Few, if any, Americans are unaware of the circumstances surrounding the question of whether or not presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton committed serious crimes bordering on treason. Few, if any, Americans additionally have no opinion on the subject, and, fewer still, are completely unconcerned.
This is good, because as Americans, we have an obligation to know, to care, to form educated opinions, and, in light of the fact that we all have an obligation to vote or support a candidate, we should all try to understand and know as much as possible about those who may lead us.
Asking questions and trying to understand what Hillary Clinton did based upon the accusations is not being salacious or prying or condemning — it is being informed. And it’s our obligation as American citizens.
The accusations against Hillary involve sharing classified information with unauthorized individuals using non-secure methods of communicating classified information. If these allegations are proven true, then she lied to federal authorities about it. Furthermore, she’s accused of violating the non-disclosure agreements she signed in order to view the highest level of classified materials in the first place.
Hillary’s responses or defenses, depending on your point of view, are that she never sent anything classified, that she never sent anything that was classified at the time she sent it, or that the "vast right wing conspiracy” has reassembled and launched an attack on her.
Analyzing these events, factoring in politics, it is possible to put forth a few scenarios as to what may happen relative these issues. To begin with, it should be noted that the investigation into these matters is being undertaken by the FBI’s national security division. I say “investigation,” even though Clinton’s staff was successful in convincing a major news organization to redact the word “investigation” and substitute the word “inquiry” because the fact is, the FBI doesn’t involve themselves at this level for an … “inquiry.” Like it or not, this is an investigation.
Additionally, in continuing the spin on this story, her staff indicated the FBI is only interested in how much information may have been hacked — by other nations — and not whether criminal charges should be brought. The question of “how much classified information has been lost to our enemies” is a counterintelligence issue pursued by intelligence agencies. Alhough I am sure they are also looking into the matter, again, the FBI does investigations, not inquiries.
Following this line of reasoning, however, and giving her the benefit of the doubt, the fact is emails have an origin and an originator and a destination or a receiver. Hillary will no doubt claim at some point that her staff removed all classifications from any emails she received.
Reviewing the emails at their origin will determine that, and it will be a simple thoughtedious process. If messages departed the office of CIA or State Department, or, worse, the office of the President with a TS/SCI/SI codeword classifications, and someone in the interim removed classification markings – which would be difficult to do given the classifications are printed on the documents — they are subject to serious criminal prosecution.
In the case of Sydney Blumenthal, for instance, if anyone received emails that began as classified messages, claiming ignorance is no defense. The bottom line is, if Hillary is going to use this defense, several others are going to have to admit to and suffer prosecution for what are clearly serious offenses. To accept this requires additionally admitting Hillary wasn’t smart enough to know she was dealing with classified information, which strains credulity given that classified materials she was privy to are very clearly marked with various applicable classifications, such as the “Secretary’s Morning Briefing.”
Hillary Clinton either committed these offenses, or she didn’t. There is no room in matters such as these for the, “it depends on what the word ‘is,’ is,” defense. At this point, investigators have uncovered hundreds of emails that were classified at some level ranging from confidential to TS/SCI (top secret/special compartmented information). Communicating classified information marked at even the lowest level, “confidential,” is a felony. But many of these communications are reported to have included SIGINT (signals intelligence), COMINT (communications intelligence) IMINT (imagery intelligence) Special Intelligence, crypto and codeword intelligence.
Among the materials included SIGINT, SI, SCI, IMINT, GAMMA/UMBRA and codeword intelligence, which indicates some of these documents had to be her “Secretary’s Morning Briefing,” which is the equivalent of the President’s Daily Brief, or PDB. For the secretary of state, they’re produced by the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research INR. Some of the same intelligence in the Secretary’s Daily Brief is also contained in the PDB. The only other people with this kind of cart blanc access at the State Department are cable traffic communications personnel who are cleared for all classified materials because they’re responsible for receiving and routing classified cable traffic to the appropriately cleared people, and vice versa.
SIGINT, IMINT, SCI, SI and crypto intelligence is always considered classified level from the originating office, agency or department, and can only be declassified or reduced in classification by the Director of National Intelligence or the originator. Hillary’s comment months ago that she never sent any classified material seems to dwarf Barack Obama’s declaration that, at the IRS, “there’s not a smidgen of corruption.”
It’s a fairly safe assumption at this point is that the FBI is going to find a plethora of indictable offenses they haven’t already found. Hillary is probably not going to be able to force someone to take the fall for her, and it’s unlikely the FBI is going to decline to push for indictments. If they don’t indict her on the mountain of information they reportedly have at hand at this point, they will never be able to indict anyone for similar or less serious offenses in the future. At this point, the FBI’s very reputation as the world’s leading law enforcement organization is at stake.
So, what now? I once had a counterintelligence instructor who was fond of making his students watch popular movies and never focus for a moment on the star of the movie or the principal character in the scene. We always had to focus on someone in the picture not principally involved. This opened up a whole new world of data. In this case, focus on President Obama. Standing relatively on the periphery, what is he doing? Moreover, what is he thinking? After all, Hillary was his Secretary of State, and supposed to have answered to him.
It has been fairly widely reported that Obama is not particularly fond of the Clintons. So, even if he could force the FBI to back off — which he probably couldn’t do — shades of President Richard Nixon and Elliot Richardson, Nixon’s Attorney General who resigned rather than comply with Nixon’s order to fire Watergate Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox. It’s doubtful Obama will stick his neck out for her. He also seemingly isn’t particularly fond of the idea Hillary may be elected president. He would likely prefer Joe Biden be elected.
If this is true, then Obama may have a perfect opportunity at hand. A highly likely scenario involves Hillary being indicted followed by Obama offering her a pardon in return for her dropping out of the race, which would fairly well open the door for Joe Biden or another acceptable Democrat. Hillary plays the martyr, and because the right wing conspiracy just isn’t going to let up on her, she drops out of the race for the good of the Democratic party.
With apologies and condolences to Democrats, Hillary is going to be indicted, given the sheer number of laws she strongly appears to have broken with regard to her private server for government communication – violating federal officials’ communications and records retention laws — and the plethora of laws dealing with the handling of classified materials.
The only other option is that our entire system of justice is turned on its head and every conspirator involved in espionage related offenses for the past 5, and the next 50, years — including Julian Assange and Bradly Manning — be absolved.
No matter how cynical one may be when it comes to politics and politicians, that’s just not going to happen.
Contributing Writer Godfrey Garner is a veteran special operations counterintelligence officer who retired from US Special Forces in 2006. He served two military tours and six civilian government related tours in Afghanistan. His work there most recently was as a counter-corruption analyst. Garner is author of, Danny Kane and the Hunt for Mullah Omar, and, The Balance of Exodus.