Thursday, July 7, 2016

Why Do Hillary Clinton's Emails 'Matter' In the First Place?

Benedict Arnold-Was He Or Was He Not 'Extremely Careless'
with Sensitive Classified Information Under Gen'l Washington?
There is a lot of chatter going on about FBI Director James Comey's decision not to recommend a prosecution of presumptive Democrat presidential candidate Hillary Clinton for her 'extremely careless' handling of classified emails while Secretary of State under President Barack Obama.

Sadly, much of the chatter immediately degenerated into political barrages, most of which was not based on any personal expertise or actual experience with classified information in the federal government to begin with.

So what else is new in this social media age?

We like to deal with original documents and data resources when we dig into budget, tax and health care issues and then let you decide for yourself what you think about each issue.

The issue of the proper use and handling of classified documents is so important we thought we would devote an extra large dosage of information for you to use as you decide what to think about this whole ordeal.

Loss of classified information no matter from what level is extremely dangerous and should not just be dismissed out-of-hand as a trivial matter.

Because it is not.

Protection against espionage is as old as the American Republic to begin with. General George Washington was particularly attuned to it as portrayed in the pretty well-documented AMC series 'Turn: Washington's Spies' which you should watch if you get the chance.

General Washington did not take the loss of confidential secured classified information very kindly. He authorized the execution of those who participated in the loss of sensitive information as they were caught and discovered.

In this case, we reached out to several folks who are experts or attorneys in the world of federal classified information for some background for you to consider as you follow the fallout from the FBI decision not to prosecute Hillary Clinton.

A) First, here's a personal reflection from our experience as we went through the secret clearance process to be a congressional staffer who could gain access to secured classified information for a subcommittee of the Energy and Commerce Committee in the US House of Representatives:

Getting a secret clearance to review classified federal government information is hard. Getting 'top secret' clearance is very difficult.

Gaining access to any classified information means you have to submit a very detailed questionnaire that you have to sign under penalty of the law if you submit falsified information in any way before you get completely grilled by interviewers who not only interview you as a candidate to gain classified information but also dozens of other people who know you or might be part of your immediate or extended family.

Imagine the surprise of your siblings when one calls up to say: 'I got a call from the FBI today to talk about you. I hope you haven't done anything wrong'.

Quite honestly, during our interview, we were more than surprised to find out that the interrogator brought up a few things about the past that caused a shiver to go down our spine and wonder: 'How did they ever find out about that?'

Once secret clearance was granted, we had to go through a training session on how we were going to access the classified material in question that lasted several hours.

During this training, we were told in no uncertain terms that what we were going to see on a classified basis was 'important to our collective national security' and 'any breach of security regarding the information in question would be dealt with the most severe penalties possible under the law'.

No one came out of that briefing with any sort of ambiguity about what that meant. ANY release of information, whether deliberately or by accident, would put any one of us into severe jeopardy, legal and career-wise.

Beyond that, however, was this very clear and succinct message:
'Any and all classified information in the federal government is that way for a reason. People could die and our national security could be compromised with ANY release of classified information no matter how big or small we may have thought it was. SO DON'T DO ANYTHING STUPID TO RELEASE THE INFORMATION!'

When we went to view the material, we were asked to empty our pockets of all pencils, pens, papers, wallets and anything else that could be used to take notes and then walk out with them.

About the only things we were allowed to take into the secure room were the clothes we were wearing that day to work.

Before we went into the secured room guarded by 2 military guards, we each had to sign an affidavit that what we were about to see and hear in the room would not be divulged to anyone outside of that secured room.

We went into the secured room where they locked the door behind us and we were allowed to view the material and ask questions for about an hour.

After the meeting, the door was unlocked from the outside and we were escorted out of the room but not before we were essentially frisked to make sure we were not trying to walk off with one of the secured binders of classified information, which would have been quite uncomfortable given that it was about 3 inches thick and in one of those large binder notebooks.

We were reminded once again of our oath to protect everything we saw or heard in the classified briefing from being disseminated in any way, shape or form and we were not allowed to discuss anything we saw with anyone outside of the room.

Then we were allowed to go back into the halls of Congress and resume our regular workday.

That was the regular course of treatment of classified information for any Congressman, Senator or congressional staff who was involved in any intelligence matter and who 'needed to know it' to conduct the course of their work on Capitol Hill.

B) Here's a comment from a former White House staffer who was in charge of classified clearance for White House staff and officials:
'For any of my friends who don't realize how unlikely it is for classified information to accidentally end up on a non-classified computer or server (government or personal).
Classified computer systems are physically separate from non-classified systems. They do not connect in any way. It is not possible to accidentally email from a classified system to a non-classified system.
When I had a classified computer system at my desk, I had to physically switch a toggle on a box on my desk, to even get to the classified system and did not have any access to my unclassified computer system while working on the classified one. We were all instructed to never remove any classified information from the premises, and certainly, never ever take it home!!
Additionally, I had to log off of that system at the end of every work day, physically remove the hard drive, and lock it up overnight. If it was discovered my hard drive was not locked up (yes, co-workers were expected to check/report on each other), I could receive a security violation, which could lead to the loss of my clearance, and therefore the loss of my job.
We were all expected to take the most extreme measures possible to protect this information. There are tens of thousands of Americans who follow these precautions every day, because they care about ensuring the safety of the American public and protecting our National Security.'

Fortunately, 99% of the people who work in the federal government with classified information take it very seriously to protect our national security.

That is what makes this whole case with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton so disturbing to begin with.

ANY rational person would have to believe that the Secretary of State of the United States of America, of all people, would take extraordinary steps to protect classified information at least as seriously as the lowest-ranking career civil servant at the State Department who had access to such classified information.

Yes or no? It is not a trick question.

C) Here's a comment from an attorney in Northern Virginia who right now, today, is defending several people who had access to classified government information and are being charged with various violations of the very same 'classified' laws and regulations of the State Department and Department of Defense that governed Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and all of her staff while still in that office:
'I'm working on some cases right now where ordinary citizens are being pursued by the federal government for "recklessly" failing to report the potential release of classified information.
No actual release.
No intent.
Just alleged failure to report it.'
Did you get that? His client is being charged not for releasing the information; not for actually forwarding the classified information to anyone; not selling it in a treasonous deal with ISIS operatives but only for their 'alleged failure to report the potential release of classified information'.

If that was a standard the FBI used against Hillary Clinton and all of her key aides who participated in this transmission of multiple sensitive classified emails, 'failure to report it', then all of them would have to be guilty since none of this would have even come to light except for the Benghazi hearings long ago that brought them to the national forefront.

One thing that really bugs us is the apparent insouciance of many on the left to discount the importance of this breach of security and gross 'extremely carelessness' when it came to Secretary Clinton and her aides handling classified State Department emails.

These are not recipes for beef stew that are being posted on classified State Department emails like you see on Facebook or Instagram.

These are travel plans, names, strategies and plans of attack by American servicemen or diplomats or CIA agents or spies, all of which we have to protect with the utmost reliability or else, as our trainer said back on Capitol Hill, 'people will die and our collective national security will be compromised'

This is a far more serious case than just being 'another political witch hunt' as some on the left and in the Hillary apologist crowd want you to believe and dismiss as they do.

Even though the FBI and now the DOJ have failed to prosecute, there are other steps that can and should be taken to restore some of the confidence that has been lost by the American public watching this play out on national tv.

For one thing, any and all of Hillary Clinton's aides and her lawyers, none of whom had security clearance Director Comey admitted today in his congressional hearing so they should not have been allowed to review the emails in the first place, should be allowed to gain security clearance of any degree or level if Hillary Clinton does become President Clinton and she asks them to join her in the White House.

That is what 'extremely careless' handling of sensitive, secure and classified information would get you, as an ordinary citizen and employee of the State Department, at the very, very, very minimum.

If you didn't go to jail, that is.

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