- - Thursday, September 3, 2015

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

It is clear by now that a large number of Hillary Clinton’s emails that she sent or received on her private computer system contained classified information.

The widening scandal has not only surrounded her presidential campaign in controversy and sent her political polls into a nosedive, it is also raising questions about her honesty, obsessive secrecy and judgment.

“I have said repeatedly that I did not send nor receive classified material, and I am very confident that when this entire process plays out, that will be understood by everyone,” she said last week.

But government officials now say the emails that have been released by the State Department contradict her claims.

That’s obvious because the messages being reviewed by State Department officials and released to the public are heavily redacted. Sentences, paragraphs and whole emails were blacked out because they contained classified information.

Thus far, 188 of the emails that have been released recently contained highly sensitive material, according to department officials reviewing the documents. And many of the remaining emails still to be examined number in the thousands.

The entire email controversy has blown into a major scandal that is now under investigation, not only by the State Department, but by the Justice Department, the FBI, the intelligence community, a battery of inspectors general and multiple committees in Congress.

Mrs. Clinton’s decision to handle all of her communications — dealing with foreign policy and national security matters — through her personal, private home computer system is disturbing on a number of levels.

Federal rules prefer that all emails, both internal and external, be conducted on a secure government, archival system.

That’s especially critical in the State Department, where highly sensitive foreign policy and national security issues are discussed with ambassadors and government officials around the globe.

Mrs. Clinton has said that she decided to establish her own personal server for all her communications to avoid having to switch back and forth between two separate systems — one for personal messages and another for her official State Department work.

She has since said that she regrets her decision and that it was a mistake in judgment.

About three-fourths of the unexamined emails remain to be viewed and released, making it a growing scandal that has traction and not going away anytime soon. It has already inflicted major damage to her campaign and to her obsessive reputation for secrecy and her habit of playing fast and loose with the truth.

Mrs. Clinton has turned over more than 30,000 emails to the State Department and a federal judge has ordered they be made public on a rolling basis, and that all of them must be released by next January. That pushes the story, unexpected findings, hearings, congressional testimony and other developments into dangerous territory — the start of the Democratic presidential primary season.

In further remarks about the investigation, Mrs. Clinton has begun defensively parsing her remarks.

During a Democratic National Committee meeting in Minneapolis, she said it was possible that government officials may be drawing conclusions after the fact about the contents of her emails, “but it does not change the fact that I did not send, nor receive, material marked classified.”

The large number of redactions in the first batch of emails suggests there will be many more redactions to come, discrediting her claim that she never sent emails that could endanger U.S. national security.

As for whether her heavily redacted emails were not marked “classified,” the fact of the matter is that she was the author of them.

The Washington Post reported Wednesday on one of Mrs. Clinton’s emails to former Sen. George Mitchell of Maine who was a special envoy to the Middle East in October 2009.

“The entire message is blacked and tagged with a designation noting that the information was classified. The only part now public is Clinton’s opening: ‘George .’ ” the newspaper reported.

Meantime, Republicans in both houses of Congress are sending out subpoenas to former Clinton aides in an all-out effort to dig deeper into the email controversy on a number of fronts.

One of those who has received a subpoena is Bryan Pagliano, a former State Department aide who worked in its information-technology office and set up Mrs. Clinton’s private email server in 2009 in her New York home.

But Mr. Pagliano, who also worked in her 2008 presidential campaign, has already said he will refuse to answer any questions by claiming his Fifth Amendment constitutional right against self-incrimination.

The House select committee investigating the terrorist attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi no doubt wants to know as much as it can find out about Mrs. Clinton’s server, its installation and other documents associated with it.

Mrs. Clinton is scheduled to testify before the Republican-led House committee in October, one of several other panels that are investigating her email scandal.

Mr. Pagliano has also been contacted to testify before two other major Senate committees — Judiciary and Homeland Security — in what’s turning out to be a full-court press on Mrs. Clinton throughout the fall and the 2016 primaries.

The GOP’s not-so-hidden strategy: keep Mrs. Clinton’s email scandal front and center right through Election Day, unless she drops out of the race before then.

Donald Lambro is a syndicated columnist and contributor to The Washington Times.

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