September 18, 2012—February 2013: A nuclear energy whistleblower is targeted for allegedly having classified information on a computer.

Lawrence Criscione (Credit: Michael Weaver / McClatchy)

Lawrence Criscione (Credit: Michael Weaver / McClatchy)

On September 18, 2012,  NRC [Nuclear Regulatory Commission] engineer Lawrence Criscione sends a long letter to NRC chair Allison Macfarlane about dangerous problems at the Oconee nuclear plant in South Carolina. He shares the letter with 13 members of Congress.

One day later, the NRC’s inspector general begins investigating if he illegally made information marked “For Official Use Only” public. Another government agency soon rules that such information is an “unofficial administrative marking that has no legal import.”

But in February 2013, the inspector general nevertheless asks the Justice Department to charge him with misusing his government computer to transmit sensitive information. Several days later, the department decides not to prosecute him. But it takes another 13 months before he is formally cleared.

Speaking in 2015, Criscione believes he was unfairly targeted to discourage other whistleblowers. Referring to Clinton’s email scandal, he says, “If a career civil servant had a server with ‘top secret’ information in his basement, he would without a doubt do time” in prison. (McClatchy Newspapers, 9/29/2015)

July 29, 2015: Congressional Republicans are increasingly concerned about Clinton’s lawyer possessing her emails.

Bradley Moss (Credit: public domain)

Bradley Moss (Credit: public domain)

Senator Ron Johnson (R), chair of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, writes a letter to Clinton’s personal lawyer David Kendall. He asks him what he’s done to “safeguard the classified material in (his) possession,” meaning a thumb drive containing Clinton’s emails.

Bradley Moss, a lawyer who handles national security information, comments: “As a general rule, private non-government individuals, even those maintaining a security clearance, are not authorized to privately store classified information. […] I’m not aware of any other private lawyer who has a clearance being allowed to do what is being permitted here.” (McClatchy Newspapers, 7/30/2015) 

The FBI will finally take all the copies of the emails from Kendall on August 6, 2015.

March 23, 2016: A Congressperson calls the Clinton Foundation a “sham” charity.

Representative Marsha Blackburn (Credit: MSNBC)

Representative Marsha Blackburn (Credit: MSNBC)

Representative Marsha Blackburn (R) sends a letter to the FTC [Federal Trade Commission], asking it to investigate the Clinton Foundation’s nonprofit status. “The FTC has a history of investigating ‘sham’ charities for false and deceptive statements and should initiate a review of the foundation. […] Consistent with the FTC’s mission and precedent, we request that you review [my] allegations to determine if the Foundation is a ‘sham’ charity.” (The Seaton Post, 3/23/2016)

May 2, 2016: The State Department changes its policy on when foreign intelligence should be considered classified.

State Department legislative liaison Julia Frifield sends a letter to the Senate indicating an apparent change in what information the State Department considers properly classified. The vast majority of redactions in Clinton’s emails are for foreign government information, to which Frifield refers as “FGI.”

Frifield writes, “Although the unauthorized release of FGI is presumed to cause harm to the national security—thereby qualifying as Confidential [level] classified information, department officials of necessity routinely receive such information through unclassified channels. For example, diplomats engage in meetings with counterparts in open settings, have phone calls with foreign contacts over unsecure lines, and email with and about foreign counterparts via unclassified systems. Diplomats could not conduct diplomacy if doing so violated the law.” As a result, not all such information should automatically be considered classified.

However, regulations in effect when Clinton was secretary of state called for FGI to be marked “confidential” unless it was designated “C/MOD” (for “confidential/modified handling”). But none of Clinton’s emails appear to have been given that designation. (Politico, 5/12/2016)

May 28, 2016: Clinton’s campaign chair strikes an apologetic tone, but Clinton herself does not.

John Podesta, the chair of Clinton’s presidential campaign, sends a letter to Clinton’s top supporters responding to the recent State Department inspector general’s report criticizing Clinton’s email practices. It repeatedly emphasizes that Clinton made a “mistake,” and “she has taken responsibility for that mistake.”

This approach contrasts with Clinton’s actual interview comments since the report came out in which she has generally struck an unrepentant tone. For instance, in one such interview, she said, “There may be reports that come out, but nothing has changed. It’s the same story.” (BuzzFeed, 5/30/2016)