A large number of emails at the center of the Clinton FBI probe appear to have been between U.S. diplomats in Pakistan and the State Department in Washington D.C. discussing planned drone strikes. Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential nominee, is the subject of a federal probe into how she handled classified information during her term as Secretary of State under President Barack Obama. The emails were sent in 2011 and 2012 through a private server and contained information that allowed the State Department input into a potential drone strike, where they had the opportunity to voice either opposition or support for the planned strike.
The strike was to be carried out via the Central Intelligence Agency, says a report from Fox News. The information in the emails was apparently vaguely worded and didn’t mention the “CIA,” “drones,” or any specific details about the locations of the targets. Even so, law enforcement officials and intelligence officials say any type of information surrounding a covert CIA drone program and planned drone strikes should have been relayed across a more secure government computer system specifically created to handle more sensitive, classified information, says the Wall Street Journal.
Officials from the State Department have told FBI investigators that they had to communicate through the less secure personal server of Ms. Clinton’s on several occasions. There were instances when time was limited, such as when decisions about imminent, planned drone strikes needed to be relayed fast and when diplomats in Pakistan or Washington didn’t have ready access to a secure government system. Sometimes this happened at night or when the parties were traveling.
The slang term among diplomats and State Department officials for information being sent via an unsecured server is that it was sent on “the low side.” In the face of Ms. Clinton’s defense of her use of an unsecured server due to traveling or inability to access secured government servers, others have argued that her reason for using the personal server was more about convenience than anything else. When she took office in 2009, she has said she thought it would be “easier and more convenient to carry only one device” for both her work and for her personal emails instead of two, according to an article on ABC News. The security issue came about because then-Secretary of State Clinton’s aides to her personal email account on the private server critics said she shouldn’t have been using for delicate national security information.
Ms. Clinton’s emails are still being kept confidential because intelligence officials have deemed some of them “too damaging” to national security to be released to the public under any circumstances. In response, her critics have said that, if they were that potentially damaging, then they shouldn’t have been sent via personal email. The FBI investigation is still being conducted by those who have the security clearance to evaluate the nature of the communications and their potential damage. The determination that the documents are too damaging to release to the public was first reported by Fox News, just before the State Department announced that seven of the email chains will be withheld “in full” since they contain “Top Secret” information.
The State Department has claimed that emails sent over the unclassified server were often informal discussions that occurred in addition to more formal notifications that had been sent via secure government communications systems. After the sensitive information about planned drone strikes was relayed by a U.S. ambassador, an email chain was started between Clinton’s senior advisers, because they were not with their officials at the time the communications took place and didn’t have any access to a classified computer on a safe server. The exchanges occurred shortly before Christmas, and Clinton’s staff has said many people were away from their offices for the holiday and didn’t have access to the secure, classified government servers.
When repeatedly asked throughout her campaign about the possibility of criminal charges, Clinton replies “that is not going to happen.” She has said she admits it was a mistake to use a personal server for email but says it was merely a decision she made as a matter of convenience, not to threaten national security. While Ms. Clinton insists there will be no criminal charges, her critics say otherwise, including her opponent in the presidential race, Donald Trump. Mr. Trump says her actions were indeed criminal, giving her the nickname “Crooked Hillary.” Hillary Clinton strongly opposes the comments, pointing to her certainty that other government officials have likely used unsecured servers at some point in their service.
— Shaun Kennedy (@ShaunoftheNZed) June 10, 2016
It remains undetermined at this time whether the FBI probe will result in criminal charges. A final review of the evidence in the probe will be made only after an FBI interview that’s expected to occur with Mrs. Clinton this summer. The indication that the emails at the center of the Clinton FBI probe focused on planned drone strikes certainly thickens the plot and leaves much fodder for controversy as the campaign and election processes move forward.
Do you feel Hillary Clinton’s communication of classified intelligence on planned drone strikes on unsecured servers will lead to criminal charges? Please sound off in the comments below.
[Photo by Joseph Sohm/Shutterstock Images]