A State Department official offered a “quid pro quo” deal if the FBI would change the classification of a Hillary Clinton email, FBI documents indicate.
Under Secretary of State Patrick Kennedy asked the bureau to unclassify the message so it could be archived, “never to be seen again”.
He made the request in relation to an email about the 2012 attacks on the US diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya.
But the FBI said it did not change the classification level.
The email in question described reports in November 2012 that Libyan police were arresting suspects in the attack of two months earlier, which left Ambassador Christopher Stephens and three other Americans dead.
Other interesting revelations from the newly released FBI documents include:
An FBI interviewee said Mrs Clinton would often “blatantly” disregard security and diplomatic protocols, including her frequent refusal to attend overseas diplomatic functions with local ambassadors, which left envoys “insulted and embarrassed”
A group of top State Department officials that some called “The Shadow Government” met weekly to discuss Freedom of Information requests related to Mrs Clinton. They wanted her emails to be released all at once, instead of on a rolling basis, as would normally be the case, according to the FBI summary.
But the group did not get its way.
The 100-page FBI document published on Monday says an unnamed FBI official was “pressured” in summer last year to change the classified Clinton email to unclassified.
In response, on Monday House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA) released the following statement and summary findings after the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) released additional files related to its investigation of Secretary Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server:
“We find Under Secretary Kennedy’s actions extremely disturbing. Those who receive classified intelligence should not barter in it – that is reckless behavior with our nation’s secrets. Someone who would try to get classification markings doctored should not continue serving in the State Department or retain access to classified information. Therefore, President Obama and Secretary Kerry should immediately remove Under Secretary Kennedy pending a full investigation.”
The Chairmen sent letters to U.S. State Department Secretary John Kerry and Inspector General Steve Linick requesting the immediate removal of Under Secretary Patrick Kennedy and an investigation into the misconduct.
A summary of key findings from the documents is below.
The State Department put immense pressure on its own employees and on the FBI to determine none of the information in Secretary Clinton’s emails was classified.
In the spring of 2015, Under Secretary Patrick Kennedy contacted a senior FBI official to request the FBI reverse its finding that one of Secretary Clinton’s Benghazi-related emails contained classified information. Kennedy allegedly assured the FBI official State would “archive the document in the basement of [the Department] never to be seen again,” withholding it from the public under Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) exception (b)(9), which relates to geological and geophysical information.
In response, the FBI official proposed a “quid pro quo” to downgrade the classification if the State Department would support increasing FBI personnel into Iraq. A veteran diplomat like Kennedy should have been receptive to the FBI’s personnel needs without resorting to a bargain that could threaten national security information. Due to the sensitive nature of the information, the classification was never ultimately downgraded.
Thereafter, the State Department stopped conferring with the FBI on classification decisions related to Secretary Clinton’s emails, and instead consulted with the Department of Justice to represent FBI equities.
Career State Department personnel who typically handle FOIA requests told the FBI the process for reviewing and releasing Secretary Clinton’s emails was highly unusual, coordinated through the Office of Legislative Affairs rather than the normal FOIA office, and that decisions were made far differently for these emails than for any other FOIA request.
These career public servants, which normally process FOIA requests, considered it odd that a separate system was set up to review the Clinton emails, including bringing on Austin Evers and former IRS employee Kate Duval, both of whom had formerly worked at Williams & Connolly – the very same law firm representing Secretary Clinton.
The two Legislative Affairs attorneys met regularly with a group of senior State Department officials which the career personnel dubbed “the shadow government.” The group included Secretary Kerry’s Chief of Staff, Under Secretary for Management Patrick Kennedy, and others, who met to decide how to respond to Congressional and FOIA requests related to Secretary Clinton.
Secretary Clinton has said her federal records were preserved throughout her tenure through the Department employees who received emails from her. Accordingly, the State Department sent a Department-wide request to produce to the FOIA office any emails with Secretary Clinton. Yet when Secretary Clinton’s lawyers produced a limited batch of emails, some of them involved employees who claimed they had no emails with Secretary Clinton. The FOIA office considered itself unable to compel the employees, and State failed to take any further action to discover if the employees had additional emails that had not yet been produced.
The documents included new details about how Secretary Clinton and her attorneys handled information and classified facilities.
Clinton regularly violated Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility (SCIF) rules by carrying her BlackBerry into the secure area, and also by requiring her Diplomatic Security protective detail agents to hold the BlackBerry in the SCIF, thus requiring them to violate security rules.
Even after the FBI took possession of jump drives and one laptop of Secretary Clinton’s emails from her attorneys on August 6, 2015, the attorneys retained six additional laptops until August 17. One of the laptops was repeatedly used to access the internet even after Secretary Clinton’s emails were on the computer – including the classified ones.
Secretary Clinton’s attorneys acknowledged that some attorneys who viewed the emails did not have security clearances.
Williams and Connolly originally suggested that they had 14 boxes of Clinton emails, but only 12 were picked up, and no one knows what happened to the other two.