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“Experienced Diplomats and Foreign Service Officers” Thrown Under the Bus – Internal Screaming at 125 dB

Posted: 2:04 am EDT

 

A couple months ago, we saw HRC’s campaign talked to CNN about the controversies in the handling of classified material, called it “a gray area” and cited foreign service officers as part of its defense:

And the career foreign service officers that were often the originators of this e-mail, they know the difference between what’s classified and what’s not.   A lot of people, I think, are mistaken to suggest that Hillary Clinton originated many of these e-mails. In fact, they are chains that are ultimately forwarded to her after being bandied back and forth by career foreign service officers in the State Department. And these are people, like I said, that know the difference between what’s classified and what’s not.  So by the logic of what today’s announcement suggests, then there would be dozens of officials in the State Department that were completely negligent. Does anyone really think that’s what’s going on here? I don’t. 

On March 5, the AP posted Things we learned from 50000-plus pages of Clinton emails.  The Washington Post also has a report on its analysis of the classified content in over 50,000 publicly released Clinton emails  based on what the State Department has said contained classified information.  Excerpt from the WaPo piece:

“If experienced diplomats and foreign service officers are doing it, the issue is more how the State Department deals with information in the modern world more than something specific about what Hillary Clinton did,” said Philip H. Gordon, who was assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs and was the author of 45 of the sensitive emails from his non-classified government account.
[…]
They said they never stripped classified markings from documents to send them through regular email, as Republicans have alleged occurred in Clinton’s correspondence.

Instead, they said, the emails largely reflect real-time information shared with them by foreign government officials using their own insecure email accounts or open phone lines, or in public places such as hotel lobbies where it could have been overheard.

In other emails, they said they purposely wrote in generalities. Numerous emails were labeled “Sensitive But Unclassified,” indicating those writing did not think the note was classified.

Former ambassador Dennis Ross, who has held key diplomatic posts in administrations of both parties, said that one of his exchanges now marked “secret” contained information that government officials last year allowed him to publish in a book.

The emails relate to a back-channel negotiation he opened between Israelis and Palestinians after he left the government in 2011.

“What I was doing was communicating a gist — not being very specific, but a gist. If I felt the need to be more specific, we could arrange a meeting,” Ross said.

Princeton Lyman, a State Department veteran who served under presidents of both parties and was a special envoy to Sudan when Clinton was secretary of state, said he has been surprised and a bit embarrassed to learn that emails he wrote have been classified. He said he had learned through decades of experience how to identify and transmit classified information.

“The day-to-day kind of reporting I did about what happened in negotiations did not include information I considered classified,” he said.

One former senior official who authored some of the now-classified emails referred to a “cringe factor” for officials reviewing their own emails with the benefit of time that was often not available in the middle of unfolding world crises.

The former official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, expressed disagreement with the State Department’s decision to classify the emails. Still, the official said diplomats at the time believed they were sending the material through a “closed system” in which the emails would be reviewed only by other State Department officials. They are becoming public now, the official noted, only because of Clinton’s email habits and her presidential run.

“I resent the fact that we’re in this situation — and we’re in this situation because of Hillary Clinton’s decision to use a private server,” the official said.

 

We completely understand if folks are screaming internally (or not) up to the pain threshold of 125 decibel.

 

 

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State/OIG: Classified Material Discovered in Unclassified Archives

Posted: 2:09 pm EDT

 

The Office of Inspector General’s (OIG) Office of Evaluation and Special Projects is examining the State Department’s records preservation and the use of personal hardware and software by five Secretaries of State (Albright, Powell, Rice, Clinton, and Kerry) and their immediate staff. On March 4, State/OIG posted the OIG (Linick) – M (Kennedy) memorandum on classified material discovered in the archives and its removal for secured storage:

During the course of this evaluation, OIG searched unclassified archives and discovered records suggesting instances in which potentially sensitive material may have been transmitted via personal email accounts or other unclassified means to Secretary Powell or to Secretary Rice’s immediate staff. None of the material was marked as classified, but the substance of the material and “NODIS” (No Distribution) references in the body or subject lines of some of the documents suggested that the documents could be potentially sensitive. On October 19, 2015, OIG transmitted to the Department and separately to the Inspector General for the Intelligence Community (ICIG) for classification review 19 separate Office of the Secretary archival documents. The date range of the documents is from February 2003 through June 2008.
[…]
On December 29, 2015, the Department advised OIG that 12 of the 19 documents contain national security information classified at the Secret or Confidential levels based on a review by 9 Department bureaus and offices. Two of these documents were emails sent to Secretary Powell’s personal email account; the remaining were documents transmitted to personal or unclassified accounts belonging to a member of Secretary Rice’s immediate staff and another senior Department official.
[…]
State’s official response:  Office of the Executive Secretariat (S/ES) staff have removed from the Department’s unclassified network all of the email material identified as classified and placed it in secure storage. Additionally, retired electronic records provided to the Bureau of Administration that were initially stored in an unclassified system have b~enmoved to the appropriate classified system. With regard to paper records relating to former Secretaries Powell and Rice, the Department does not believe any action is warranted because these materials are currently stored in a facility certified to house classified Department record~up to the SECRET level.

Read the memo exchange here:

 

Related post:

Classified Material Discovered in Unclassified Archival Material | Posted On: March 04, 2016 Report Date: March 2016 | Report Number: ESP-16-02

 

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