Surely we’ve all known since the 1990s that when a Clinton speaks, one must parse the precise words assiduously and meticulously.
Two days ago, the former Secretary of State appeared on CBS’s “Face The Nation” where host John Dickerson interviewed her about a range of issues. At about the 13-minute mark (sorry, in my browser, the time-scroll thingy doesn’t show where you are, so you may have to suffer through some asshole going on about how great he is for the first part), Dickerson asks about Brian Pagliano which introduces the email topic. At about 13:30, in response to his question about the classification of emails on her server, in toto she says the following (my emphasis added):
I also know that there were reports today about the hundreds of officials and the thousands of emails that they were sending back and forth that have been been looked at and classified retroactively. This really raises serious questions about this whole process I think. Colin Powell summed it up well when he was told that some of his emails from more than 10 years ago were going to be retroactively classified; he called it an absurdity. So I’m hoping that we’ll get through this and then everybody can take a hard look at the inter-agency disputes and the arguments over retroactive classification. Remember I’m the one who asked that all of my emails be made public. I’ve been more transparent than anybody I can think of in public life. But it’s also true that when something is made public everybody from across the government gets to weigh in, and that’s what’s happening here, and we need to get it sorted out and then take action from there.
Dickerson then moves on to Libya and doesn’t return to the topic of the emails.
Notice what she’s not saying. She’s not saying that the information was retroactively classified, but that the emails were retroactively classified. If you’re paying close attention, you’ll note that this is a meaningless tautology. Of course the emails weren’t classified until after the fact… Who would have classified them when they were sent?
As background, when sending email via the secured systems used to house classified information (at least in the DoD, with which I’m familiar, but I’m betting State has a similar system), every time you hit send, you’re prompted to select a classification for the email. Is it Top Secret? Secret? Confidential? Is it SCI? Or is it Unclass? If so, is it FOUO? Does it contain PII (personally identifiable information, such as social security numbers, etc.)? Depending on which box you tick (and you can’t send without ticking a box… the message will remain in your Outbox), markings are automatically affixed to the message, i.e., ‘the email gets marked classified‘. Naturally if you’re sending emails from an unsecured system, these procedure doesn’t exist, and at that time, the email isn’t designated as ‘classified’.
If, say, four years later, as a result of a FOIA request, someone who knows about classification goes through and reads this “unclassified” email, guess what he’s going to do: “Holy shit! This email should be classified!” Suddenly, he’s ‘retroactively’ classifying emails. Emails containing information, by the way, that was quite likely classified at the time it was sent, but that wasn’t marked as such because the careless individual who chose to send it via unclassified (and therefore unregulated) means didn’t slap a classification on it Herself. But then, why would she do that, and raise the obvious issues at the time?
To suggest that all this was just someone going back (overzealously, and likely with malice of course) and slapping classified markings over stuff that was completely innocuous at the time it was sent is completely insincere and meant (as so much Madame Secretary and her husband says) to throw the credulous off her track.
It’s like Bill Cosby saying, ‘Yea sure. She complains now that she’s woken up. But she didn’t say anything about it at the time!’
Parse the words… remember, we were told that none of the info was classified.. Then it wasn’t marked classified. This is just the next step in the evolution.
The arrogance is astounding, but only persists because there’s a history of getting away with it.
-Nick (ColoradoPatriot, from HQ)