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American Politics: Hillary Clinton and Her E-Mail Problems

Updated on April 9, 2019
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My Esoteric spent, in total, 37 years working for DoD; most of it in organizations that handled Secret information.

A Fundamental Question Nobody Has Asked Yet.

FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE HILLARY CLINTON KEPT a personal server at home with which to send and receive personal and official emails. While this is probably legal, it is dumber than dirt for two reasons; 1) you don't mix government, classified or otherwise, and personal emails in the same account and 2) it opens up another avenue for a security compromise; she should have had a classified and an unclassified connection between her monitor at home and servers under government control; its just common sense. I can understand the desire to have "hands-on" control of your computers; I have the same urge myself, always have. But, one can't succumb to this desire.

I don't know how many people know this next thought, but I think it is going to become critical as the controversy cooks. And, that is "who can classify, and more importantly, declassify information in the government"; the answer may surprise you. According to Executive Order 13562-Classified National Security Information, the list is pretty short. According to Part 1, Section 1.3 it is:

Sec. 1.3. Classification Authority. (a) The authority to classify information originally may be exercised only by:

(1) the President and the Vice President;

(2) agency heads and officials designated by the President; and

(3) United States Government officials delegated this authority pursuant to paragraph (c) of this section.

(b) Officials authorized to classify information at a specified level are also authorized to classify information at a lower level.

The declassification authority is defined in Part 3, Section 3.1:

Sec. 3.1. Authority for Declassification. (a) Information shall be declassified as soon as it no longer meets the standards for classification under this order.

(b) Information shall be declassified or downgraded by:

(1) the official who authorized the original classification, if that official is still serving in the same position and has original classification authority;

(2) the originator's current successor in function, if that individual has original classification authority;

(3) a supervisory official of either the originator or his or her successor in function, if the supervisory official has original classification authority; or

(4) officials delegated declassification authority in writing by the agency head or the senior agency official of the originating agency.

(c) The Director of National Intelligence (or, if delegated by the Director of National Intelligence, the Principal Deputy Director of National Intelligence) may, with respect to the Intelligence Community, after consultation with the head of the originating Intelligence Community element or department, declassify, downgrade, or direct the declassification or downgrading of information or intelligence relating to intelligence sources, methods, or activities.

Elsewhere in the Order are instructions on what needs to be classified and when pieces of information may, or should, be declassified. It is United States policy to classify only such information whose release will at least:

(3) "Confidential" shall be applied to information, the unauthorized disclosure of which reasonably could be expected to cause damage to the national security that the original classification authority is able to identify or describe. [(1) is determination of Top Secret and (2) is for Secret. Confidential is the lowest of the three classifications]

Hopefully you can see where I am going with this given Hillary Clinton, as a department head has both "original classification" authority and "declassification authority" for items she, or her designees, are the originator of the classification.

Where Does This Leave Hillary Clinton?

BETWEEN A ROCK-AND-A-HARD-PLACE IN NEVER NEVER LAND, actually. In the interest of full disclosure let me say flat-out, I am a Hillary Clinton supporter. I support her for the same reasons I voted for her husband and President Obama; their policy positions. Most of the programs they think are good for America, I do as well. But, that support does not translate into blind faith for I realize they aren't perfect, that they are human. If she, indeed, violated the law by knowingly, or should have known, kept classified information on an unclassified system, she needs to face the same repercussions others have. But, if true, it is still up to the People, after she is punished, to decide if it warrants her not being President.

Now, I spent most of my 37 years working for the Department of Defense in a classified environment. Some times I worked in locked down offices where Secret and Confidential information could be left out; and other times I worked in offices where classified information was worked with, but had to be stored in a vault by the end of the day. My last 8 years was spent building and managing an unclassified information system that was intended to store, in one place, all of the unclassified information that pertains to the cost of running the Air Force with the purpose of making this easily available to government officials and their contractors. The tightrope I had to walk, and fight battles about, is ensuring the information could not be aggregated in such a way as to make it classified; the system is called the Air Force Total Ownership Cost (AFTOC) management information system.

Hillary Clinton, knowingly or unknowingly, faced the same conundrum. The question the FBI is going to grapple with as they search though her server is if 1) any information on the server was classified, 2) when was it classified, 3) did any combination of unclassified information rise to the level that it should have been classified and did Clinton know it?


Politically speaking, do you tend to agree with the

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When and Where Should Clinton Be Responsible?

SHOULD CLINTON HAVE TURNED OVER HER SERVER SOONER? Of course she should have, but that goes against human nature in general and more specifically, political human nature. I have never heard of any politician ever giving information up voluntarily; hell we are still waiting for Bush/Cheney to release records; so criticizing Hillary for being slow to turn over information faster is simply a political stunt and disingenuous. But now she has, and if she is as digitally unsavvy as she says she is, then their is a treasure trove on information lurking about that any forensic computer specialist worth their salt can find. Even if she isn't (and I know many very smart adults her age who are computer-challenged if not illiterate), they will find stuff, if it is there to be found; the FBI is very thorough and it is nigh impossible to erase all traces without formatting the disk drive (even then, if not done right, information is still left behind).

As to her protestations of innocence, again, everybody does that, so why do you think she would be any different? Of course she is going to say she did nothing wrong. Having said that, I do subscribe to her reasoning that if information in an email was not classified (even though it should have been), then, with a caveat, she is not responsible. The caveat, of course, is that some information is obviously too sensitive not to be classified on the face of it. If she saw such information, she should have disconnected her server from the Internet and called a specialist in to deal with it. If the FBI finds something like that, then she is in deep kimchi (that is a hot, smelly Korean vegetable dish).

Potential Defense for Hillary

OK, LET'S SAY THE FBI FINDS A LITTLE CLASSIFIED information on her hard drive? Could she make the argument that she declassified it? Now, that might work if she has records of it; but if she doesn't, well ...


Do you believe the email controversy will turn into a full-blown scandal and bring Hillary Clinton down?

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Do you think that any person who compromises classified data, but didn't know, nor should have known, the information was classified is still guilty and should be punished for a breach of security?

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Are you

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© 2015 Scott Belford


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