'Yes,' Clinton Says She Sent or Received Emails About Covert Drone Program

Susan Jones | September 8, 2016 | 10:19am EDT
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(CNSNews.com) - After agreeing with NBC's Matt Lauer that "temperament and judgment" are among the most important characteristics for a commander-in-chief, Democrat Hillary Clinton was asked Wednesday night about her own judgment in using a personal email and a private server to conduct State Department business.

She repeated that "it was a mistake to have a personal account"; she said she's had "a lot of experience dealing with classified material"; and she said "yes," she did receive emails dealing with the Obama administration's classified drone-strike program.

"But the real question is the handling of classified material, which is I think what the implication of your question was," Clinton told Lauer. "And for all the viewers watching you tonight, I have a lot of experience dealing with classified material, starting when I was on the Senate Armed Services Committee going into the four years as secretary of state.

"Classified material has a header which says 'top secret,' 'secret,' 'confidential.' Nothing — and I will repeat this, and this is verified in the report by the Department of Justice — none of the e-mails sent or received by me had such a header."

"Were some of the e-mails sent or received by you referring to our drone program -- our covert drone program?" Lauer asked Clinton.

"Yes, because — of course, there were no discussions of any of the covert actions in process, being determined about whether or not to go forward. But every part of our government had to deal with questions, and the secretary of state’s office was first and foremost. So there are ways of talking about the drone program--"

"And you said you thought your communications on that were fairly routine?" Lauer interrupted.

"Well, let me say, the FBI just released their report about their investigation, they discussed drone matters in the unclassified section of their report.

In fact, the FBI  -- in a report released to the public on Sept. 2 -- redacts portions of its interview with Clinton pertaining to drones.


On page 3 of the report, the FBI says: "CLINTON could not recall a specific process for nominating a target for a drone strike and recalled much debate" over coming to an agreement. 

"CLINTON recalled having many discussions related to nominating an individual for a drone strike. [redacted] When CLINTON exchanged classified  information pertaining to the drone program internally at State, it was in her office or on a secure call. When CLINTON exchanged classified  information pertaining to the drone program externally, it was at the White House. CLINTON never had a concern with how classified information pertaining to the drone program was handled."



On page 4 of its report, the FBI  notes that "CLINTON did not recall receiving any emails she thought should not be on an unclassified system. She relied on State officials to use their judgment when emailing her and could not recall anyone raising concerns with her regarding the sensitivity of the information she received at her email address."

But the FBI also noted that Clinton "stated she did not remember" a specific [redacted] email the FBI brought to her attention.  The FBI notes, page 6, say: "CLINTON stated deliberation over a future drone strike did not give her cause for concern regarding classification. CLINTON understood this type of conversation as part of the routine deliberation process. Moreover, she recalled many conversations about future drone strikes that never occurred."






Also on page 6, the FBI writes that agents asked Clinton about another email, also apparently dealing with drones:

"CLINTON  had no concerns the displayed email contained classified information," because the person writing to her said, "let me know what you can via this channel." She said she viewed that comment as "being representative of the emphasis he placed on handling information appropriately. "


The FBI further states:  "CLINTON viewed this email as the State deliberation process to determine how to respond to a news report. During her tenure, CLINTON stated State did the best they could to not confirm drone strikes and were as careful as possible, but had to deal with a 'rash' of news reports on drones. CLINTON did not recall a State policy on confirming classified information in media reports."

At NBC's Commander-in-Chief Forum Wednesday night, Matt Lauer noted that FBI Director James Comey said "any reasonable person in Secretary Clinton’s position should have known that an unclassified system was no place" to have certain conversations.

"Well, Matt, I just respectfully point to the hundreds of experienced foreign policy experts, diplomats, defense officials who were communicating information on the unclassified system because it was necessary to answer questions and to be able publicly to go as far as we could, which was not acknowledging the program.

"But I would be in Pakistan, as I was on several occasions. There might very well have been a (drone) strike. I would be asked in a public setting, in an interview, about it. It was known to have happened. We had to have an answer that did not move into classified area. And I think we handled that appropriately."

Clinton said "there is no evidence"  her personal emails were hacked, whereas both the State Department and White House systems were.

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