State Dept. Won’t Take Position on Declaration that Clinton Emails Contained Info ‘Derived From Classified IC Element Sources’

Terence P. Jeffrey | January 21, 2016 | 10:03am EST
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State Department Deputy Spokesman Mark Toner (Screen Capture)

( - The State Department is avoiding taking a position on the assertion made in “sworn declarations” presented to the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community by an “element” in the U.S. Intelligence Community that emails on former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s private server, as the IG put it in a letter addressed to two Senate committee chairmen,“contain information derived from classified IC element sources.”

Inspector General Charles McCullough described the “sworn declarations” in a letter he sent on Jan. 14 to Senate Intelligence Chairman Richard Burr and Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker.

McCullough also sent copies of the letter to Senators Dianne Feinstein and Ben Cardin, the ranking members of the Senate Intelligence and Foreign Relations committees; Representatives Devin Nunes and Adam Schiff, the chairman and ranking member of the House intelligence committee; Director of National Intelligence James Clapper; and State Department Inspector General Steve Linick.

In the letter, IG McCullough stated that he had provided copies of the sworn declarations themselves to the congressional intelligence committees and the House and Senate leadership.

McCullough’s letter was first reported by Fox News, which posted a PDF of the unclassified document online, as did the New York Times.

“Thank you for your recent inquiry regarding the classification determination processes used within the Intelligence Community (IC) for reviewing former Secretary of State Clinton’s emails,” McCullough said in the letter. “In response to your email, I requested two sworn declarations from two IC elements involved in the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) review process for these emails.”

“To date,” McCullough continued, “I have received two sworn declarations from one IC element. These declarations cover several dozen emails containing classified information determined by the IC element to be at the CONFIDENTIAL, SECRET, and TOP SECRAT/SAP levels.

“According to the declarant,” McCullough wrote, “these documents contain information derived from classified IC element sources.

“Due to the presence of TOP SECRET/SAP information, I provided these declarations under separate cover to the Intelligence oversight committees and the Senate and House Leadership,” McCullough said. “The IC element is coordinating with State to determine how these documents should be properly treated in the FOIA litigation.”

McCullough further stated in the letter: “I have yet to receive a declaration from the second classifying IC element, and have referred the matter to the IG of that IC element for follow-up.”

This is a screen capture from PDF of IC IG McCullough's letter to Senators Burr and Corker.

A 1993 General Accounting Office report explained the “SAP” classification. “Classified information is placed in one of three levels—top secret, secret, confidential—depending on sensitivity,” said the GAO report. “Some particularly sensitive classified information is further segregated and designated as SAP or SCI.”

“A SAP imposes need-to-know access controls beyond those normally provided for top secret, secret or confidential information,” said the GAO report.

At Wednesday’s State Department briefing, asked Deputy State Department Spokesman Mark Toner whether the department in any way contested the accuracy of McCullough’s letter.

Toner indicated that the State Department anticipated “more upgrades” on the classification of Clinton’s emails.

“Look, a couple points to make,” said Toner. “We here at the State Department are focused on--and we’ve said this many times--we’re focused on and committed to releasing former Secretary Clinton’s emails in a manner that protects sensitive information. We take this very seriously. We’ve said repeatedly that we anticipate more upgrades on these emails throughout our release process, but that process is still ongoing. That FOIA review process is still ongoing. Once that process is complete, if it is determined that information should be classified as top secret, we will do so.” also asked at the briefing: “Is the State Department simply saying that this person’s sworn declaration about the classification of these materials may not be correct?”

Toner responded: “No. I’m not going to speak to the specific allegations from this podium. What I can say is that as we continue to go through these emails, we’re going to look at what among these emails must be upgraded or classified going forward.” asked: “He said--but the letter says, ‘derived from classified IC element sources.’ Is the State Department contending that this information, which came from a person who is sworn--”

Toner: “I understand what you’re saying.” “--that it may in fact not be correct?”

Toner: “No. I’m just saying that we’re going--we’re looking at this. We’re still clearing--going through these emails, preparing them for public release through the FOIA process. If it’s determined that any information needs to be classified—” “It is determined? So right now, the State Department does not agree with this IC element--

Toner: "I’m just saying—” “--that these in fact were derived from intelligence community sources?”

Toner: “All I’m saying is we’re continuing the process. We’re looking at these emails. I’m not going to speak to what they’ve found one way or the other. So that’s all I can say on it.”

A few moments later in the briefing, a reporter asked this follow-up question: “But you still maintain that none of the emails that have been released so far were—had--contained classified material at the time that they were sent? They were all upgraded after the fact?”

Toner: “Of the ones that have been released, that’s correct, yeah.”

The State Department’s transcript of the full briefing can be read by clicking here.




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