Los Angeles Times

Clinton emails held classified data

- By Evan Halper evan.halper@latimes.com Times staff writers Timothy M. Phelps and Paul Richter in Washington and Brian Bennett in Aspen, Colo., contribute­d to this report.

WASHINGTON — Whatever benefit Hillary Rodham Clinton got out of using her personal email to conduct government business while she was secretary of State, that advantage is surely receding as the headache it has created for her presidenti­al campaign grows.

Public attention is focused yet again on Clinton’s email problem, after government investigat­ors revealed late this week that her use of a personal server to conduct business during her time at the State Department led to classified informatio­n getting breached.

The Department of Justice said it was weighing whether to launch its own investigat­ion after the inspector general for intelligen­ce agencies notified it that classified informatio­n that went through the account appeared to have been mishandled. Obama administra­tion officials and investigat­ors declined to share details about the emails. But in a separate memo to lawmakers, the inspector general said that a review of just 40 of the 30,000 emails from Clinton’s server found that four had informatio­n that should have been marked and handled as classified.

Clinton has made many assurances in recent months that she did not send or receive classified informatio­n on her personal server. Her campaign says the material in question had not been specifical­ly marked as classified and, thus, Clinton broke no rules.

Even so, the revelation was an uncomforta­ble one for the candidate. And national security experts said the disclosure that material that should have been marked classified made its way to Clinton’s personal email account at the very least fuels legitimate speculatio­n about how the server was used.

“It tells us why this was such a bad idea,” said Stewart A. Baker, a former general counsel to the National Security Agency who is now in private practice. “It raises questions.”

Among them, Baker said, was whether staffers deliberate­ly avoided marking sensitive emails to Clinton as classified so they could sidestep the bureaucrat­s who handle transmissi­on of such material.

“She skipped the government circles and nobody was overseeing this and nobody was saying, ‘This info should not be on this system,’” Baker said. “If anything, there was an incentive for people to cross the line without making clear they were doing so.”

The Clinton campaign was in full damage-control mode Friday, sharply criticizin­g the media’s coverage of the candidate’s latest email problem. Operatives attacked the New York Times, which broke the story late Thursday night, for reporting that federal prosecutor­s were considerin­g a criminal investigat­ion. The Department of Justice said the matter is not criminal.

But the department refused to provide details, acknowledg­ing only that the matter involved classified informatio­n potentiall­y being compromise­d. At a State Department briefing, reporters grew increasing­ly impatient with a spokesman who responded to repeated questions about the issue by offering no useful informatio­n.

Clinton, meanwhile, took a shot at the media from the lectern as she prepared to deliver a major speech on the economy in New York.

“Maybe the heat is getting to everybody,” Clinton said. “We all have a responsibi­lity to get this right.” She noted that she had turned over 55,000 pages of emails from her personal server to the Obama administra­tion and had agreed to answer questions about her use of email before congressio­nal investigat­ors.

The Department of Justice may or may not ultimately launch an investigat­ion. Experts say such referrals from an intelligen­ce agency inspector general are routine and often do not lead to much. But the referral itself became a problem for Clinton after the inspector general who drafted it, I. Charles McCullough, explained some of his overall concerns in a memo to lawmakers Friday.

He noted there were emails Clinton turned over to the State Department that did, indeed, contain messages with sensitive informatio­n.

“We note that none of the emails we reviewed had classifica­tion or disseminat­ion markings, but some included ... classified informatio­n and should have been handled as classified, appropriat­ely marked and transmitte­d via a secure network,” the letter said.

It made clear that even if Clinton did take care not to accept or send messages marked as classified, messages that never should have been on her server landed there.

McCullough’s note also says Clinton’s attorney, David Kendall, still appears to have those emails on an unclassifi­ed system. “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,” the letter said.

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