News & Politics

GOP Congressman Asks State Dept. Official About Clinton's Team 'Cutting and Pasting' Classified Info

A Republican congressman from Oklahoma today said the American people would be “absolutely appalled” if they understood how badly former secretary of State Hillary Clinton had mishandled classified information.

During the House Oversight Committee hearing to examine the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) processes at the Department of State, Rep. Steve Russell (R-OK), who retired from the Army as a lieutenant colonel in 2006 after decades of service, also brought up an allegation of highly illegal activity by Clinton’s team, which the FBI had investigated but apparently found no evidence for. The question pertained to allegations that members of  Clinton’s inner circle had “cut and pasted” material from the government’s classified network and sent it to her private email address.

While questioning Patrick F. Kennedy, under secretary for management at the State Department, Russell said, “If what I’ve read in the vaults regarding Mrs. Clinton’s mishandling of classified information were known to the American people… the American public would be absolutely appalled. But we can’t talk about that.”

Russell bemoaned how Democrats on the committee were obfuscating on the the serious issue of Clinton’s mishandling of classified information by talking about how Colin Powell handled his emails. He asked Kennedy a series of rhetorical questions to underscore the absurdity of their position.

“Did Sec. Powell use a dozen and a half devices and make nearly all of them disappear and destroy some with hammers?” he asked.

“Did Sec. Powell or his proxies use bleaching software to eliminate any traces of federal records on separate servers after they had been requested?”

“Did Sec. Powell keep or provide private servers for any email communication?”

Of course Kennedy couldn’t say that Powell had done any of those truly outrageous things.

“How is it that the Dept of State staff (which are very able) and the FBI (which are also very able) were able to determine what top-secret SAP information was — enough so to withhold it from Congress and yet somehow we are to believe that Sec. Clinton was not intelligent enough to discern the difference between SAP (Special Access Program) or not?” Russell quizzed Kennedy.

“To answer that question, sir, we would have to be in a different forum,” Kennedy answered.

“I spent decades in the military. I held a top-secret special compartmentalized classification in the military. I know how to handle sensitive information. I know you do too,” Russell said. “Did you ever in your career or experience think it was appropriate to cut and paste from a classified setting — whether it was marked anything — but to cut and paste from a classified setting and to paste that information into an unclassified setting? Would that be a practice that the State Department under any set of rules would find appropriate?”

“It is not,” Kennedy replied. “But I have seen in all the material that I reviewed no evidence nor did the inspector general or FBI find that the former secretary of state did so.”

“Then we will have in the classified setting—have more questions to ask,” Russell promised.

It is interesting that the congressman, who has had access to to information the general public does not, would bring up this question.

There were reports back in January that the FBI was indeed investigating whether members of Clinton’s team had “cut and pasted” material from the government’s classified setting so that it could be sent to an unclassified setting — her private email address.

“It takes a very conscious effort to move a classified email or cable from the classified systems over to the unsecured open system and then send it to Hillary Clinton’s personal email account,” said Raymond Fournier, a veteran Diplomatic Security Service special agent. “That’s no less than a two-conscious-step process.”

He says it’s clear from some of the classified emails made public that someone on Clinton’s staff essentially “cut and pasted” content from classified cables into the messages sent to her. The classified markings are gone, but the content is classified at the highest levels — and so sensitive in nature that “it would have been obvious to Clinton.” Most likely the information was, in turn, emailed to her via NIPRNet.

To work around the closed, classified systems, which are accessible only by secure desktop workstations whose hard drives must be removed and stored overnight in a safe, Clinton’s staff would have simply retyped classified information from the systems into the non-classified system or taken a screen shot of the classified document, Fournier said. “Either way, it’s totally illegal.”

Patrick Kennedy says this allegation was “reviewed” and no evidence was found that the former secretary of state did it.

Congressman Russell — who has seen the documents in the vault — does not seem convinced.