Early 2009: President Obama bans Blumenthal from a job at the State Department.

The Blumenthals attend a Christmas party at the White House during the early years of Bill Clinton's presidency. (Credit: public domain)

The Blumenthals attend a Christmas party at the White House during the early years of Bill Clinton’s presidency. (Credit: public domain)

Clinton wants to hire Sid Blumenthal as an official national security adviser in the State Department. Blumenthal had worked in President Bill Clinton’s White House in the 1990s, then had been a journalist, then joined Clinton’s presidential campaign as a senior adviser in 2007. However, Obama bans him from any government job.

According to a 2015 Politico article, “Obama aides were convinced that Blumenthal spread false personal and policy rumors about Obama during the battle between Clinton and Obama for the Democratic nomination.” When Clinton is asked in 2015 if the White House banned her from hiring Blumenthal, she won’t dispute it. (Politico, 10/22/2015) (Politico, 1/8/2016)

Blumenthal will soon get a full-time job at the Clinton Foundation with a $120,000 a year salary. For the duration of Clinton’s time as secretary of state, he will frequently email her intelligence information that he will later claim came from Tyler Drumheller, a CIA agent until 2005. (Politico, 5/28/2015)

Early 2009—March 2015: Sid Blumenthal takes a job at the Clinton Foundation, advises the secretary of state frequently, and promotes the interests of two government contractors.

Sid Blumenthal (Credit: The Guardian)

Sid Blumenthal (Credit: The Guardian)

Sid Blumenthal is paid about $120,000 a year as a full-time employee of the Clinton Foundation. He gets the job in early 2009 at the behest of former President Bill Clinton, who employed him in the White House in the 1990s. He keeps the job until March 2015, the same month that the Clinton email scandal first becomes news.

Blumenthal is a longtime friend of Bill and Hillary Clinton, and a journalist. He appears to have been a private citizen without a security clearance since the 1990s. Yet for the duration of Clinton’s time as secretary of state, and while he is being paid by the Clinton Foundation, he frequently emails her with intelligence information and advice. His foundation job doesn’t seem to have anything to do with any of the foundation’s charitable works.

According to Politico, “While Blumenthal’s foundation job focused on highlighting the legacy of [Bill] Clinton’s presidency, some officials at the charity questioned his value and grumbled that his hiring was a favor from the Clintons, according to people familiar with the foundation.”

In 2011, Blumenthal has a business relationship with two companies, Osprey Global Solutions and Constellations Group, trying to get government contracts to assist US-supported rebels in Libya that year.

After March 2015, Blumenthal will be a paid consultant to American Bridge and Media Matters, two groups supporting Clinton’s presidential campaign that are run by David Brock, an ally of both Clinton and Blumenthal. Politico will later comment, “Blumenthal’s concurrent work for the foundation, the Brock groups, and a pair of businesses seeking potentially lucrative contracts in Libya underscores the blurred lines between her State Department work and that of her family’s charitable and political enterprises.” (Politico, 5/28/2015)

January 21, 2009—February 1, 2013: Sid Blumenthal sends Clinton over 800 emails; many contain dubious intelligence.

That is an average of about one email every other day for Clinton’s four years as secretary of state. Blumenthal is a journalist, long-time Clinton confidant, and Clinton Foundation employee. But he is also a private citizen with no security clearance, so his emails are never vetted by US intelligence.

In 2015, The New York Times will report that Clinton “took Mr. Blumenthal’s advice seriously, forwarding his memos to senior diplomatic officials in Libya and Washington and at times asking them to respond. Mrs. Clinton continued to pass around his memos even after other senior diplomats concluded that Mr. Blumenthal’s assessments were often unreliable.” Furthermore, his “involvement was more wide-ranging and more complicated than previously known, embodying the blurry lines between business, politics, and philanthropy that have enriched and vexed the Clintons and their inner circle for years.”

Many of Blumenthal’s emails discuss Libya, which becomes a political hot spot due to a civil war in 2011. At the same time, he gets involved with business associates wanting to win contracts from what will become the new Libyan government. Clinton’s State Department would have to give permits for the contracts, but the business plans fall apart before Blumenthal and his partners can seek official approval.

Tyler Drumheller (Credit: CBS 60 Minutes)

Tyler Drumheller (Credit: CBS 60 Minutes)

Most of his intelligence appears to come from one of his partners, Tyler Drumheller, who was a CIA official until 2005. It’s not clear where Drumheller gets his information from. Various officials express skepticism about his emails, as they were sometimes based on false rumors. But Clinton continues to encourage Blumenthal with occasional email replies like “Useful insight” or “We should get this around ASAP.” The Times will note that “Blumenthal’s direct line to Mrs. Clinton circumvented the elaborate procedures established by the federal government to ensure that high-level officials are provided with vetted assessments of available intelligence.”

Former CIA official Paul Pillar will later comment that Blumenthal’s sourcing “is pretty sloppy, in a way that would never pass muster if it were the work of a reports officer at a US intelligence agency.” (The New York Times, 5/18/2015) (WikiLeaks, 1/16/2016)

April 10, 2011: An email forwarded to Clinton appears to contain the most recent US military intelligence, which should have been classified.

US Ambassador Christopher Stevens. He dies from smoke asphyxiation on September 11, 2012, due to a terrorist attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi, Libya. (Credit: Reuters)

US Ambassador Christopher Stevens. He dies from smoke asphyxiation on September 11, 2012, due to a terrorist attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi, Libya. (Credit: Reuters)

The email discusses the current security situation in Libya. It says that due to violence in the town of Ajdabiyah, US Special Envoy Christopher Stevens “is considering departure from Benghazi.” It also discusses Stevens’ concerns about departing and it details the “phased checkout” of Stevens’ staff from the area, possibly in a few hours. Additionally, it contains the latest secret intelligence from AFRICOM (US Africa Command, the US military in Africa), detailing nearby troop movements in the Libyan civil war that could threaten Stevens and his staff. Tim Davis, a special assistant to Clinton, writes the email and then sends it to Clinton aide Huma Abedin, who forwards it to Clinton. Davis marks it “SBU,” which means “sensitive but unclassified.” The email will be released to the public in full on May 13, 2015.

However, the State Department’s inspector general will later conclude that the email should not have been made public without redactions. Furthermore, in August 2015, an unnamed government official familiar with the investigation into Clinton’s emails will tell CBS News that at least the part of the email containing current military intelligence should have been marked classified at the time. Additionally, because that information originated from the military, the State Department did not have the right to declassify it at the time it was sent or later. The unnamed official will say that this kind of mistake is not unusual for State Department officials when they discuss information from multiple sources, but the difference is that this email is stored on Clinton’s private server, which can be easily hacked or monitored. (CBS News, 8/19/2015) (US Department of State, 5/13/2015

In 2015, Fox News will claim that the email contained intelligence from the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), the National Security Agency (NSA), and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), which oversees satellite imagery. Furthermore, “all three agencies confirmed to the intelligence community inspector general that the intelligence was classified when it was sent four years ago by Abedin to Clinton’s private account, and remains classified to this day.” (Fox News, 8/26/2015) Even though the email will be made public in full in May 2015, it will be reclassified as “secret” in September 2015. “Secret” is the medium level of classification, below “top secret.” (The New York Times, 9/30/2015)

June 8, 2011: Blumenthal sends an email to Clinton that appears to contain very recent classified information from the NSA.

A key paragraph from Blumenthal's June 8, 2011, email, containing details of a secret meeting of rebel leaders in Sudan from just the night before. (Credit: US Department of State)

A key paragraph from Blumenthal’s June 8, 2011, email, containing details of a secret meeting of rebel leaders in Sudan from just the night before. (Credit: US Department of State)

Sid Blumenthal is a journalist, Clinton Foundation employee, and friend of Clinton’s. In 2015, the email will be released to the public without any redactions, apparently by accident since the redactors assumed that Blumenthal, a private citizen without any security clearance at the time, would not have highly classified information. The email contains a detailed account of very current events in Sudan, especially about a coup that is being plotted by top generals there. (US Department of State, 1/6/2016)

According to a later account by John Schindler, a former NSA counterintelligence officer, “Mr. Blumenthal’s information came from a top-ranking source with direct access to Sudan’s top military and intelligence officials, and recounted a high-level meeting that had taken place only 24 hours before. To anybody familiar with intelligence reporting, this is unmistakably signals intelligence, termed SIGINT in the trade. In other words, Mr. Blumenthal, a private citizen who had enjoyed no access to US intelligence for over a decade when he sent that email, somehow got hold of SIGINT about the Sudanese leadership and managed to send it, via open, unclassified email, to his friend Ms. Clinton only one day later.”

It appears the information is taken from four different NSA reports, all of them classified “top secret.” At least one is issued under the GAMMA compartment, which is “top secret / special intelligence” (TSSI), considered more classified than even “top secret.”

In 2016, current NSA officials will say they have no doubt Blumenthal’s information came from recent NSA reports. One unnamed official will say, “It’s word-for-word, verbatim copying. […] In one case, an entire paragraph was lifted from an NSA report” that was classified “top secret.”

On the basis of this and other emails, Schindler will conclude that Blumenthal “was running a private intelligence service for Ms. Clinton.” Schindler will ask, “How Mr. Blumenthal got hold of this Top Secret-plus reporting is only the first question. Why he chose to email it to Ms. Clinton in open channels is another question. So is: How did nobody on Secretary Clinton’s staff notice that this highly detailed reporting looked exactly like SIGINT from the NSA?” (The New York Observer, 3/18/2016)

October 15, 2011: Blumenthal sends Clinton a totally inaccurate “intelligence” email about Libya.

Seymour Hersh (Credit: UC Berkeley News)

Seymour Hersh (Credit: UC Berkeley News)

Clinton confidant Sidney Blumenthal sends Clinton an email claiming that Libyan leader Muammar el-Qaddafi is hiding in the neighboring country of Chad and is about to be interviewed by renowned journalist Seymour Hersh. He attributes the information to “a close friend of Hersh.”

This turns out to be entirely wrong—el-Qaddafi is killed five days later in Libya. In 2015, Hersh will be asked about this and says he has no idea what Blumenthal was talking about.

Bloomberg News will later comment, “The email adds to the impression that the intelligence reports that Blumenthal was sending to Clinton about the situation inside Libya—and that she was distributing for comment to top State Department officials—were based on often flimsy or outright erroneous information.”

The email will not be included in the over 30,000 emails Clinton turns over, but is one that Blumenthal gives to the House Benghazi Committee.

It is unknown what Clinton’s response is, if any. (Bloomberg News, 6/17/2015(Bloomberg News, 6/17/2015)

October 19, 2011—October 20, 2011: Blumenthal sends Clinton an email that obviously contains classified information, but Clinton doesn’t flag it as such.

Clinton meets with opposition fighters in Libya on October 18, 2011. (Credit: Kevin Lamarque / Getty Images)

Clinton meets with opposition fighters in Libya on October 18, 2011. (Credit: Kevin Lamarque / Getty Images)

Clinton confidant and private citizen Sid Blumenthal sends another email with his latest intelligence about the civil war in Libya. He marks the email “URGENT INTEL” and “CONFIDENTIAL,” and starts the email with this warning: “SOURCE: Sources with direct access to the Libyan National Transitional Council, as well as the highest levels of European Governments, and Western Intelligence and security services.”

However, despite the obvious signs the email contains classified information, Clinton doesn’t flag the email, and merely replies the next day, “Tnx [Thanks] again.” She also forwards the email to her aide Jake Sullivan with the note “More from Sid.”

Sullivan responds with a short comment that will later be totally redacted. (US Department of State, 1/7/2016) (US Department of State, 1/7/2016)

June 27, 2012: Blumenthal sends another email apparently based on NSA wiretaps of top German leaders.

Clinton confidant Sid Blumenthal sends Clinton an email with the subject heading: “H: some Intel on internal german/euro maneuvering.” The entire two-page long email will later be redacted, except for Blumenthal’s marking “CONFIDENTIAL” and a second subject line: “Re: Internal pressures and potential schisms in German government over Euro-zone.”

Clinton then forwards the email to her aide Jake Sullivan with the comment, “More on the Eurozone crisis.” (US Department of State, 1/29/2016) 

Based on the subject matter and other Blumenthal emails, Blumenthal’s intelligence appears to come from the NSA’s secret wiretapping of German Prime Minister Angela Merkel and other top German officials.

September 3, 2012: Blumenthal sends an email to Clinton that later will be almost entirely redacted.

Clinton confidant and private citizen Sid Blumenthal emails Clinton another one of his many intelligence updates, despite having no security clearance. This one will later be nearly entirely classified, including the email title. There are only two sentence fragments later made public. One is Blumenthal’s marking: “CONFIDENTIAL.” The other is: “SOURCE: Sources with access to the highest levels of the governments and institutions discussed below. This includes—” Six blank pages of fully redacted text follow. (US Department of State, 1/29/2016) Most of Blumenthal’s emails relate to Libya, and the email is sent just eight days prior to a terrorist attack on the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

Between November 2012 and March 15, 2013: Blumenthal’s CIA source may want to sell US intelligence to the new Libyan government.

Libya Prime Minister Ali Zeidan (Credit: Reuters)

Libya Prime Minister Ali Zeidan (Credit: Reuters)

Former CIA official Tyler Drumheller sends a letter to Ali Zeidan, the new Prime Minister of Libya. The letter will later be found in one of Sid Blumenthal’s emails due to his inbox getting broken into by the hacker nicknamed Guccifer.

The letter is undated, but must be from between November 2012 when Zeidan became prime minister, and March 15, 2013, when Blumenthal’s emails were hacked. Drumheller offers the services of his private company “Tyler Drumheller LLC,” to “provide discreet confidential information allowing the appropriate entities in Libya to address any regional and international challenges.” He says his information “is based on the experience of senior officials drawn from the highest levels of the American intelligence, security, and political communities.”

Since Clinton became secretary of state in 2009, Drumheller appears to have been sending CIA and NSA intelligence to Blumenthal, who then forwards it to Clinton. It’s not clear how Drumheller gets this information, since he left the CIA in 2005.

The response from Zeidan is unknown. (Gawker, 3/27/2015) (Gawker, 3/27/2015)

March 27, 2015: Blumenthal sent Clinton intelligence apparently based on NSA wiretapping of top European leaders.

Angela Merkel (Credit: The Associated Press)

Angela Merkel (Credit: The Associated Press)

Gawker reveals that Sid Blumenthal’s emails to Clinton appear to contain information from highly classified NSA intercepts of German Prime Minister Angela Merkel. It is not stated when, but one of Blumenthal’s emails details conversations between Merkel and her finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble about French President Francois Hollande (who was elected in 2012). Blumenthal marked the email with a warning: “THIS INFORMATION COMES FROM AN EXTREMELY SENSITIVE SOURCE.” (Gawker, 3/27/2015) 

In 2013, whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed that the NSA had tapped Merkel’s phone for many years. In July 2015, it will be revealed that the phones of Germany’s ministers were tapped by the NSA as well. (The Guardian, 7/1/2015) It is not clear how Blumenthal gets such intelligence, since he is a private citizen with no security clearance at the time.

April 6, 2015: Former Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) Director Michael Flynn says it’s very likely foreign governments have Clinton’s emails.

Defense Intelligence Agency Director Michael Flynn (The Daily Caller)

Defense Intelligence Agency Director Michael Flynn (The Daily Caller)

He is asked in an interview, “What do you think the odds are that the Chinese, the Russians hacked into [Clinton’s] server and her email account?” He replies, “Very high. […] They’re very good at it. China, Russia, Iran, potentially the North Koreans. And other countries who may be ‘our allies’ because they can.” He adds that since Clinton’s only excuse for using the private server was convenience, she should have been fired.

The DIA is similar to the CIA, but focuses on military intelligence. Since retiring in 2014, Flynn has been notably critical of President Obama. (The Weekly Standard, 4/7/2015) (CNN, 2/13/2016) 

By January 2016, Flynn will occasionally advise Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. (Bloomberg News, 1/31/2016) In February 2016, Flynn will say, “I think Hillary Clinton, for the good of the country, should step down [from the presidential race] and let this FBI investigation play out.” (The Daily Caller, 2/10/2016)

May 22, 2015: Blumenthal “may have been operating an unofficial intelligence operation for Clinton.”

Bloomberg News comments, “The extent to which [Sid] Blumenthal may have been operating an unofficial intelligence operation for Clinton as secretary of state has been an emerging line of inquiry” for the House Benghazi Committee. Blumenthal is a private citizen without any security clearance who nonetheless sent Clinton hundreds of emails containing intelligence information, including classified information. (Bloomberg News, 5/22/2015)

May 22, 2015: One email released to the public on this day by the State Department without any redactions will lead to controversy and investigation.

US Ambassador Stevens (right) talks to locals in Tripoli, Libya, in August, 2012. (Credit: The Associated Press)

US Ambassador Stevens (right) talks to locals in Tripoli, Libya, in August, 2012. (Credit: The Associated Press)

The email was written by State Department official Tim Davis on April 10, 2011, and forwarded to Clinton. It contained very time-sensitive information on evacuation plans by Special Envoy Christopher Stevens in Libya, as well as the latest US military intelligence on the Libyan civil war violence threatening Stevens.

As a result, the release of this email without redactions will start an internal government dispute. The State Department releases the email because they deemed the military intelligence in it was no longer important four years later.

However, Intelligence Community Inspector General Charles McCullough will claim that since the military intelligence originated from the US military, the State Department didn’t have the authority if it should be classified or not. This email will lead to the FBI starting an investigation into Clinton’s emails in late May 2015.

Clinton spokesperson Brian Fallon will later say the dispute about this email “lifted the curtain” and shows that the email scandal can be explained by excessive retroactive classification.

But CNN will report, “However, the Clinton interpretation doesn’t account for the fact that the [email] did contain particularly sensitive information at the time it was sent. Plans to move the envoy and staff would not have been appropriate to be sent on unclassified email systems and particularly not to a non-government email server.” (The New York Times, 5/22/2015) (CNN, 8/20/2015)

Shortly After May 22, 2015: Apparently, the FBI investigation into Clinton’s private emails and her private server begins around this time.

It will later be widely reported that after State Department Inspector General Steve Linick finds four emails with what he deemed classified information in a random sample of 40 of Clinton’s emails, Linick and another inspector general will formally ask the FBI for a “security referral” into Clinton’s emails in July 2015. The FBI’s investigation will formaly begin on July 10, 2015.

And while that is true, CNN will report in August 2015 that the FBI already began investigating Clinton’s emails in May 2015 due to one email being released on May 22nd that appeared to contain intelligence that should have been classified.

That email, written by State Department official Tim Davis on April 10, 2011, and forwarded to Clinton, contained the latest information about plans to evacuate US government officials from Libya that day, as well as the latest US military intelligence on the civil war raging near those officials. (CNN, 8/20/2015)

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)

June 16, 2015: Blumenthal refuses to take ownership of the sometimes inaccurate intelligence in his emails to Clinton.

In private testimony before the House Benghazi Committee, Clinton confidant Sid Blumenthal is asked about the accuracy of the frequent intelligence emails he sent Clinton. Bloomberg News reports: “Blumenthal repeatedly refused to take any ownership of the information in the emails. He told the committee he was just passing on information to Clinton…”

According to one lawmaker attending the hearing, Blumenthal is asked about an October 15, 2011 email he sent to Clinton claiming that Libyan leader Muammar el-Qaddafi was hiding in the neighboring country of Chad and was about to be interviewed by renowned journalist Seymour Hersh, when in fact el-Qaddafi was still in Libya and died there five days later. Blumenthal is asked, “Did it turn out to be true?” He responds, “I don’t know,” despite the email clearly being untrue.

Committee Chair Trey Gowdy comments to reporters afterwards, “I am interested in the reliability of the information being presented to our top diplomat, and the reality is, having been in the room all day, [Blumenthal] has absolutely no idea whether the information is credible or not.” (Bloomberg News, 6/17/2015)

June 16, 2015: Blumenthal was passing unvetted intelligence from a retired CIA official directly to Clinton.

The Osprey Global Solutions logo (Credit: Osprey Global Solutions)

The Osprey Global Solutions logo (Credit: Osprey Global Solutions)

Although Sid Blumenthal testifies before the House Benghazi Committee in a secret session, a Politico article later on the same day as his testimony reveals some of what he says.

Blumenthal, a journalist and private citizen with no security clearance, frequently wrote emails to Clinton that contained detailed intelligence assessments from various parts of the world, especially Libya. Blumenthal reportedly tells the committee that he doesn’t write or even know the ultimate source of any of his Libyan intelligence he sent to Clinton. Instead, he was copying and pasting memos from Tyler Drumheller, a former CIA operative. Blumenthal and Drumheller were involved in a Libya-related business opportunity called Osprey Global Solutions.

Trey Gowdy (R), head of the committee, says, “One of the folks providing [Clinton] the largest volume of information was simply and merely a conduit of someone who may have had business interest in Libya. We have a CIA, so why would you not rely on your own vetted source intelligence agency? In this case, there was no vetting, no analysis of credibility whatsoever.”

Blumenthal claims his advice was unsolicited and he wasn’t being paid for passing on the information. Committee investigators say Blumenthal’s emails about Libya make up more than a third of all of Clinton’s Libya-related emails.

And although Blumenthal was being paid $120,000 a year as an adviser to The Clinton Foundation, he says his salary there “had nothing whatsoever to do with my emails to my friend” Clinton. He also claims the Libyan business venture with Drumheller was a “humanitarian-assistance idea for medical care in which I had little involvement, never got off the ground, in which no money was ever exchanged, no favor sought and which had nothing to do with my sending these emails.” (Politico, 6/16/2015) 

Drumheller will die of pancreatic cancer on August 2, 2015, a month and a half later. It’s unclear if he’s questioned by investigators before his death. If Blumenthal got most or all of his intelligence from Drumheller, it’s unclear where Drumheller got it from, since his 25-year CIA career ended in 2005. (The Washington Post, 8/16/2015)

August 2015: Secretary of State Powell received two classified emails, but under very different circumstances than Clinton.

Secretary of State Colin Powell (Credit: CBS News)

Secretary of State Colin Powell (Credit: CBS News)

Clinton’s personal lawyer David Kendall writes a letter to the State Department claiming that Clinton’s “use of personal email was consistent with the practices of other secretaries of state.” Kendall points in particular to Colin Powell, who appears to be the only other secretary of state to use a private email account while in office. But Powell had a government email account in addition to private one.

According to the Washington Post, “Powell conducted virtually all of his classified communications on paper or over a State Department computer installed on his desk that was reserved for classified information, according to interviews.” He also had a phone line installed in his office solely to link to his private email account, which he generally used for personal or non-classified communication. The State Department’s inspector general did find that Powell’s personal email account had received two emails from staff that contained “national security information classified at the ‘secret’ or ‘confidential’ levels.” (The Washington Post, 3/27/2016) 

It will later come out that the two emails were at the lowest ‘confidential’ level and did not actually contain any intelligence but were classified for other reasons. (ABC News, 3/4/2016)

August 11, 2015: Two out of a random sample of 40 Clinton emails are retroactively deemed “top secret.”

The email sample was examined by the inspectors general of the State Department and the Intelligence Community. Those two emails were not marked as classified at the time, but were given classified labels indicating they contain highly sensitive information from signal intercepts and spy satellites. One is a discussion of a news article about a drone strike operation. The other concerns North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. (Inspector General of the Intelligence Community, 8/11/2015) (The New York Times, 9/7/2015) 

One of the two emails is said to be designated “TOP SECRET//SI//TK/NOFORN.” “SI” stands for “special intelligence,” and usually indicates an intercepted communication. “TK” is an abbreviation for “Talent Keyhole,” which the New York Times reports “relies on satellite intercepts of conversations or imagery data. The program involves some of the most secure information in the intelligence agencies’ computer systems.” “NOFORN” means no foreigners should read the intelligence. (The New York Times, 8/14/2015)

In February 2016, the email about North Korea, written July 3, 2009, will be downgraded from “top secret” to “secret” and then partially released. This will leave one of the random sample of 40 emails “top secret.” All that is known about it is that it is from 2011. (The New York Times, 2/29/2016)

November 18, 2015: The person who sorted Clinton’s emails apparently fails to answer whether she had the security clearance to do so.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Senator Charles Grassley (Credit: J. Scott Applewhite / The Associated Press)

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Senator Charles Grassley (Credit: J. Scott Applewhite / The Associated Press)

Senate Judiciary Chair Chuck Grassley (R) sends a letter to former Clinton aide and lawyer Heather Samuelson. In late 2014, Samuelson led the sorting process through Clinton’s 62,000 emails to determine which ones to turn over to The State Department and which ones to delete. She also worked on Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign and then was a senior adviser to Clinton in the State Department.

Grassley asks if Samuelson had the security clearance necessary to handle Clinton’s emails, some of which were later deemed to contain “top secret” intelligence. He writes, “It is imperative to understand your background in determining what is and what is not a federal record, since you apparently played a major role in assisting Secretary Clinton in making a decision as to which emails to delete.”

A week later, Politico will try to contact Samuelson and the Clinton campaign about Grassley’s questions but got no response. After that there will be no news reports indicating if Grassley ever gets a reply. Earlier in 2015, Samuelson moved from Washington to New York with plans to work in Clinton’s presidential campaign headquarters there. But she never started the job, due to the controversy over her role in sorting Clinton’s emails. (Politico, 11/23/2015)

January 14, 2016: Intelligence Community Inspector General Charles McCullough states that some of Clinton’s private emails contained information that was classified above “top secret.”

He asserts in a letter to Congress that an unnamed intelligence agency has made a sworn declaration that “several dozen emails [had been] determined by the [Intelligence Community] element to be at the CONFIDENTIAL, SECRET, and TOP SECRET/SAP levels.” “SAP” stands for “special access program,” and the New York Times says that they are “often intelligence-gathering programs and other secret programs run by the Pentagon and the CIA that are among the government’s most closely guarded secrets.”

Other intelligence officials say that the several dozen emails do not include two emails classified top secret taken from a random sample of 40 of Clinton’s emails. (The New York Times, 1/19/2016) (NBC News, 1/19/2016) 

It will later be reported that 22 of Clinton’s emails were deemed “top secret,” including one from the random sample of 40 emails, with many more classified “secret” or “confidential.”

January 20, 2016: A former CIA official says Clinton’s top secret emails “absolutely, without question” could have gotten people killed.

Charles Faddis (Credit: Pro Publica)

Charles Faddis (Credit: Pro Publica)

In a Fox News interview, former CIA operations officer Charles Faddis explains how ‘top secret” and especially SAP or “special access program” intelligence is kept separate from all other intelligence: “There is zero ambiguity here. None. Hard copy, electronic, it is clearly marked. If it’s electronic, you’re probably accessing it in a completely separate channel. So not all one stream where everything is mixed together.”

He adds that “the reason this stuff is in this channel is because it’s going to do incredible damage to US national security if it gets out in the open.”

Asked if a leak of the top secret intelligence sent to Clinton’s private email would cost lives, he replies, “Absolutely, without question.”

And when asked what would have happened if he had sent such information to an unsecure email account, he replies, “My career’s over, I lose my clearance, I lose my job, and then I go to prison, probably for a very long time.” (Fox News, 1/20/2016)

January 28, 2016: The Navy’s intelligence chief had his security clearance suspended during an investigation, but Petraeus and Clinton did not.

Vice Admiral Ted Branch (Credit: public domain)

Vice Admiral Ted Branch (Credit: public domain)

Vice Admiral Ted Branch had his security clearance suspended in November 2013, after the Navy learned his name surfaced in a Justice Department-led corruption investigation involving dozens of Navy personnel. No evidence has emerged that he compromised military secrets or committed any crimes. However, over 800 days later he has neither been charged nor cleared. He is the head of the Navy’s intelligence division, but he has less access to classified information than the lowest ranking sailor. He can’t even walk into any office without it being swept by security personnel first to make sure any classified documents are locked up. (The Washington Post, 1/28/2016)

By contrast, news reports indicate that neither Clinton nor any of her top aides have had their security clearances suspended, despite the ongoing FBI’s investigation into the mismanagement of classified information in their unsecured emails. Additionally, when CIA Director David Petraeus came under FBI investigation for mismanaging classified information in late 2012, his security clearance also was not formally revoked. He only had it suspended after he resigned. (Bloomberg News, 2/4/2016)

February 4, 2016: Bloomberg News reveals some hints about the contents of Clinton’s 22 “top secret” emails.

Senator Richard Burr (Credit: public domain)

Senator Richard Burr (Credit: public domain)

Bloomberg News reports: “US officials who reviewed the emails tell us they contain the names of U.S. intelligence officers overseas, but not the identities of undercover spies; summaries of sensitive meetings with foreign officials; and information on classified programs like drone strikes and intelligence-collection efforts in North Korea.”

Senate Intelligence Chair Richard Burr, who has also read all 22 emails, also offers some hints. He says Clinton should have known to better protect the information they contain. “They are definitely sensitive. Anybody in the intelligence world would know that the content was sensitive.” (Bloomberg News, 2/4/2016)

February 23, 2016: Secretary of State Kerry declines to answer if Clinton’s emails harmed US intelligence.

Senator Ron Johnson (Credit: John Shinkle / Politico)

Senator Ron Johnson (Credit: John Shinkle / Politico)

Senator Ron Johnson (R) asks Secretary of State John Kerry if he knows whether the US intelligence community has had to “mitigate the harm by the potential that our enemies might have access to that classified material that’s on Secretary Clinton’s server.”

Kerry replies, “I would not be able to discuss that in an open session.”

Then when asked by Johnson about letting his staff use a private server to send and receive classified information, Kerry responds, “In today’s world, given all that we’ve learned and what we understand about the vulnerability of our system, we don’t do that, no.” (The Hill, 2/23/2016) (The Daily Caller, 2/23/2016)

July 7, 2016: A former NSA official says what Clinton’s emails revealed about NSA collection methods caused “much worse” damage than leaks from Julian Assange, Chelsea Manning or any other whistleblowers.

Former technical director of the National Security Agency (NSA) William Binney (Credit: Democracy Now)

Former technical director of the National Security Agency (NSA) William Binney (Credit: Democracy Now)

William Binney is a former NSA official who was harassed by the US government for several years for blowing the whistle on a wasteful NSA program. (McClatchy Newspapers, 9/29/2015)

Binney worked at the NSA for 36 years, reaching the position of senior technical director and managing 6,000 employees. He believes Clinton’s poor email security has been “devastating” for US national security due to the revelation of some intelligence collection methods. (Washingtonsblog.com, 7/7/2016)

Binney points in particular to an email sent to Clinton by her confidant Sid Blumenthal on June 8, 2011. It mentioned conversations by rebel generals in Sudan that had taken place less than 24 hours earlier. (US Department of State, 1/6/2016)

This email revealed details of NSA collection abilities, and was based on four NSA reports, all of them classified at the “top secret / special intelligence” (TSSI) level, including at least one issued under the GAMMA compartment, which is an NSA handling code for extraordinarily sensitive information, such as decrypted conversations between top foreign leaders. (The New York Observer, 3/18/2016)

Binney concludes, “All in all, this is a rather devastating compromise of technical capability and a commensurate loss of high value intelligence. … In my view, this is much worse than what Julian Assange or Chelsea Manning or any of the other whistleblowers have done. Some are in prison for as many as 35 years. Others have just been ruined and kept from getting anything but menial jobs. But, those in high positions get a pass for much worse offenses.” (Washingtonsblog.com, 7/7/2016)