CIA officer John Kiriakou pleads guilty to disclosing classified information about a covert CIA officer that connected that person to a specific operation. Kiriakou is actually a whistleblower helping to expose the CIA’s torture of some prisoners. He is the first CIA officer to be convicted for passing classified information to a reporter, even though the reporter didn’t publish the name of the operative. He is sentenced to 30 months in prison. (BBC, 2/28/2013) (The New York Times, 1/5/2013)
The Times claims that, “In 18 emails, for example, information has been classified on the grounds that it identifies CIA officials, including two instances that are now considered “secret.” (The New York Times, 5/10/2016)
However, this is not entirely accurate. A search of the State Department’s database of Clinton’s released emails indicates that 49 emails used the code “B3 CIA PERS/ORG,” which indicates a redacted mention of secret CIA personnel or organizational details. Many of these are emails from the same email chain. But there are in fact five separate chains mentioning the name of a CIA official classified at the “secret” level, not two. (US Department of State, 1/29/2016) (US Department of State, 2/29/2016) (US Department of State, 1/29/2016) (US Department of State, 1/29/2016) (US Department of State, 1/29/2016)
There are 17 more separate email chains that have the redacted names of secret CIA officials, for a total of 22, not 18. Additionally, it has previously been reported that a “handful” of additional emails make veiled references to the fact that certain government officials actually work for the CIA. (NBC News, 2/4/2016)
The Associated Press reports that after Clinton’s 30,000 work-related emails were turned over to the State Department, 47 of them were marked with the notation “B3 CIA PERS/ORG” to justify why certain passages were redacted.
Stewart Baker, a former assistant secretary of the Homeland Security Department and a former NSA legal counsel, says, “Start with the entirely plausible view that foreign intelligence services discovered and rifled Hillary Clinton’s server.” Then those agencies could compare the full emails with the redacted versions and use the B3 CIA markings to find the meaning of names that otherwise might not be obvious. Baker says, “Presto—the CIA names just fall off the page.”
An unnamed US official says the risk of the names of CIA personnel being revealed in this way is “theoretical,” since it is unknown if other governments hacked Clinton’s server to get their own full versions of the emails. (The Associated Press, 6/8/2016)