August 2, 2011: Charles McCullough is nominated by President Obama to be the first “Intelligence Community” inspector general.

Inspector General Charles McCullough (Credit: Politico)

Inspector General Charles McCullough (Credit: Politico)

This makes him the internal watchdog for the 16 US intelligence agencies and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. He will be unanimously confirmed by the Senate on November 7, 2011. (McClatchy, 1/20/2016) (The White House, 8/2/2011) (Office of the Director of National Intelligence, 9/15/2012)

May 3, 2013: In a public speech, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman says Clinton conducts diplomacy on her unsecure BlackBerry.

Wendy Sherman giving a speech on May 3, 2013. (Credit: public domain)

Wendy Sherman giving a speech on May 3, 2013. (Credit: public domain)

Sherman says that technology “has changed the way diplomacy is done. […] Things appear on your BlackBerrys that would never be on an unclassified system, but you’re out traveling, you’re trying to negotiate something, you want to communicate with people – it’s the fastest way to do it.” She recalls the 2011 United Nations General Assembly, during which Clinton and European diplomat Catherine Ashton negotiated. “They sat there as they were having the meeting with their BlackBerrys transferring language back and forth between them and between their aides to multitask in quite a new fashion.”

The Hill will later note that Sherman’s comments “suggest that diplomats across the [State Department] routinely declined to use special protections for classified information to prioritize convenience.” (The Hill, 1/26/2016) 

Former NSA counterintelligence officer John Schindler will later make the general observation, “The State Department has a longstanding reputation for being less than serious about security, and its communications have often wound up in foreign hands. It’s something of a tradition at [State Department headquarters], to the chagrin of the Intelligence Community…” (The New York Observer, 1/28/2016)

Early June 2015: Two inspectors general join forces to look into Clinton’s exclusive use of a private email address when she was secretary of state.

State Department Inspector General Steve Linick has already begun investigating Clinton’s emails and he and his staff read through hundreds of her emails. He has Intelligence Community Inspector General Charles McCullough get involved due to intelligence agencies having greater experience with classified records.

The concerns of the two inspectors general will continue to grow, leading them to ask the FBI to begin an investigation in early July 2015. (The Washington Post, 8/14/2015)

July 24, 2015: Many of Clinton’s emails contained classified information when they were sent, not just retroactively.

Intelligence Community Inspector General Charles McCullough and State Department Inspector General Steve Linick issue a joint statement about their inquiry into Clinton’s emails. The statement says that out of a random sample of 40 of Clinton’s emails, Linick found four emails containing information that should have been classified at the time they were sent. “These emails were not retroactively classified by the State Department; rather these emails contained classified information when they were generated and, according to [Intelligence Community] classification officials, that information remains classified today. This classified information should never have been transmitted via an unclassified personal system.” (US Department of State, 7/24/2015) 

One email will later be declassified by the State Department, and the department will dispute the classification of another one. (The Washington Post, 3/27/2016)

September 2, 2015: It is widely believed foreign governments have intercepted Clinton’s emails.

The Daily Beast reports on Clinton’s email scandal, “There’s a widely held belief among American counterspies that foreign intelligence agencies had to be reading the emails on Hillary’s private server, particularly since it was wholly unencrypted for months. ‘I’d fire my staff if they weren’t getting all this,’ explained one veteran Department of Defense counterintelligence official, adding: ‘I’d hate to be the guy in Moscow or Beijing right now who had to explain why they didn’t have all of Hillary’s email.’ Given the widespread hacking that has plagued the State Department, the Pentagon, and even the White House during Obama’s presidency, senior counterintelligence officials are assuming the worst about what the Russians and Chinese know.”

An unnamed senior official who is “close to the investigation” says, “Of course they knew what they were doing, it’s as clear as day from the emails. I’m a Democrat and this makes me sick. They were fully aware of what they were up to, and the Bureau knows it.” (The Daily Beast, 9/2/2015)

February 1, 2016: Some of Clinton’s 22 “top secret” emails allegedly contain “operational intelligence” involving espionage sources and methods.

John Schindler, a former National Security Agency (NSA) counterintelligence officer, claims that, “Discussions with Intelligence Community officials have revealed that Ms. Clinton’s ‘unclassified’ emails included Holy Grail items of American espionage such as the true names of Central Intelligence Agency [CIA] intelligence officers serving overseas under cover. Worse, some of those exposed are serving under non-official cover. […] At a minimum, valuable covers have been blown, careers have been ruined, and lives have been put at serious risk.” Additionally, some names of foreigners who are on the CIA payroll are mentioned.

One unnamed senior Intelligence Community official says that because of the likelihood that foreign governments have accessed all of Clinton’s emails, “It’s a death sentence. If we’re lucky, only agents, not our officers, will get killed because of this.”

Schindler comments, “Her defense seems to be that neither she nor anybody on her staff were able to recognize that top secret information was actually top secret, which is hardly a ringing endorsement of Hillary’s qualifications to be our next commander-in-chief.” (The New York Observer, 2/1/2016)

Four days later, a NBC News article comments on the same topic with more modest claims. According to unnamed US officials, the references to undercover officers were indirect and Clinton made no comment about them.

The article adds, “Some of the references to covert intelligence officers, and other discussions of CIA drone strikes, were against classification rules and were ‘sloppy,’ one official said. But views are split on whether they were damaging to national security.” (NBC News, 2/4/2016)

February 1, 2016: Some US intelligence officials are “mad as hell” about Clinton’s deleted emails.

An unnamed Pentagon counterintelligence official expresses concern that some of the 30,840 emails Clinton deleted may have been work-related. “I’ll spend the rest of my career trying to figure out what classified information was in those. […] Everybody is mad as hell right now.” This official adds, “The worst part is that Moscow and Beijing have that information but the [US] Intelligence Community maybe never will.” (The New York Observer, 2/1/2016)

March 2, 2016–March 3, 2016: The FBI’s Clinton investigation could conclude by May 2016.

The New York Times reports, “A federal law enforcement official said that barring any unforeseen changes, the FBI investigation [into Clinton’s emails] could conclude by early May. Then the Justice Department will decide whether to file criminal charges and, if so, against whom.”

In addition to the FBI investigation, there are continuing inquiries by the State Department inspector general, the Intelligence Community inspector general, the State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security, and the House Benghazi Committee. There are also numerous on-going lawsuits that could reveal more information to the public. (The New York Times, 3/2/2016)

May 24, 2016: An intelligence veterans group calls for Clinton to be prosecuted due to her email scandal.

Three members of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity: former CIA analyst Ray McGovern (left), former NSA Technical Director William Binney (center), former NSA Senior Executive Thomas Drake (right). (Credit for all photos: public domain)

Three members of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity: former CIA analyst Ray McGovern (left), former NSA Technical Director William Binney (center), former NSA Senior Executive Thomas Drake (right). (Credit for all photos: public domain)

Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS), a group of veterans of US intelligence agencies, publishes a letter that is highly critical of Clinton’s behavior in her email scandal. It concludes, “[T]he question is not whether Secretary Clinton broke the law. She did. If the laws are to be equally applied, she should face the same kind of consequences as others who have been found, often on the basis of much less convincing evidence, guilty of similar behavior.”

The letter is signed by seventeen intelligence veterans. Many of them are government whistleblowers. Some of them, such as Thomas Drake and John Kiriakou, were punished for security violations that seem far less serious than what Clinton has been accused of. For instance, Drake was convicted of possessing one classified document that was not actually marked as such. (Common Dreams, 5/24/2016)

June 29, 2016: US intelligence is said to be looking closely to see if Russia could be covertly trying to release all of Clinton’s emails to the public.

Russian president Vladimir Putin (Credit: Agence France Presse)

Russian President Vladimir Putin (Credit: Agence France Presse)

The Washington Times claims that an unnamed US intelligence official says US intelligence agencies are closely watching Russian online blogs and other Internet locations for any signs that Russian hackers have obtained Clinton’s emails from her time as secretary of state and are preparing to publicly release them. At least two postings suggest this could be happening, but the evidence cannot be confirmed as authoritative.

Additionally, an unnamed State Department official says Russia, China, and Israel are the three foreign governments most likely to have obtained all of Clinton’s emails, including her deleted ones, through covert hacking operations.

It is known that many organizations and people connected to Clinton have been hacked in recent months, and the Russian government is suspected, but their involvement has not been confirmed. If the Russians are involved, one possible motive would be to influence the FBI’s Clinton investigation and thus the 2016 presidential election. Russian President Vladimir Putin has praised Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, calling him someone he could “get along very well with,” while Clinton espouses policies that frequently conflict with Russian aims. (The Washington Times, 6/29/2016)

September 14, 2016: The US intelligence community has declined to conduct a required damage assessment caused by the classified information on Clinton’s private email server.

Joel Melstad, spokesperson for the of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), says, “ODNI is not leading an [intelligence community]-wide damage assessment and is not aware of any individual IC element conducting such formal assessments.”

Most of the above “top secret” emails sent or received on Clinton’s server related to the US drone program in Pakistan. According to the Washington Free Beacon, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper “agreed with security officials who argued against the need to carry out the damage assessment. Intelligence officials argued in internal discussions that since many details of the drone missile program targeting terrorists were disclosed in earlier leaks unrelated to Clinton’s use of a personal email server, gauging the damage done by her conduct would be difficult, and possibly unnecessary.”

However, “Other officials said Clapper’s decision appeared based on political considerations and was an effort to avoid embroiling American intelligence agencies in charges they were attempting to influence the outcome of Clinton’s bid for the White House.”

Representative Mike Pompeo (Credit: Politico)

Representative Mike Pompeo (Credit: Politico)

A June 2014 counterintelligence directive, ICD-732, states that “damage assessments shall be conducted when there is an actual or suspected unauthorized disclosure or compromise of classified national intelligence that may cause damage to US national security.”

Representative Mike Pompeo (R) says, “FBI Director [James] Comey has made clear that there was highly classified and sensitive information on Secretary Clinton’s personal server. It is imperative that [a damage assessment] be conducted to determine what harm to American national security may have occurred and, just as importantly, to prevent the massive mishandling of sensitive materials from ever happening again.”

Angelo Codevilla (Credit: public domain)

Angelo Codevilla (Credit: public domain)

Angelo Codevilla, a former US intelligence officer, says, “Common sense, the intelligence community’s standard practice, as well as a 2014 directive, require assessing the damage done by any such compromise.” She also asserts that Comey’s “vague and evasive” comments regarding Clinton’s handling of classified information confirm that a significant number of secrets were compromised.

Michelle VanCleave (Credit: public domain)

Michelle Van Cleave (Credit: public domain)

Michelle Van Cleave, a former national counterintelligence executive, similarly asserts, “Whenever there is a significant compromise of national security information, as the FBI’s report confirms happened here, it is essential to conduct an assessment of the damage in order to protect plans, programs, or lives that may be at risk.” There have been reports that Clinton’s emails revealed the names of some undercover CIA officers as well.

Kenneth deGraffenreid (Credit: The Institute of World Politics)

Kenneth deGraffenreid (Credit: The Institute of World Politics)

Kenneth deGraffenreid, a former deputy national counterintelligence executive, says, “Intelligence agencies hate conducting damage assessments that could show people that somebody did something wrong, or improper, or did it poorly. They never want that known. It’s a bureaucracy that does one thing: protects itself.”

He says Congress should force the intelligence community to conduct the damage assessment, since it will find no political advantage in doing it voluntarily.

However, the Free Beacon reports, “Congressional sources said the House and Senate intelligence oversight committee are reluctant to require the damage assessment since it would codify in writing the false claim that no damage was caused to the drone program by the compromise of secrets by Clinton and her aides.” (The Washington Free Beacon, 9/14/2016)

October 7, 2016: The US government formally accuses the Russian government of hacking and publishing emails related to US political entities.

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James Clapper (Credit: Mark Wilson / Getty Images)

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper releases a statement in conjunction with the Department of Homeland Security claiming that leaked emails that have appeared on a variety of websites “are intended to interfere with the US election process. … We believe, based on the scope and sensitivity of these efforts, that only Russia’s senior-most officials could have authorized these activities.”

The New York Times comments that the statement does “not name President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, but that appear[s] to be the intention.”

Many thousands of emails and other documents have been posted in recent months on the WikiLeaks website, but WikiLeaks won’t say where their leaks come from. Two newly created websites attributed to DCLeaks and Guccifer 2.0 have also posted leaks. Both groups claim to have no ties to the Russian government, but the US government claims otherwise.

The statement adds that US intelligence agencies are less certain who is responsible for “scanning and probing” online voter registration lists in various US states in recent months. Those “in most cases originated from servers operated by a Russian company,” but the statement doesn’t assert that the Russian government is responsible.

161007KerryLavrovGenevaAFP

Kerry (left) and Russian Minister for Foreign Affairs Sergei Lavrov meet in Geneva to discuss the Syrian crisis on September 9, 2016. (Credit: Agence France Presse)

The Times notes that the “announcement [comes] only hours after Secretary of State John Kerry called for the Russian and Syrian governments to face a formal war-crimes investigation over attacks on civilians in Aleppo and other parts of Syria. Taken together, the developments mark a sharp escalation of Washington’s many confrontations with [Russia] this year.”

US officials had debated for months whether or not to formally accuse Russia, and if so, when. An unnamed “senior administration official” says that with only about a month to go before the November presidential election, President Obama was “under pressure to act now,” in part because the closer the declaration would be to election day, the more political it would seem.

It is unclear what action the US will take in an attempt to punish Russia, if any. A range of options are being considered, including economic sanctions and covert cyber attacks against Russian targets. (The New York Times, 10/7/2016)