With the FBI’s announcement two weeks ago about Ms. Clinton’s handling of classified emails, we quite clearly have at least two sets of laws within our country. One for the well-connected, and another for the rest of us. This is something that should not happen as one of our founding principles is equality under the law. This notion is based upon Biblical principles. First, that the laws are to apply equally to all within society. There are no exceptions. This is confirmed from some of the earliest books of the Bible. Within Exodus 20-24, the Ten Commandments and other ordinances were agreed to by the people. There were no exceptions. Even when Israel were in the future to choose a king, he was to make a copy of the law, and study it daily so that ‘his heart may not be lifted up above his countrymen and that he may not turn aside from the commandment, to the right or the left.’ (Deuteronomy 7). Further, the law was to be executed evenly (Leviticus 19), for the judges are to pursue only justice (Deuteronomy 16) and would ultimately be held accountable for their judgment (Stromata, Book IV, Chapter XI).
What is even more telling is not just the decision itself, but the reactions of the Democratic Party since that time. They have put party above country, and by that act they have demonstrated their disdain for the very oath they have taken as servants of the people. They have placed themselves above us, a political elite whose duty it is to rule instead of serve. To be sure, this attitude is not just confined to one party. Statements, and more importantly actions, can be identified by members of the other party that indicate the same sentiment is alive and well there too. National security, as well as all national issues, should transcend politics as they relate to our continuing as a single people. It is a sad statement that this is no longer the case, and it is a compelling reason why this next election matters so much. In the end, the direction that we take as a people is up to us, and we each have a personal responsibility to exercise that right. With all rights come obligations/responsibilities. We do not talk much about our responsibilities, and perhaps that is one reason why we’ve arrived at the place we are at today. We focus on self-love and no longer on self-sacrifice.
As national security is such an important topic, let’s take a look at the FBI’s findings and decision not to recommend any further action against Ms. Clinton. As to the findings:
· Multiple unsecured personal servers were used, as well as multiple handheld electronic devices to send and receive emails. No archives were maintained for these servers, nor were even normal commercial security precautions maintained - despite the fact that the emails related to Ms. Clinton’s role as Secretary of State belonged not to her, but the federal government.
· One server was decommissioned in 2013 and the software was removed from it, resulting in the lose of many emails. Several thousand emails were recovered from other government sources that were not turned over to the State Department, and per the FBI it is likely that other emails were not recovered.
· Ms. Clinton’s attorneys did not review the emails, but instead used keyword searches to determine which emails to return to the State Department, despite the fact that all such emails were the property of the federal government. They also took active steps to scrub the devices used to conduct the search so that a forensic reconstruction was not possible. As some of these emails were classified, it is likely that additional individuals had access to classified materials that they did not have the clearance to see. The screening of State Department emails by itself before turning them over is a cover-up as all of those emails belonged not to her but to the federal government.
· In terms of the email content:
o 8 email chains contained top secret information at the time they were sent and received, and Ms. Clinton both sent and received this information. Seven of these email chains contained information at the special access program level, the highest level of security clearance that exists. Even if these emails were not marked, the FBI deemed that any reasonable person in Ms. Clinton’s position should have known they were classified at the time they were sent or received.
o 110 emails and 52 email chains were classified at the time they were sent or received. 36 of these email chains were classified as secret.
· There was no direct evidence of intrusion onto these services/devices, but the FBI also admits that it is unlikely that they would find such evidence as no typical security precautions were in use. The FBI also assessed that the private commercial accounts of individuals Ms. Clinton was in regular contact with were accessed by hostile foreign sources. Ms. Clinton also used her personal devices to send and receive emails while outside the U.S. in the territories of sophisticated adversaries - leaving any emails sent or received during that period subject to surveillance by foreign parties. The FBI concluded it is possible that hostile forces did gain access to her personal email account.
In spite of the above, no actions were recommended against Ms. Clinton for her mishandling of classified materials, despite the ‘extremely careless manner’ in which they were handled. The FBI found that there was potential violation of the handling of classified information, but they assessed that no reasonable prosecutor would try such a case. However, this is not their decision to make. They can make a recommendation, but cannot make such a decision. The FBI indicated while they found no intent to do anything wrong, that others in the same circumstance would likely face consequences for their actions. This finding is extremely troubling, and hard to understand with the data points above and the connections between them.
There are a number of other troubling factors with the findings.
· First, the focus seemed to be on intent. The fact that classified materials were mishandled did not seem to be considered. These were not merely Confidential materials, but in several cases extremely sensitive materials that had our country’s top security clearance requirements at the time they were sent and received.
· Ms. Clinton has repeatedly denied any wrong-doing with her handling of classified materials, despite the evidence found by the FBI. (See below)
· Emails in her capacity as Secretary of State belonged not to her, but to the government. These were maintained in an unsecure environment, and not all emails were returned to the government after leaving office. Additionally, no procedures were in place to ensure that emails were retained/archived in accordance with federal government policies.
· Using unsecured email while in hostile territories potentially allowed forces within those countries access to both her unsecured account and the commercially secured accounts of those she communicated with. Those actions potentially led to the compromise of other individual’s email accounts by hostile parties - including any classified materials those accounts may have contained.
· There have also been allegations that classified emails found there way to assistants who may not have had security clearance to see such emails. The FBI’s findings were silent on this matter.
We spoke earlier that laws were to be applied even-handedly, the same to all individuals. We should then also look at other recent cases to see if the facts above fit with the conclusions and actions taken in other recent cases.
· David Petraeus (CIA) - Two years probation and a $100,000 fine. He plead guilty to a single count of mishandling classified materials. The information involved some highly classified materials, but they were not published. In addition, the FBI has stated that he knew the material to be classified at the time and that he denied giving it to another individual. There were accusations with this case that Petraeus was treated with a level of leniency that would not have been given to someone of a lower rank.
· John Deutch (CIA) - Pardoned by President Clinton before a plea deal could be filed. He was found to have stored and processed classified material on unprotected home computers that family members also used to connect to the internet, making the information potentially vulnerable to hackers.
· Jeffrey Sterling (CIA) - Three and one-half years in prison. He actively fought against the charges, and was found to have provided classified information which found its way into the public domain.
· Thomas Drake (NSA) - One year probation and 240 hours of community service. He plead guilty to a single count of passing classified information to a reporter, but the case was mishandled by the prosecution and fell apart.
· Stephen Kim (State Dept.) - Thirteen months in prison. He plead guilty to a single instance of sharing classified information with a reporter. The damage caused by the leak is questionable, as the information leaked was ‘nothing extraordinary.’
· John Kiriakou (CIA) - Thirty months in prison. He plead guilty to disclosing the identity of a CIA undercover operative.
· Bryan Nishimura (Navy) - Fine of $7,500 and revocation of his security clearance after pleading guilty. He downloaded and stored classified information onto his personal electronic devices, but had no intent to break the law. The Department of Justice nevertheless sought some punishment ‘to make its point.’
· Chelsea Manning (Army) - Thirty five years in prison. Manning fought her case at trial and was convicted of more than 20 counts - including several violations of the Espionage Act.
It is hard to deny that some punishment was deserved based upon the facts of the above cases, even if there was no intent. Most of the defendants in the above cases pleaded guilty and received some leniency as a result. Ms. Clinton has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.
Character matters, especially when someone wants to lead. We can discuss intent, but it is clear that any ‘reasonable person’ should have known that some of the materials were classified at the time they were sent or received. She lied, and those lies demonstrate a lack of basic moral character, an unfitness to lead. The kind of character necessary for the type of just and virtuous leader we need to address the problems we face today.
assume for just a moment there was no intent, we must then ask about competence. If someone is really this incompetent with
something as simple as the handling of emails, are they competent enough to
hold the highest position within our country?
After all, one of her biggest claims to being qualified to lead is her
experience and competent decision-making.
You cannot have it both ways. Did
you lie or are you that incompetent? That
is where we will pick up next time.