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February 11, 2016

Why Hillary Deserves Prison

Ken Kellar

At the Democratic debate the other night, Hillary Clinton was asked if her candidacy was in jeopardy due to her State Department e-mail scandal. She responded in the negative, stating she did nothing wrong and that her e-mails were classified after-the-fact. She has also demanded the information be released to show her innocence.


Her statement was misleading and, by what she omitted, a lie. To understand my conclusion, let’s take a quick primer on classification and sensitive information.


Our government and its agents generate and deal with information that, unauthorized disclosure of, could damage our national security. When such information is generated, copied, or communicated, it is classified. Here I use “classified” as a verb. An official with the proper authority and training classifies the information into one of three categories: top secret, secret or confidential. Or it remains unclassified. The specific classification dictates the required protection and controls of the potentially damaging information.


Top secret is subject to very strict controls, so for practicality the lower levels of classification (secret and confidential) exist to strike a balance between risk of loss/release and the ability to efficiently use the information for authorized purposes.


When potentially damaging information is created, but not yet classified, it is potentially damaging (obviously). While it is classified (or marked classified) it is potentially damaging; and, if someone removes the classification markings (without determining the information is no longer classified), the information remains potentially damaging. So Mrs. Clinton stating that “none of my e-mails were classified,” does not address the question of potentially damaging information existing in her unsecured e-mails.


Let’s use a hypothetical scenario to explore Clinton’s claims of innocence. Let’s say she created, or received, an e-mail on her smart phone that says, “President Assad had warm milk and three cookies at bedtime last night.”


Is that message “classified?” No, it is not. It is not marked: “top secret”, “secret” or “confidential.” This is what Clinton means when she says something like: “None of my e-mails were classified when I received or sent them.” So, you see, her statement is misleading.


However, is the e-mail about Assad’s cookies the type of information, the unauthorized disclosure of, reasonably could be expected to cause harm to national security?


If the information was obtained by Assad giving a televised good night address to his people where he was filmed eating cookies in bed, it would not be potentially damaging information and, thus, would not be classified. No problem.


But what if the information was provided by an undercover U.S. agent/spy working as a maid in the Assad mansion? Unauthorized disclosure of that information could get the agent revealed or killed. Disclosure of this information would reveal intelligence activities, destroy an intelligence source and affect our nation’s relations with Assad.


This is enough expected damage upon disclosure that the provider of the information to Clinton should have classified the cookie information, possibly at the highest level, top secret. Even without the classification markings, Mrs. Clinton would reasonably be expected to realize the cookie message revealed intelligence sources and should have been classified. She would be expected to contact her security department to sanitize the damaging information in order to try to prevent its release and prevent damage to our national security.


To clarify classification from potentially damaging, if the cookie message was not marked as classified, or the markings were removed for Hillary’s convenience, the information’s release would still be damaging. When later, the responsible government agency learned Mrs. Clinton had this information on her private unsecure e-mail server, it was their responsibility to immediately secure that information by first classifying to the proper level, and then controlling/storing it securely.


That classification action to protect the potentially compromised information is what Mrs. Clinton calls, “Classification after the fact.” She would like you to think “classification after the fact” is a vast conspiracy rather than what it truly is, responsible government agents cleaning up her mess and doing nation security damage control.


Mrs. Clinton declares: “Release those e-mails so all can see my innocence.” “They aren’t releasing them. It’s a conspiracy!”


No, Mrs. Clinton. You told them to release the classified e-mails because you know they can’t be released because they are now properly classified, and people are now controlling the information responsibly unlike you did as Secretary of State.


One final note, people make mistakes handling classified information and breaches occur. These incidents are rarely criminal. Sometimes it is career damaging, but occasional breaches are bound to happen and the information is sanitized from the government computers that received the information, the incident is noted and people move on, trying their best to avoid a repeat.


Mrs. Clinton’s e-mail case was not a mistake. From all accounts, it was a willful systematic corruption and disregard for all security protocols; and it put sensitive/potentially damaging information at risk. As such, her actions and directions were criminal and she should be prosecuted and imprisoned. Additionally, the use of private equipment spread any breaches further and made it harder, if not impossible, for the information to be sanitized from all systems.


In conclusion, next time you hear Mrs. Clinton say “I did not send or receive classified e-mails,” you will know the word game she is playing with the people of the United States of America.


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