Some of former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s emails had classified information in them, though they weren’t specifically labeled classified at the time, and at least one of those emails has already been put out in public by the department, its inspector general has concluded.
The revelations, contained in 13 pages of memos released by the State Department inspector general, could pose problems for Mrs. Clinton, who had insisted she never trafficked in classified information while using her own assigned email account and server, kept at her New York home, rather than an official, secure email account.
The New York Times, which first reported on the potential problems, said the State Department and intelligence community inspectors general had referred the matter to the Justice Department for possible criminal prosecution. The paper printed a correction Friday, retracting the claim of a criminal referral and saying Mrs. Clinton wasn’t specifically targeted in the referral.
A Justice Department official Friday confirmed a referral of “the potential compromise of classified information” but said it was not a criminal referral. Earlier Friday, the department had confirmed to The Washington Times and other news outlets that it did receive a criminal referral.
Mrs. Clinton, speaking Friday at an unrelated event in New York City, said that “there have been a lot of inaccuracies.”
“Maybe the heat is getting to everybody,” Mrs. Clinton said. “We all have a responsibility to get this right. I have released 55,000 pages of emails. I have said repeatedly that I will answer questions before the House committee. We are all accountable to the American people to get the facts right, and I will do my part.”
For now, the revelations remain a black eye for President Obama’s State Department, which has struggled to handle Mrs. Clinton’s email scandal, and now stands accused of releasing classified information it shouldn’t have.
Both the State Department and intelligence community inspectors general looked into Mrs. Clinton’s emails and concluded information contained in them should be withheld from the public because it should be classified.
Their memo urged the State Department to enact better controls to make sure the emails being put out in public weren’t divulging secrets.
“ICIG has received confirmation from IC FOIA officials that several of these emails contained classified IC information, though they were not marked as classified. In addition, at least one of these emails has been released to the public and can be accessed on the Department’s FOIA website,” the investigators said.
The State Department is reviewing about 55,000 pages of emails Mrs. Clinton belatedly turned over nearly two years after she left office. Officials have already determined that some of the information in the messages should be retroactively classified.
Mrs. Clinton has said she set up the separate account on a private server largely out of convenience, and her office has said she did not send or receive classified information on the account. But the revelation of the account has been a headache for Mrs. Clinton in the early throes of her second White House run.
A Clinton spokesman said she “followed appropriate practices in dealing with classified materials.”
“As has been reported on multiple occasions, any released emails deemed classified by the administration have been done so after the fact, and not at the time they were transmitted,” spokesman Nick Merrill said.
On Friday, the top Democrat on the House Select Committee investigating the Sept. 11, 2012, terrorist attack on a U.S. compound in Benghazi pushed back strongly on the initial report.
“Over the past hour, I spoke personally with the State Department inspector general and the Intelligence Community inspector general together, and they both confirmed directly to me that they never asked the Justice Department to launch a criminal investigation of Secretary Clinton’s email usage,” Rep. Elijah Cummings, Maryland Democrat, said in a statement Friday afternoon, saying they characterized it as a “routine” referral.
Rep. Trey Gowdy, South Carolina Republican and the panel’s chairman, said committee members on both sides have been aware of concerns about classified emails within the “self-selected record” turned over by Mrs. Clinton.
“The committee appreciates that inspectors general appointed by President Obama have confirmed this is a serious and nonpartisan national security matter by any objective measure,” Mr. Gowdy said in a statement. “This certainly merits further review by the Executive Branch to determine the legal and national security implications posed by the former secretary’s unusual email arrangement in order to mitigate any potential counterintelligence risks and minimize the damage caused by this scheme. These issues should be evaluated under the same strict standards that would apply to anyone found to be in possession of classified information outside of an approved system.”
Mr. Gowdy reiterated his call for Mrs. Clinton to turn over her private server for an independent forensic evaluation.
“Regardless of whether the server is voluntarily relinquished or acquired by other lawful means, there is clearly sufficient cause to examine the contents of said server for the presence of other classified information,” Mr. Gowdy said. “Moreover, whether it was classified initially or later classified, it is appropriate for the executive branch and intelligence community to determine where these now classified documents are housed and by whom they are possessed.”