Well, this is not the kind of headline Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign was hoping to see on a Friday afternoon. The Wall Street Journal on Friday reported that an internal government review has concluded Clinton sent at least four different emails containing classified information over her home email server while she was serving as Secretary of State. The information contained in those emails should have been considered “secret,” which is a notch below the “top secret” level of intelligence classification.
According to the WSJ, the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community “concluded that Mrs. Clinton should have used a secure network to transmit the emails in question — rather than her personal email account run off a home server.” The inspector general has also “referred the matter to the counterintelligence division of Federal Bureau of Investigation” for a possible investigation into the mishandling of classified information.
What makes this look particularly troubling is that the investigation only examined a small sample of emails sent through Mrs. Clinton’s home server and it’s quite possible that more emails containing classified information were sent over it.
There are a couple things to keep in mind here: First, as Time reports, “Clinton and her current and former aides have not been named as targets of the investigation, and the scope of the investigation request has not been revealed.” The other important point is that none of the secret information contained within the emails was explicitly marked as such, although there are questions about whether Clinton and her aides should have still known their emails contained classified information.
As for the legal implications of this, reporter Marc Ambinder has a strong analysis posted over at Storify in which he dissects the I.G.’s report. While he again emphasizes that the I.G. doesn’t claim Clinton or her associates did any deliberate wrongdoing, he does think the I.G. still believes Team Clinton bares responsibility for improperly sending classified information over a private email server, even though the information was not properly marked as sensitive.
“I doubt any Clinton associate would knowingly use private email for obviously classified purposes,” he writes. “But IGs [are] suggesting they had obligation to ensure that any inbound or outbound email was as free of potentially classified info as possible. The targets here (if any) seem to be the people who sent emails to the Clinton accounts, not the emails that Clinton and team sent.”
This certainly is a black eye for Clinton, although the political impact it will have is difficult to determine. Polls show that Clinton at the moment leads all rivals for both the Democratic nomination for president and all prospective Republican rivals in general election matchups.