State Dept: 'We Frankly Don't Know' If IGs Are Right That Some Clinton Emails Were Classified When Generated

Brittany M. Hughes | August 4, 2015 | 10:42am EDT
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State Department Deputy Spokesperson Mark Toner (Screen capture)

( – State Department Spokesperson Mark Toner said Monday on behalf of the department that “we frankly don’t know” whether State Department Inspector General Steve Linick and Intelligence Community Inspector General Charles McCullough made a factually correct assertion when they issued a joint written statement on July 24 stating that some of the emails on former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s private server “contained classified information when they were generated.”

“The IC IG found four emails containing classified IC-derived information in a limited sample of 40 emails of the 30,000 emails provided by former Secretary Clinton,” the two inspectors general said in their joint statement.

“The four emails, which have not been released through the State FOIA process, did not contain classification markings and/or dissemination controls,” the IGs said. “These emails were not retroactively classified by the State Department; rather these emails contained classified information when they were generated and, according to IC classification officials, that information remains classified today. This classified information should never have been transferred via an unclassified personal system.”

At Monday’s State Department briefing, Toner was asked: “On July the 24th, the inspectors general for the intelligence community and the State Department--they released a joint statement saying that some of the emails that Hillary Clinton sent while she was Secretary of State from her personal email account were, and I can quote it, ‘not retroactively classified but contained classified information when they were generated. That information remains classified today and they should never have been transmitted via an unclassified personal system.” Does the State Department refute the factuality of any part of this statement by the two IGs, first of all?”

In fact, the joint statement by the IGs did not specify whether Clinton had “sent” the emails in question, or received them, or both. But it did say that the emails were among “the 30,000 emails provided by former Secretary Clinton” from her private email system and that they “should never have been transmitted via an unclassified personal system.”

Toner responded: “Well, so you’re talking about--this is already a couple weeks old, but we spoke to this at the time this report came out. We don’t have any purview over the Office of Inspector General. That’s an independent operation, rightly so, and so we, frankly, I don’t believe, have seen the emails that they’ve questioned.

“We’ve been very forthright, I think, in saying that we believe everything we’ve seen and cleared on and put out publicly was not confidential or classified at the time. But we have since then upgraded it and redacted portions of these documents. So you’ll see on--if you look at it online, you’ll see certain names and other portions simply blocked out. So that’s a common thing to do in these kinds of FOIA requests where documents over time have become--you need to upgrade their classification, I guess is the simplest way of putting it. But I can’t speak to the contents of these--in emails that they’re talking about in the report, because we don’t--we frankly don’t know. All I can say is what we put out publicly, released up ‘til now, we believe was not classified at the time. But we’ve redacted portions of these documents since then that we believe should be classified now.”

McCullough had also sent a memo the day before to the chairman and ranking members of the House and Senate intelligence committees and to Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, explaining that four of the 40 emails his office had been allowed to review contained information that should always have been handled as classified. In the memo, McCullough added that the 30,000 emails Clinton handed over to the State Department were also “purported” to be on a thumb drive in the possession of her personal lawyer.

 “As I advised in my 25 June 2015 notification, the 30,000 emails in question are purported to have been copied to a thumb drive in the possession of former Secretary Clinton’s personal counsel, Williams and Connelly attorney David Kendall,” IG McCullough said in the memo. “As my office’s limited sampling identified four emails containing classified IC information, I referred this mater to counterintelligence officials at State and within the IC, the National Counterintelligence and Security Center and the Federal Bureau of Investigation."

At Monday’s briefing, Toner was asked if there had been an effort to recover the thumb drive and what its status was.

“I spoke a little bit about this on last Friday,” he said, “but all of that material is actually being held in a secure environment at the law offices, and spoke to the fact that her attorney is also cleared to hold this kind of material. And we’ve, in fact, our security experts have gone and looked at the facility and deemed it appropriate.”

Earlier this year, it was revealed during a congressional investigation that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had used a private email account on a private server to conduct official State Department business while in office. Clinton turned over about 30,000 emails from this personal email account for the State Department, reduced from about 60,000 after she said she and her staff weeded out those of a “personal nature.”

 Clinton has maintained that any classified information found in the roughly 30,000 business-related emails she turned over was not classified at the time she sent or received it, and has only been retroactively classified after the fact. 

"I am confident that I never sent or received any information that was classified at the time it was sent and received. What I think you're seeing here is a very typical kind of discussion, to some extent disagreement among various parts of the government, over what should or should not be publicly released," Clinton said on July 25, the day after the IGs released their joint statement, according to the Associated Press.


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