July 23, 2010: An email forwarded to Clinton includes the name and email address of at least one secret CIA official.

A US official whose name is later classified sends an email to at least two dozen other US officials. Most of their names will later be classified as well. At least one redacted recipient’s name is that of a secret CIA official. The email concerns a recent WikiLeaks release of classified documents and includes an attachment that has a statement by senior Defense Department officials and relevant talking points. Clinton aide Jake Sullivan forwards the email to Clinton. (US Department of State, 2/26/2016)

July 25, 2010: An email chain forwarded to Clinton includes the name and email address of a secret CIA official.

Julian Assange (Credit: David G. Silver / Flickr)

Julian Assange (Credit: David G. Silver / Flickr)

Clinton aide Jake Sullivan forwards Clinton an email chain that has been discussing the recent releases of classified US government information by WikiLeaks and Julian Assange. Over 30 US officials are included in the email chain; the name and email address of one of them will later be redacted because that person is a secret CIA official. (US Department of State, 2/13/2016)

September 12, 2010: An email forwarded to Clinton apparently reveals the names and emails of four secret CIA officials.

Judith McHale (Credit: public domain)

Judith McHale (Credit: public domain)

State Department official Mary Sanderson emails over a dozen other officials some analysis about Turkey from the department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR). State Department official Judith McHale forwards the email to Clinton and a couple of her aides. Nothing in the analysis will later be deemed classified, but it appears four other recipients of Sanderson’s email are secret CIA officials. (US Department of State, 9/12/2010)

April 26, 2011: An email forwarded to Clinton includes the name and email address of a secret CIA official who might be in Libya.

Christina Tomlinson (Credit: Linked In)

Christina Tomlinson (Credit: Linked In)

State Department official Christina Tomlinson writes an email about a recent traffic accident involving US Special Envoy Christopher Stephens in Libya that killed four Libyan civilians. The email is sent to over 20 other US officials; most of them appear to have jobs related to the US military effort in the on-going Libyan civil war. The name and email address of one recipient will later be redacted due to that person being a secret CIA official. Clinton’s chief of staff Cheryl Mills forwards the email to Clinton. (US Department of State, 1/7/2016)

May 4, 2011: An email forwarded to Clinton mentions the name and email address of a secret CIA official.

Ben Rhodes (Credit: Kevin Lamarque / Reuters)

Ben Rhodes (Credit: Kevin Lamarque / Reuters)

Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes sends an email to about a dozen other US officials. Many of the names are later redacted, including that of at least one secret CIA official. The email forwards comments from a recent President Obama interview, indicating Obama will not allow any photographs to be released of Osama bin Laden’s dead body. Clinton aide Jake Sullivan forwards the email to Clinton. (US Department of State, 1/7/2016)

October 13, 2012: Clinton receives an email that reveals undercover CIA officers use State Department cover in Afghanistan.

Jeremy Bash (left) Leon Panetta (right) (Credits: public domain)

Jeremy Bash (left) Leon Panetta (right) (Credits: public domain)

Jeremy Bash, who is chief of staff to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta at the time, sends an email to four other US officials, including Clinton aides Jake Sullivan and Cheryl Mills. Sullivan then forwards the email to Clinton. The email has the subject heading: “This a.m. Green on Blue.” That is an idiom referring to when police attacks soldiers. The email refers to an Afghan police officer triggering a suicide vest and killing or wounding 14 Americans or Afghans, including one dead American.

The email will later be classified at the “secret” level, suggesting some important classified information in it, but its redactions make it difficult to understand. There is no indication of a reply from Clinton. (US Department of State, 1/29/2016)

In Clinton’s July 2016 FBI interview, she will be specifically asked about this email, again suggesting something unusual about it. However, her answer will also be heavily reacted. For instance, “Clinton believed she would be speculating if she were to state what [redacted] meant when he referred to [redacted].” (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/2/2016)

Dario Lorenzetti (public domain)

Dario Lorenzetti (public domain)

On February 4, 2016, NBC News will reveal that the email concerns undercover CIA officer Dario Lorenzetti. He died in the suicide attack described in the email. Lorenzetti’s CIA connection was leaked to the media by anonymous officials four days after his death and was widely reported in the news media, although his CIA cover was not lifted until later.

According to NBC News, in the redacted portions of the email, it seems Bash was trying “to preserve the CIA officer’s cover. But some of the language he used, now that Lorenzetti is known to have been a CIA officer, could be read as a US government acknowledgement that CIA officers pose as State Department personnel in a specific country, Afghanistan — something widely known but not formally admitted.” This is why the email is classified at the “secret” level.

Bash ends the email by instructing a CIA spokesperson to “please lash up with [redacted].” NBC News will indicate the missing word is “presumably either the spy agency or one of its employees.” (NBC News, 2/4/2016)

This may be the phrase that the FBI asked Clinton about, and to which she replied that “she would be speculating if she were to state what [redacted] meant when he referred to [redacted].” (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/2/2016)

NBC News will also interview Bash about this email. Bash will claim that the email “did not reference the individual’s name, employer, nor any identifying description or information.” Additionally, once the CIA posthumously lifted Lorenzetti’s cover, “the original unclassified email could be read to confirm the general use of cover, prompting the redactions we now see. But any suggestion that this email contained confirmation about the person or his cover, or any inappropriate information, is flat wrong.” (NBC News, 2/4/2016)

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)

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 3, 2016: Clinton’s top secret emails are said to reveal sources, methods, and assets.

Representative Chris Stewart (Credit: The Salt Lake Tribune)

Representative Chris Stewart (Credit: The Salt Lake Tribune)

Representative Chris Stewart (R), a member of the House Intelligence Committee who has viewed Clinton’s 22 “top secret” emails, says those emails “do reveal classified methods, they do reveal classified sources, and they do reveal human assets.” He adds, “I can’t imagine how anyone could be familiar with these emails, whether they’re sending them or receiving them, and not realize that these are highly classified.” (The Washington Post, 2/4/2016

Additionally, he claims that there are seven more Clinton emails with a classification of “top secret” or higher that the government has not publicly mentioned yet. (The Washington Examiner, 2/3/2016) 

The Washington Post reports, “Other sources who have viewed the emails do not describe [them] as strongly, though one official said Clinton’s aides might have put their security clearances at risk.” (The Washington Post, 2/3/2016) 

Senator Dianne Feinstein (D), who as a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee has also viewed the emails, claims that none of them originated from Clinton, were not marked as classified at the time, and do not deserve to be marked as such. (Dianne Feinstein, 1/29/2016)

In July 2016, it will be reported that there are eight chains of top secret emails instead of the previously reported seven, suggesting that Stewart was right that there are more than 22. It will also be reported by FBI Director James Comey that some of the top secret emails originated from Clinton, all of them deserved to be marked “top secret,” and all contained classified information when they were sent. (The New York Times, 7/5/2016)

February 4, 2016: A handful of publicly released Clinton emails make indirect or veiled references to undercover CIA officers.

For instance, a CIA officer is referred to as a “State” Department official, with the quote marks suggesting the person is not actually a diplomat. Another email refers to “OGA,” which stands for “other government agency” and is a common pseudonym within government circles for the CIA. NBC News notes, “The messages at issue are part of a longstanding pattern of senior officials at the State Department and other government agencies trying to talk around classified information over email, sometimes unsuccessfully.” (NBC News, 2/4/2016)

February 5, 2016: The New York Times reveals a few more details about what Clinton’s 22 emails deemed “top secret” contain.

A Reaper drone firing its missile. (Credit: public domain)

A Reaper drone firing its missile. (Credit: public domain)

The Times reports, “It remains unknown what exactly the 22 emails contain, given their classification as ‘top secret,’ but [some US] officials described them generally, on the condition of anonymity. The officials included people familiar with or involved in the handling of the emails in government agencies and in Congress.”

  • Officials from US intelligence agencies have battled with State Department officials over what should be considered classified in Clinton’s emails, with the intelligence agencies arguing for more classification and the State Department arguing for less. But in the case of Clinton’s 22 top secret emails, even the State Department agreed that all 22 should be deemed top secret or even above top secret.
  • The emails comprise seven distinct email chains, and most of those chains involve discussions of the CIA drone program. The Obama administration has generally considered the program highly classified, even though details of it have been widely reported. However, some Clinton’s emails contain unredacted mentions of the drone program, so it is the discussion of certain details of the drone program that merit a top secret classification. For instance, some of the top secret emails include an email discussion relating to an unnamed New York Times article that “contained sensitive information about the intelligence surrounding the CIA’s drone activities, particularly in Pakistan.”
  • At least one of the email chains was started by Richard Holbrooke, “who as the administration’s special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan would have been intimately involved in dealing with the ramifications of drone strikes.” He died in December 2010.
  • “Some of the emails” include information deemed “top secret/SAP,” which means “special access programs.” The Times calls these programs “among the government’s most closely guarded secrets.”
  • “At least one of the emails contain[s] oblique references to CIA operatives.” One email has been given a designation of “HCS-O,” which indicates the information came from human intelligence sources. However, officials say that “none of the emails mention specific names of CIA officers or the spy agency’s sources.” (The New York Times, 2/5/2016)

May 10, 2016: The New York Times reports that 18 of Clinton’s publicly released emails have been deemed classified on the grounds that they identified CIA officials.

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)

June 8, 2016: The names of CIA officials could have been revealed through a combination of the content of Clinton’s emails and the classification markings on them.

Stewart Baker (Credit: Diego M. Radzinsch / National Law Journal)

Stewart Baker (Credit: Diego M. Radzinsch / National Law Journal)

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)

June 10, 2016: A Congressperson claims Clinton’s “top secret” emails reveal classified means, methods, and human assets.

Representative Chris Stewart (Credit: public domain)

Representative Chris Stewart (Credit: public domain)

Republican Representative Chris Stewart, as a member of the House Intelligence Committee, has access to unredacted versions of Clinton’s emails, including her 22 “top secret” emails. He says of Clinton, “She did reveal classified means. She did reveal classified methods. She did reveal classified human assets.”

Stewart, a former Air Force pilot, adds, “If I had behaved that way in the military, I would be very concerned about my legal future.” (The Guardian, 6/10/2016)