporters who interviewed me today? Copying Philippe.”
Secretary of State John Kerry also has a problem, as Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations committee he sent three emails with memos, “reports on diplomacy in Pakistan” to her private server. The emails included classified information, and the memos have been redacted. One email dated May 15, 2011, regarding Gen/ Ahmad Pasha and Ashfaq Kayani was deemed, “Secret/NoForn,” not for foreign governments, meaning classified information. The email that remains says, “During a long dinner with Generals Kiyani and Pasha to discuss the major issues between our two countries and in the region, I specifically sought their views.”
Clinton’s emails and the use of a personal email server have caused legal woes for Clinton and the State Department. The FBI is currently investigating whether Clinton risked and endangered national security by using it. There are also 50 Freedom of Information Act lawsuits going through the federal court system.
The Republican National Committee (RNC) Chairman Reince Priebus issued a statement criticizing the number of emails marked classified and said Clinton should not be allowed to run for president for risking national security. Priebus said, “On more than 2,000 occasions, Hillary Clinton recklessly jeopardized our national security and sensitive diplomatic efforts by using a secret, unsecure email server to send and receive classified material, including ‘top secret’ intelligence. This was information so sensitive, its exposure potentially put lives at risk. Clinton’s unprecedented email arrangement was a clear attempt to skirt government transparency laws and place her political interests ahead of those of the American people.”
Federal Judge Rudolph Contreras of the U.S. District for the District of Columbia ordered the State Department on Thursday, Feb. 11, 2016, to release Clinton’s emails in four batches until the end of the month. According to the order, they are supposed to release email batches of the remaining 3,700 emails or 7,000 pages on Feb. 13, Feb. 19, Feb. 26 and Feb. 29. Judge Contreras wrote in his decision, “The Court expects that Defendant will endeavor to avoid any additional delay.”
Each of the release dates, Feb. 19, 26, and 29 comes before a nominating contest for the presidential election. On Feb. 20, there were the Nevada caucuses. On Feb. 27, there was the South Carolina primary. The last email batch was just a day before Super Tuesday when a dozen primaries were held.
Since the end of May 2015, the State Department has been required because of a court order to release each month a batch of Clinton’s 30,000 emails with the original end date of Jan. 29. The order was a result of Vice News reporter Jason Leopold Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the State Department aimed at compelling them to release all of Clinton’s emails.