Grassley: Deliberate Mishandling of Classified Information Requires Accountability
Prepared Floor Remarks by U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa
Comments on Recent Findings of Deliberate Mishandling of Classified Information by
State Department Officials
October 28, 2019
In March 2015, I began my investigation into Secretary Clinton’s use of non-government email for official business. Since then, I have written hundreds of letters, held hearings, and discussed my findings and concerns right here on the Senate floor. After all, the public’s business ought to be public.
Today, we can add more findings to that ongoing list of Secretary Clinton’s and her associates’ wrongful conduct.
The other week, I released a report from the State Department that finalized their administrative review of how Secretary Clinton’s private server setup caused hundreds of security violations. That review found the following:
First, 91 valid security violations were identified and attributable to 38 individuals. That means 38 individuals mishandled classified information and were punished for it. The sanction for a violation includes suspension or revocation of their security clearance, suspension without pay, or termination, among other things.
Second, an additional 497 valid violations were identified; however, the State Department was unable to determine who was culpable. State was unable to identify culpability because some former Department employees didn’t sit for interviews, and because Secretary Clinton kept her server secret from government officials so it was impossible for the Department to monitor security protocols in real time.
The review also noted that there was a five-to-nine-year gap between the beginning of Secretary Clinton’s State Department tenure when the security incidents began, and when she finally turned over the emails – which she initially refused to do. This many-years’-long gap made it very challenging to determine who was culpable for every violation.
In total, Secretary Clinton’s use of a non-government server for government business caused 588 security violations for mishandling classified information. Some of that classified information was classified at the highest levels, including Top Secret/Special Access Program information.
According to the FBI, Secretary Clinton sent and received emails that contained that highly classified information. It’s hard to fathom how that wouldn’t undermine our national security.
If the average American did that, they’d lose their clearance, their job, and might even go to jail. That’s what happened to a Navy Sailor, Kristian Saucier. He took six photographs inside a submarine that exposed information classified at the Confidential level. He mishandled classified information. He pled guilty and was sentenced to one year in federal prison.
Third, the review found the non-government server increased the risk of unauthorized disclosures.
Fourth, the review found that the non-government server increased the risk of security compromises. Clinton’s server setup has been described as being so badly secured that it’s almost impossible to detect who attempted to attack it and gain access – anyone could have done it.
Fifth, the review found that some classified information was deliberately transmitted via unclassified email and resulted in adjudicated security violations.
Many in the press, as well as partisan Clinton defenders, have hung their hat on State’s finding that there was “no persuasive evidence of systemic, deliberate mishandling of classified information.” Take, for example, the Washington Post. Their headline was, “State Department probe of Clinton emails finds no deliberate mishandling of classified information.”
Well, that’s entirely wrong.
The State Department report said:
“Instances of classified information being deliberately transmitted via unclassified email were the rare exception and resulted in adjudicated security violations.”
That clearly says some individuals deliberately transmitted classified information on unclassified systems. Those individuals were subject to security sanctions but the State Department failed to describe who the violators were and what the sanctions were.
Those answers ought to be forthcoming and I intend to follow up. Ensuring the proper handling of highly classified information is an issue that should garner bipartisan support.
Furthermore, if government officials deliberately exposed classified information on unclassified systems, why didn’t the FBI find the same during their investigation? We all know then-Director Comey refused to recommend any charges related to the Clinton investigation because the FBI could not identify the requisite criminal intent. It seems to me that deliberately sending classified information on unclassified channels is intentional conduct.
Again, if the average American did that they’d be in big trouble.
During the course of my oversight activities, I acquired drafts of Comey’s July 5, 2016, public statement exonerating Clinton. Comey’s initial draft stated the following:
“There is evidence to support a conclusion that Secretary Clinton, and others, used the private email server in a manner that was grossly negligent with respect to the handling of classified material.”
He also said:
“Similarly, the sheer volume of information that was properly classified as Secret at the time it was discussed on email (that is, excluding the up-classified emails) supports an inference that the participants were grossly negligent in their handling of that information.”
Gross Negligence is a criminal standard under Title 18, Section 793.
He later dumbed-down his statement to a non-criminal standard:
“Although we did not find clear evidence that Secretary Clinton or her colleagues intended to violate laws governing the handling of classified information, there is evidence that they were extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information.”
And that was before he finished the investigation and interviewed 17 witnesses, including Secretary Clinton. Comey never once said that some individuals deliberately sent classified information on unclassified systems. According to State’s findings, he should have. Clearly, deliberate conduct rises beyond gross negligence.
So, who deliberately sent classified information on unclassified channels and has the State Department communicated this new finding to the FBI?
Just last week, I spoke on the floor about how the FBI pulled its punches during the Clinton investigation. I talked about how the FBI agreed to limit the scope of review to her time as Secretary of State. That decision eliminated potentially highly relevant emails before and after her tenure that could have shed light on why she operated the non-government server.
It also eliminated emails around the time of the conference call between Clinton’s attorneys and the administrator of her server that led to the deletion of her emails. That limitation of scope defies reason.
And lastly, the FBI agreed to destroy records and laptops of Clinton’s associates after reviewing them. That’s an astonishing agreement in light of the fact those records could have been relevant to ongoing congressional inquiries that the FBI knew about.
Secretary Clinton’s actions caused 588 security violations and highly classified information to be exposed to unclassified systems. Some of those violations were deliberate, but that’s the first we’ve heard of it.
The public ought to know if those folks involved were punished according to the letter of the law or were given special treatment. Equal application of the law without regard to power, party, or privilege ought to be the norm.
With what we know up to this point, the Clinton investigation failed to hit the mark.