The FBI’s risky game

I see a lot of confusion and misunderstanding about the FBI's investigation on Hillary Clinton's use of a private server for emails allegedly containing classified information.  There is a lot of hype, but few seem to understand why Hillary is being investigated.  As a veteran Apache pilot who completed two combat tours in Afghanistan as a platoon leader and company commander, I dealt with classified information and classified email systems daily.  So I feel compelled to offer some insight on what is going on.  The media make it sound confusing, or they simply don’t know what they are talking about, so allow me to clear up some ambiguity.

Using a private server is not a crime.  Deleting emails is not a crime.  Using email for work is not a crime.  Wiping a server "like with a cloth" is not a crime.  What is a crime is sending and storing classified information on an unsecured network.  The government has regulations on handling classified information in order to prevent it from getting into the wrong hands.  They even make color-coded wires and stickers to help ensure that classified info remains on classified networks.  If a green wire goes into a red computer for one second, the person who did it will have his or her security clearance revoked at a minimum.

There are three levels of classification for government information: Confidential, Secret, Top Secret, and categories within Top Secret called sensitive compartmentalized information (SCI).  Information classified top secret would cause exceptionally grave danger to our national security if made available to the public.  There is no such thing as a classified private server, so Hillary's server was in no way authorized to be used to send or receive classified information.

The problem is, Hillary stored and received information containing everything between confidential and SCI over her private server.  She did not make a mistake or do this once or twice.  She did it numerous times, and she did it intentionally, violating protocol that is regulatory and punitive (law punishable for breaking).  Read it for yourself if you wish (18 USC Section 793-F, or 18 U.S. Code 1905 for starters).

So did she break the law?  Yes, the FBI acknowledged this in July when FBI director James Comey confirmed she both sent and received seven emails classified at the highest level over an unclassified system.  She clearly broke the law by mishandling classified information, which carries a prison sentence of one to ten years for each offense (18 USC Section 793-F, or 18 U.S. Code 1905).  This is to say nothing of her attempts to delete emails in defiance of a congressional subpoena.

The question is not did she break the law.  The question is, why did the FBI announce in July she broke the law, then recommended no charges?  Perhaps this is why:

Imagine that your boss asks you to investigate one of your colleagues and make a recommendation whether or not to file criminal charges.  While you are investigating, you find out that your colleague is clearly guilty of a crime.  You also find out your boss is getting replaced in two months, and your colleague has a 40% chance of becoming your new boss.  You also find out that your current boss handpicked your colleague to replace him as your boss.  If you recommend charges, but a prosecutor fails to get a conviction at trial and this colleague becomes your boss, your career is over (at best).  If you recommend no charges, and someone else becomes your new boss, you are in deep trouble when he finds out you knew of a crime but didn’t recommend charges.

How do you proceed?  There are four options:

  1. You recommend charges, and your colleague goes to jail (you’re OK).
  2. You recommend charges, but your colleague becomes your new boss anyway (you’re screwed).
  3. You don’t recommend charges, and your colleague becomes your boss (you’re OK, but your integrity is shot).
  4. You don’t recommend charges, and someone else becomes your new boss (you’re screwed, and your integrity is shot).

This is the position the FBI is currently in.  This is not good  not for them and not for the rule of law in our country.  The FBI is in a bad spot, and they need to keep both their “we’re OK” options available until after they know how the election is going to turn out.  This is the type of nonsense third-world countries go through during elections not the United States!  But this is what we now have because of people like Hillary Clinton. 

The FBI is not going to fix this before the election.  They clearly have to wait to see who gets elected before they can proceed without severe repercussions from whom they end up offending.  They are going to infuriate someone regardless of what they do.  They just have to make sure it is not their new boss.  This could be one reason why they reopened the investigation and explains why it will certainly not conclude until after the election results are final.

Ryan Sasscer, veteran Army officer and Apache pilot, served as an AH-64D company commander in Afghanistan.