November 2013 and December 2014: Clinton’s personal lawyer David Kendall and his law partner get security clearances, but they probably aren’t valid for the Clinton emails he possesses.

Katherine Turner (Credit: Williams & Connolly)

Katherine Turner (Credit: Williams & Connolly)

Kendall gets a “Top Secret/Sensitive Compartmented Information” (TS/SCI) security clearance from the Justice Department in November 2013. He and his Williams & Connolly law partner Katherine Turner also get a “top secret” clearance from the State Department in December 2014. This is so Kendall can review information related to the House Benghazi Committee’s on-going investigation.

At some point in late 2014, Kendall, Cheryl Mills (Clinton’s chief of staff), and Heather Samuelson (another lawyer) read and sort through all of Clinton’s over 60,000 emails from Clinton’s time as secretary of state. At least 22 of these will later be determined to have contained “top secret” information. Kendall then keeps a copy of over 30,000 of Clinton’s emails, including the 22 top secret ones, in a safe in the office he shares with Turner.

Only in July 2015 will government security officials give him first one safe and then a second more secure safe to hold the thumb drive containing Clinton’s emails, before Kendall gives up the thumb drive in August 2015.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chuck Grassley (R) will later suggest, “Neither Mr. Kendall nor Ms. Turner have a security clearance at a sufficient level to be a custodian of TS/SCI material. Thus, it appears Secretary Clinton sent TS/SCI material to unauthorized persons.” Politico will later point out, “Clearances, especially Top Secret ones, are normally granted in connection with specific matters and do not entitle recipients to all information classified at that level…” (Politico, 8/25/2015) 

Furthermore, Clinton’s emails are handed over to the State Department on December 5, 2014, making it likely that at least some of the time-consuming reading and sorting of 60,000 emails took place prior to the security clearances that were given in November 2014. (The Washington Post, 3/10/2015) 

John Schindler, a former NSA counterintelligence official, will later comment, “TS/SCI information must always be placed in a Secure Compartmented Information Facility (SCIF), a special, purpose-built room designed to protect against physical and electronic intrusion. A full-blown SCIF surely Kendall did not possess. […] Anything less is a clear violation of Federal law. Hillary has placed herself and her attorney in a precarious position here.” (John Schindler, 8/26/2015)

Additionally, it is unknown if Mills and Samuelson, who read and sorted all of Clinton’s emails with Kendall, had the security clearances to do so.

September 22, 2015: Clinton’s emails were improperly secured up until August 2015.

After it became clear by May 2015 that some of Clinton’s emails contained classified information, the security of the email copies possessed by Clinton’s lawyer David Kendall became an issue. In July 2015, State Department officials installed a special safe in Kendall’s office to store them.
However, on this day, Assistant Secretary of State Julia Frifield writes to Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Charles Grassley (R) that “while the safe was suitable for up to (top secret) information, it was not approved for TS/SCI material.” “TS/SCI” stands for “top secret, sensitive compartmented information.” Top secret information and above, such as TS/SCI, must be kept in a specially built secure room known as a SCIF [sensitive compartmented information facility]. Frifield argues that no one in the department knew Clinton’s emails contained such highly classified information.
The issue was resolved in August 2015 when the FBI took away Kendall’s copies of the emails. (The Associated Press, 9/28/2015)

February 4, 2016: Clinton still holds a security clearance despite her mishandling of “top secret” information.

Bloomberg News reports that there is a debate in high-level political circles over whether Clinton should be allowed to keep her security clearance or not during the FBI’s Clinton investigation. Predictably, Democrats say she should while Republicans say she shouldn’t. It was reported in late January 2016 that 22 emails on her unapproved private server contained “top secret” and even above “top secret” information. (Bloomberg News, 2/4/2016) 

In October 2015, the State Department reportedly confirmed to Senator Chuck Grassley (R) that Clinton still holds a security clearance for TS/SCI [Top Secret/Sensitive Compartmented Information] the highest-level security clearance, and apparently nothing has changed since then. It is standard practice for high-ranking officials to retain their clearances after leaving office. (The Free Beacon, 10/7/2015)