January 31, 2016: Clinton dodges a question about the irrelevance of classification markings.

George Stephanopoulos (Credit: ABC News)

George Stephanopoulos (Credit: ABC News)

ABC News journalist George Stephanopoulos asks Clinton, “You know, you’ve said many times that [your] emails were not marked classified. The non-disclosure agreement you signed as secretary of state says that that’s really not that relevant. It says classified information is marked or unmarked classified and that all of you are trained to treat all of that sensitively and should know the difference.”

Clinton replies, “Well of course and that’s exactly what I did. I take classified information very seriously. You know, you can’t get information off the classified system in the State Department to put on an unclassified system, no matter what that system is. We were very specific about that. And when you receive information, of course, there has to be some markings, some indication that someone down the chain thought that this was classified and that was not the case.”

The Washington Post reviews the exchange and says that Clinton’s answer is “only half of the story. Even without markings, officials are supposed to recognize that information passed through an unclassified system might be deemed as classified and should take steps to protect it.” Furthermore, Clinton did sign a non-disclosure agreement legally obligating her to do just that. (The Washington Post, 3/4/2016)

June 8, 2016: Clinton doesn’t remember signing an agreement that classified markings don’t matter.

Clinton interviewed by Brett Baier on June 8, 2016. (Credit: Fox News)

Clinton interviewed by Brett Baier on June 8, 2016. (Credit: Fox News)

Clinton is asked by Fox News host Bret Baier, “You said you sent or received nothing that was marked classified. But you did sign a nondisclosure agreement, an NDA, in 2009 that said markings don’t matter whether it’s marked or unmarked. Do you remember signing that?”

Clinton replies, “No, I do not. But the fact is, nothing that I sent or received was marked classified and nothing has been demonstrated to contradict that.” (Fox News, 6/8/2016) 

In fact, on January 22, 2009 and under penalty of perjury, Clinton did sign an NDA that stated, “classified Information is marked or unmarked classified Information.” (The Washington Post, 2/4/2016(US Department of State, 11/5/2015)

July 1, 2016: The FBI reveals that all its agents in the Clinton email investigation have signed non-disclosure agreements and are subject to lie-detector tests.

FBI official Stephen Kelly sends a letter to Senator Charles Grassley (R), chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, in reponse to his questions. The letter reveals that FBI agents taking part in the FBI’s Clinton email investigation were sworn to secrecy. The agents signed a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) called a “Case Briefing Acknowledgement” which says the disclosure of any information about the investigation is “strictly prohibited” without prior approval.

The NDA reads in part: “I (FBI agent) also understand that, due to the nature and sensitivity of this investigation, compliance with these restrictions may be subject to verification by polygraph examination.”

The FBI claims that “no one refused to sign” the NDA or “raised any questions or concerns” about it.

A sample of the non-disclosure (NDA) Agreement the FBI agents were required to sign. (Credit: public domain)

An unnamed recently retired FBI agent says that this kind of NDA is reserved for “the most sensitive of sensitive cases,” and can have a “chilling effect” on agents, who understand “it comes from the very top and that there has to be a tight lid on the case.” This person adds that such NDAs can also contribute to “group think” because investigators cannot bounce ideas off other agents, only those within a small circle. (Fox News, 7/14/2016)

An upper-ranking retired FBI official says, “This is very, very unusual. I’ve never signed one, never circulated one to others.” And a current FBI agent says, “I have never heard of such a form. Sounds strange.” (The New York Post, 7/12/2016)

Senator Chuck Grassley (Credit: The Associated Press)

Senator Chuck Grassley (Credit: The Associated Press)

Grassley first wrote to the FBI with questions about NDAs on February 4, 2016,  after a media report that FBI agents were asked to sign additional non-disclosure agreements in some cases.

Grassley comments that he finds it “troubling that the FBI tried to gag its agents with a non-disclosure agreement on this matter, in violation of whistleblower protection statutes.” Agents are only allowed to speak without permisssion in a limited number of circumstances, such as communications with Congress regarding waste, fraud, and abuse. (Fox News, 7/14/2016)

Information about this NDA will be first reported by The New York Post on July 12, 2016, shortly after the FBI announced Clinton would not be indicted. Fox New will wait for a follow-up letter to Grassley which won’t come until just after that announcement. (Fox News, 7/14/2016) (The New York Post, 7/12/2016)

October 12, 2016: An unnamed high-ranking FBI official claims that the “vast majority” of agents working on the FBI’s Clinton email investigation believe Clinton should have been indicted.

The “high-ranking FBI official” speaks to Fox News on the condition of anonymity, but the person’s “identity and role in the case has been verified by FoxNews.com.” According to this source, “No trial level attorney agreed, no agent working the case agreed, with the decision not to prosecute” anyone in the investigation at all, but “it was a top-down decision” by FBI Director James Comey.

The source says that when it came to Clinton specifically, “It is safe to say the vast majority felt she should be prosecuted. We were floored while listening to the FBI briefing [on July 5, 2016] because Comey laid it all out, and then said ‘but we are doing nothing,’ which made no sense to us.” And while it might not have been a totally unanimous decision to recommend Clinton’s indictment, “It was unanimous that we all wanted her [Clinton’s] security clearance yanked.” However, even that never happened, despite it being standard procedure in similar cases.

The source adds that FBI agents were particularly upset that Comey unilaterally made the decision not to indict when the FBI’s role is merely to present an investigative report to the Justice Department. “Basically, James Comey hijacked the [Justice Department]’s role by saying ‘no reasonable prosecutor would bring this case.’ The FBI does not decide who to prosecute and when, that is the sole province of a prosecutor. … I know zero prosecutors in the [Justice Department]’s National Security Division who would not have taken the case to a grand jury. One was never even convened.” Without a grand jury, FBI agents were not allowed to issue subpoenas or search warrants and could only request evidence and interviews.

The source also complains that the FBI required its agents and analysts involved in the investigation to sign non-disclosure agreements. “This is unheard of, because of the stifling nature it has on the investigative process.”

Furthermore, immunity deals were made with five key figures in the investigation: Cheryl Mills, Bryan Pagliano, Paul Combetta, John Bentel, and Heather Samuelson. The source says none of them should have been granted immunity if no charges were being brought. “[Immunity] is issued because you know someone possesses evidence you need to charge the target, and you almost always know what it is they possess. That’s why you give immunity. … Mills and Samuelson receiving immunity with the agreement their laptops would be destroyed by the FBI afterwards is, in itself, illegal. We know those laptops contained classified information. That’s also illegal, and they got a pass.”

Additionally, “Mills was allowed to sit in on the interview of Clinton as her lawyer. That’s absurd. Someone who is supposedly cooperating against the target of an investigation [being] permitted to sit by the target as counsel violates any semblance of ethical responsibility.”

The source also comments, “Every agent and attorney I have spoken to is embarrassed and has lost total respect for James Comey and [Attorney General] Loretta Lynch. The bar for [the Justice Department] is whether the evidence supports a case for charges — it did here. It should have been taken to the grand jury.”

Finally, the source claims that many in the FBI and the Justice Department believe Comey and Lynch were motivated by ambition instead of justice. “Loretta Lynch simply wants to stay on as attorney general under Clinton, so there is no way she would indict. James Comey thought his position [heavily criticizing Clinton even as he decides against indicting her] gave himself cover to remain on as director regardless of who wins.”

Andrew Napolitano (Credit: Fox News)

Andrew Napolitano (Credit: Fox News)

Andrew Napolitano, a former judge and judicial analyst for Fox News, also claims to know of many law enforcement agents involved with the Clinton email investigation who have similar beliefs. He says, “It is well known that the FBI agents on the ground, the human beings who did the investigative work, had built an extremely strong case against Hillary Clinton and were furious when the case did not move forward. They believe the decision not to prosecute came from the White House.” (Fox News, 10/12/2016)

The next day, Malia Zimmerman, a co-writer of the article, is questioned on Fox News television. She claims that she has been speaking to other disgruntled FBI agents as well. “They’re saying that the morale is very low and that a lot of them are looking for other jobs. They’re very disappointed. They feel like the agency has been polluted… and they’re embarrassed. They feel like they’ve been betrayed.”

She adds that some of her sources might be willing to speak on the record if they retire or change jobs, which some of them are in the process of doing. But they are currently worried about retaliation. “There are a lot of disgruntled agents, analysts, and [Justice Department] attorneys as well.” These people feel Clinton could have been charged for various reasons, but her 22 “top secret” emails made the most compelling case. (Fox News, 10/13/2016)