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American Politics: Hillary Clinton and Her E-Mail Problems [268*1]

Updated on August 23, 2015
My Esoteric profile image

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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Buy Something Interesting About Classification of Amazon

© 2015 Scott Belford


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    • My Esoteric profile imageAUTHOR

      Scott Belford 

      3 years ago from Keystone Heights, FL

      From all I have heard about Carly, that is probably true; nevertheless she is doing better in the polls, along with Dr. Ben "bomb illegals with drones" Carson and The Donald; the new standard bearers of the once Proud and Progressive Republican Party which has lost its way and become what they originally opposed.

      Again, thank you for reading and commenting on this article

      I spent a career in the government and have been around classified information for most of it. While you are quite right, the attack on Hillary is purely political, the object they chose has potential legs. Hillary now admits that combining personal and official e-mails on one server was dumber than dirt, she hasn't quite gone as far as having her own personal server falls in the same category.

      What people fail to realize is that EVEN IF she had the configuration correct and used a .gov account on an unclassified server set up by the State Department (or better yet, logging into an unclassified server in the State Dept from a dumb terminal at home), the same issues would be there ... did people send her or did she send information that SHOULD have been classified, and wasn't. Would the FBI still be investigating? Of course they would for it has become known that potentially classified material ended up on an unclassified computer and it really doesn't matter WHERE that server was located; the main point is that it was unclassified.

    • Shyron E Shenko profile image

      Shyron E Shenko 

      3 years ago from Texas

      Thank you for the information, I did not know who had the authority to classify or declassify documents, but this witch hunt is not about that at all, I think you and I both know that this has nothing to do with weather or not Hilary's e-mails were classified or not. It has to do with "Get Hilary at any cost." When the Benghazi fiasco fizzled and most of the GOP (except for Fiorina) candidates realized that to harp on that, it might backfire if the general public finds out that Hilary ask for more funding for the security of those folks in Benghazi and the request was denied by the very people who were blaming her for the deaths of those people.

      I wonder if Carly Fiorina had a mirror in front of her when she was calling Hilary a liar?

    • bradmasterOCcal profile image

      Brad Masters 

      3 years ago from Orange County California BSIT BSL JD

      My Esoteric

      I agree the constitution is changing with the times, but how do you see it as working what the founders wanted?

      The Supreme Court has become to political, and in my opinion they haven't really made any great decisions, or supreme decisions, especially with their 5-4 decisions. Negating the opinions of 4 dissenting judges is not solving the issue before the court. Yes, it is still the law of the land, but it is still a bad decision.

      The founders erred when they left the details of constructing the Supreme Court to Congress.

      The founders didn't believe in a strong federal government, that is why we are called the United States. The Supreme Court made very bad decisions in interpreting the Interstate Commerce Clause. Its purpose was to prevent states from interfering with commerce, and the solution was apportionment. The Supreme Court was to adjudicate conflicts between the states, and not given state powers to the federal government.

      Today, the federal government has usurped most of the powers of the states, making the states redundant to the federal powers. The transfer from the states to the federal government really hasn't helped the people or the country.

      I could go again, but you probably don't believe in it, so I am stopping.

      The question of the powers of the executive orders was never really tested or adjudicated. Marbury v Madison doesn't have enough depth to make a worthy decision.

      For example, the Patriot Act should have been unconstitutional as congress never declared war, and suspending the first and fourth amendment on spec was criminal.

      Political Correctness and cries of Racism chill freedom of speech.

      Executive Orders making law even though congress is gridlocked defeats the checks and balances of the three branches of government.

    • My Esoteric profile imageAUTHOR

      Scott Belford 

      3 years ago from Keystone Heights, FL

      Thanks Larry and Josh for reading and leaving a comment.

    • My Esoteric profile imageAUTHOR

      Scott Belford 

      3 years ago from Keystone Heights, FL

      Brad, this is the saying that I know - "Ignorantia juris non excusat or ignorantia legis neminem excusat (Latin for "ignorance of the law does not excuse" or "ignorance of the law excuses no one") is a legal principle holding that a person who is unaware of a law may not escape liability for violating that law merely because he or she was unaware of its content." (Wikipedia)

      Yes, Ollie did take one for the team but as to Bush's involvement, it seems to little if any. He was more or less marginalized as VP because Reagan's advisors didn't trust him.

      Kennedy and Johnson are probably the last presidents to get away with stuff that would bring down a president today. Sordid affairs for Kennedy and Gulf of Tonkin for Johnson.

      Name me a President who didn't play fast and loose with the Constitution, except for George Washington and the few who died early in office? (Some claim Washington did as well with his decision to go ahead with the First Bank of the United States)

      Whether the Constitution is being destroyed or not is certainly open for debate. Personally, I think it is doing exactly what the founders wanted ... changing with the times.

    • profile image

      Josh Boothby 

      3 years ago

      It's definitely weighing on her. Perhaps the "bubble" explains it:

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 

      3 years ago from Oklahoma

      I'm a Hillary supporter as well, but mistakes like these sometimes make it hard.

      Thanks for the perspective on this issue.

    • bradmasterOCcal profile image

      Brad Masters 

      3 years ago from Orange County California BSIT BSL JD

      My Esoteric

      I was quoting the old phrase that Ignorance is No Excuse Under the Law.

      The reason that I said VP George H Bush was the one is because he had been the head of the CIA and he was the Cheney in the Reagan duo.

      I didn't mean to excuse Reagan, I just think that if the ex head of the CIA didn't know what was going on with Ollie than that was a bigger lie.

      BTW, when was the last time we had a president that didn't do something that was really questionable, but it never made the light of scrutiny.

      North took one for the team, and unlike Watergate there wasn't other people involved, and problems with the VP, and the ship couldn't stay afloat.

      The Clintons and Obama play a little too fast and loose with the constitution and Marbury v Madison just doesn't have the bandwidth to field the issues. I don't want to see another Bush as president either.

      Today, the US Constitution has been stretched beyond recognition by both parties, and individuals. In my opinion, the 2016 election won't resolve this mess, and it doesn't matter who wins. The basics of the US Constitution no longer serve the People, they serve the politicians.

      I will pass on your generous offer to provide statistics.


    • My Esoteric profile imageAUTHOR

      Scott Belford 

      3 years ago from Keystone Heights, FL

      Thanks for reading @ Freehelp.

      I can provide some statistics, if you want, Brad, :-)

      The one statement I disagree with is "Ignorance is no excuse". That may apply to knowledge of the law, but it is not to imply that all human beings need to be god-like and be omniscient. Not knowing whether something is classified or not is not covered by this idea; instead, it is situational depending on how obvious it is.

      Yes, I am surprised the issue of a back-up computer has not made the news more than it has; I have heard the question asked, but it is still in the noise of coverage.

      It was not a ".gov" account, that is one of the things that is getting her into trouble - whether she was legally required to use one or not.

      If this were a classified system on the SIPRnet, we wouldn't be having this discussion, that is another problem she has. And yes, if it wasn't a .gov, then no classified; in fact if it isn't over the SIPRnet, no classified either.

      It was Reagan who threw North under the bus, although North helped; he wasn't an innocent dupe in this affair.

    • bradmasterOCcal profile image

      Brad Masters 

      3 years ago from Orange County California BSIT BSL JD

      Mr. Esoteric

      You don't dip your pen in the company ink, and you don't make an if out of a don't.

      Ignorance is no excuse.

      You know that the Nixon Watergate Criminals didn't know that they were doing something unethical, and yet they were lawyers, not unlike the Clintons and so many in Congress.

      As a result, an Ethics exam was included in the BAR exams after Watergate so that future lawyers also wouldn't plead ignorance.

      That didn't seem to bother George H Bush who three Ollie North under the bus.

      What I don't know is what was the designation of the server for her emails.

      .com, .gov or ?

      If it wasn't .gov then no one had a right to send her classified information.

      Was she also receiving classified info on her phones?

      Were they also personal?

      BTW, as you know, you don't run a server without backups.

      Where are the backup?

      I like this one, no statistics.\


    • profile image


      3 years ago

      That was a smart move on her part I would of done the same thing.


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