Hillary's Email: It's a Felony!

The constant "drip, drip drip," regarding former Secretary of State Clinton's e-mail is starting to sound like so much inside baseball. Secretary Clinton continues to stand on her statement that none of the e-mail she sent or received had classified markings. Other folks in the conversation comment that many of the e-mails Secretary Clinton wrote and received were "born classified," at the time she wrote or received them. 

We need to cut to the chase. Somebody committed a felony, likely several. If, as some reports have indicated, there was certain overhead imagery, marked or unmarked on Secretary Clinton's e-mail server, someone committed a serious crime. The way government information/automation systems are set up, someone had to take a deliberate series of felonious actions in order for that imagery to get there. Period.

One such action appears to be confirmed yesterday in an article in National Review by Brendan Bordelon entitled: Clinton Pushed Aide to Strip Markings from Sensitive Documents, Send through ‘Nonsecure’ Channel:

During a 2011 e-mail exchange, Hillary Clinton urged top aide Jake Sullivan to strip classified talking points of all markings and send them through “nonsecure” means after a secure fax line failed to function. On the night of June 16, 2011, Sullivan told Clinton that important talking points on an undetermined issue would be faxed to her the following morning. When Clinton informed Sullivan that the talking points had not yet materialized, he began a frantic search for the problem. “They say they’ve had issues sending secure fax,” he wrote to Clinton 15 minutes later. “They’re working on it.” “If they can’t, turn into nonpaper with no identifying heading and send nonsecure,” Clinton replied. (Emphasis mine)

Instead of getting into a detailed primer on Department of Defense and Department of State electronic communications, I'll give you the short version. Although the State Department and the Department of Defense use different systems for their unclassified communications, they do share some of the same systems for their classified traffic.

The unclassified systems used by Defense and State have e-mail, file sharing and teleconferencing capabilities. Those systems also have access to the Internet. Some agencies allow their employees to use their unclassified computers to conduct limited personal business, such as sending e-mails and looking at The Weekly Standard online, during their breaks. These employees can also send e-mail to private addressees from this system.

The classified systems the agencies use jointly are:

SIPRNet (Secret Internet Protocol Router Network): used to transmit material that is classified CONFIDENTIAL or SECRET. It may not be used to transmit TOP SECRET material. 

JWICS (Joint Worldwide Intelligence Communications System): used to transmit TOP SECRET information, to include highly classified satellite imagery. The JWICS system is where Private Bradley Manning obtained the information he later gave to Wikileaks. This is also the system the State Department uses to routinely receive and access satellite imagery and imagery analysis, along with other TOP SECRET information.

What is important to understand is that, except for extremely rare and tightly controlled circumstances, JWICS, SIPRNet and the in-house unclassified systems do not connect to each other. Except for that very rare exception, the only way to get information from one system to another is to use a system I have yet to introduce, the SneakerNet. "SneakerNet" is IT slang, referring to someone taking information on one system, saving it to portable media, disk or thumb drive and walking ("sneakering") it over to the other system and uploading it, thereby bypassing the procedural safeguards inherent in separate, unconnected systems. An alternative, using the same concept, would be to print the data from a JWICS terminal (possibly inside the State Department) and then scan the hard copy into an unclassified system. This method would also work were someone get access to a hard copy document or photo handed out at a meeting.

One of the advantages of this unconnected system of systems is that it virtually eliminates "spillage," the accidental release of one level of classified information into an arena not cleared for it. If there was reconnaissance satellite imagery or analysis of that imagery on Secretary Clinton's server or any other unclassified system, then someone had to take a series of deliberate and felonious steps to put it there. 

A photo would have had to have its markings deliberately removed. Then it would have had to have been copied from JWICS onto removable media (or printed out) and uploaded (or scanned) to either an unclassified computer & e-mailed to Secretary Clinton, or directly uploaded to her server. In the case that what was on her server was merely a written assessment of what the imagery shows, the above still pertains. Someone had to make a series of deliberate decisions and steps to either copy or transcribe the assessment from JWICS and send it via a nonsecure e-mail to Secretary Clinton.

What this means is that the conversation about this being a mistake, accident, or minor error in judgment, is a flat out lie. In my humble opinion, this lie should be rolled into an obstruction of justice charge -- yet another felony.

Disclosure: The last time I personally used any of these systems was in 2012. Systems and procedures have likely changed since then.

Mike Ford is a former Infantry Colonel. He has served in Europe, Central America and in Southwest Asia, Commanding at the Detachment, Company, Battalion and Brigade Levels. 

The constant "drip, drip drip," regarding former Secretary of State Clinton's e-mail is starting to sound like so much inside baseball. Secretary Clinton continues to stand on her statement that none of the e-mail she sent or received had classified markings. Other folks in the conversation comment that many of the e-mails Secretary Clinton wrote and received were "born classified," at the time she wrote or received them. 

We need to cut to the chase. Somebody committed a felony, likely several. If, as some reports have indicated, there was certain overhead imagery, marked or unmarked on Secretary Clinton's e-mail server, someone committed a serious crime. The way government information/automation systems are set up, someone had to take a deliberate series of felonious actions in order for that imagery to get there. Period.

One such action appears to be confirmed yesterday in an article in National Review by Brendan Bordelon entitled: Clinton Pushed Aide to Strip Markings from Sensitive Documents, Send through ‘Nonsecure’ Channel:

During a 2011 e-mail exchange, Hillary Clinton urged top aide Jake Sullivan to strip classified talking points of all markings and send them through “nonsecure” means after a secure fax line failed to function. On the night of June 16, 2011, Sullivan told Clinton that important talking points on an undetermined issue would be faxed to her the following morning. When Clinton informed Sullivan that the talking points had not yet materialized, he began a frantic search for the problem. “They say they’ve had issues sending secure fax,” he wrote to Clinton 15 minutes later. “They’re working on it.” “If they can’t, turn into nonpaper with no identifying heading and send nonsecure,” Clinton replied. (Emphasis mine)

Instead of getting into a detailed primer on Department of Defense and Department of State electronic communications, I'll give you the short version. Although the State Department and the Department of Defense use different systems for their unclassified communications, they do share some of the same systems for their classified traffic.

The unclassified systems used by Defense and State have e-mail, file sharing and teleconferencing capabilities. Those systems also have access to the Internet. Some agencies allow their employees to use their unclassified computers to conduct limited personal business, such as sending e-mails and looking at The Weekly Standard online, during their breaks. These employees can also send e-mail to private addressees from this system.

The classified systems the agencies use jointly are:

SIPRNet (Secret Internet Protocol Router Network): used to transmit material that is classified CONFIDENTIAL or SECRET. It may not be used to transmit TOP SECRET material. 

JWICS (Joint Worldwide Intelligence Communications System): used to transmit TOP SECRET information, to include highly classified satellite imagery. The JWICS system is where Private Bradley Manning obtained the information he later gave to Wikileaks. This is also the system the State Department uses to routinely receive and access satellite imagery and imagery analysis, along with other TOP SECRET information.

What is important to understand is that, except for extremely rare and tightly controlled circumstances, JWICS, SIPRNet and the in-house unclassified systems do not connect to each other. Except for that very rare exception, the only way to get information from one system to another is to use a system I have yet to introduce, the SneakerNet. "SneakerNet" is IT slang, referring to someone taking information on one system, saving it to portable media, disk or thumb drive and walking ("sneakering") it over to the other system and uploading it, thereby bypassing the procedural safeguards inherent in separate, unconnected systems. An alternative, using the same concept, would be to print the data from a JWICS terminal (possibly inside the State Department) and then scan the hard copy into an unclassified system. This method would also work were someone get access to a hard copy document or photo handed out at a meeting.

One of the advantages of this unconnected system of systems is that it virtually eliminates "spillage," the accidental release of one level of classified information into an arena not cleared for it. If there was reconnaissance satellite imagery or analysis of that imagery on Secretary Clinton's server or any other unclassified system, then someone had to take a series of deliberate and felonious steps to put it there. 

A photo would have had to have its markings deliberately removed. Then it would have had to have been copied from JWICS onto removable media (or printed out) and uploaded (or scanned) to either an unclassified computer & e-mailed to Secretary Clinton, or directly uploaded to her server. In the case that what was on her server was merely a written assessment of what the imagery shows, the above still pertains. Someone had to make a series of deliberate decisions and steps to either copy or transcribe the assessment from JWICS and send it via a nonsecure e-mail to Secretary Clinton.

What this means is that the conversation about this being a mistake, accident, or minor error in judgment, is a flat out lie. In my humble opinion, this lie should be rolled into an obstruction of justice charge -- yet another felony.

Disclosure: The last time I personally used any of these systems was in 2012. Systems and procedures have likely changed since then.

Mike Ford is a former Infantry Colonel. He has served in Europe, Central America and in Southwest Asia, Commanding at the Detachment, Company, Battalion and Brigade Levels.