Hillary Clinton could face prosecution for “gross negligence” under the Espionage Act in regards to the private email server that she used during her time as Secretary of State. Under the Espionage act, Clinton could face a fine, up to 10 years imprisonment, or both.
According to multiple FBI sources, there are a handful of related issues at play, all of which involve the Espionage Act or obstruction of justice. One intelligence source told Fox News that the FBI probe is currently attempting to determine if Clinton violated the Espionage Act as it pertains to “gross negligence” in the handling of national defense information.
Another FBI source told the Daily Mail that Hillary Clinton could also be in hot water under the same Espionage Act provision if President Obama wasn’t made aware of the fact that she was running a private email server.
According to an interview given to 60 Minutes, President Obama was, in fact, not made aware of Clinton’s private server during her time as Secretary of State.
“Whoever, being entrusted with or having lawful possession or control of any document, writing, code book, signal book, sketch, photograph, photographic negative, blueprint, plan, map, model, instrument, appliance, note, or information, relating to the national defense, (1) through gross negligence permits the same to be removed from its proper place of custody or delivered to anyone in violation of his trust, or to be lost, stolen, abstracted, or destroyed, or (2) having knowledge that the same has been illegally removed from its proper place of custody or delivered to anyone in violation of its trust, or lost, or stolen, abstracted, or destroyed, and fails to make prompt report of such loss, theft, abstraction, or destruction to his superior officer — Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both.”
The above quote was obtained from Cornell University Law School, where the full text of 18 U.S. Code 793 is also available.
According to the intelligence source that spoke to Fox News, use of an unsecured computer network, or a poorly-secured private email server, could constitute “gross negligence” under Subsection F of the Espionage Act.
The anonymous FBI agent who spoke to the Daily Mail agreed that Hillary Clinton could face prosecution if the probe determines that the former Secretary of State did not take appropriate measures in securing the data that passed through, and was stored on, her private server.
That source also clarified what “gross negligence” means in the context of the Espionage Act.
“‘Gross negligence’ just means ‘serious carelessness.'”
Additionally, the Daily Mail reports that the notification clause in Section 793(f) could also mean trouble for Clinton. That clause may have required Clinton to notify her “superior officer” that she was using, or had used, an unsecured private email server in conjunction with her duties as Secretary of State.
According to the Daily Mail’s source, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s “superior officer” was President Obama.
“So unless he were aware of what she was doing when she was doing it, it seems there could be a legal problem [for her],” the unnamed FBI source told the Daily Mail.
The FBI doesn’t seem to agree with that assessment, according to the New York Times, and the White House press secretary later walked back the comment to some degree.
“There’s a debate among national security experts, as part of their ongoing, independent review, about how or even whether to classify sections of those emails,” Josh Earnest, White House press secretary, said in regards to President Obama’s comments. “But, as the president said, there is no evidence to indicate that the information in those emails endangered our national security.”
According to national security defense attorney Edward MacMahon Jr., that may not matter when it comes to the Espionage Act.
“The fact that something’s not marked or that the person may not know that it was classified would not be relevant at all in a prosecution under the Espionage Act,” MacMahon told Fox News.
Others have been prosecuted under the Espionage Act, fined, and sentenced to prison, over the handling of national security information that wasn’t classified, or wasn’t classified at the time.
According to Fox News, an NSA whistleblower named Thomas Drake faced prosecution under the Espionage Act for providing information to a Baltimore Sun reporter. The information was unclassified, but that didn’t matter.
In another case, former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling was handed a three-and-a-half-year sentence, under the Espionage Act, for providing classified information to the New York Times. He also faced an obstruction of justice charge when investigators were unable to locate a single email.
Although the government could not prove that Sterling deleted the email, the former CIA officer was still convicted of the obstruction charge.
Clinton, on the other hand, has admitted that she intentionally deleted roughly 30,000 emails that she deemed personal.
Whether Hillary Clinton will ultimately face charges for obstruction of justice, or charges under the Espionage Act for “gross negligence” remains to be seen. Do you think Clinton will ever face charges, or are you, like Bernie Sanders, tired of hearing about Hillary’s email?
[Photo credit: Erich Schlegel/Getty Images News]