Rather than leave my readers in suspense, let me just say it up front. If any of the “little people” working for the government, whether as feds or contractors, used a private computer for official business the way Hillary Clinton did, they would be fired. If they used it to store and send classified information, a lot worse might happen to them. By the letter of the law, they would certainly be punishable with heavy fines and/or jail time. It is one of the more amusing and/or disturbing phenomena of the early 21st century, depending on your point of view, that such a person is even being seriously considered as a candidate for President of the United States.
The latest story about the subject on Foxnews is typical of the rampant disinformation being spread on the subject in the mass media. Under the headline, “New batch of Clinton emails released, 84 now marked ‘classified’,” it continues with the byline, “State Department release 551 documents from former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s email account, including 84 that are considered to be classified today, but not at the time they were initially sent.” Is it really too much to ask that these people occasionally consult, at the very least, some new hire who’s actually taken the elementary training course in security typically required for anyone who routinely handles sensitive information? One can never assume information is unclassified because it has not been officially declared and marked classified. If there is any doubt on the matter, it cannot simply be blown out to the general public without a second thought. It must be submitted to a competent authority for a decision on whether and at what level it should be protected. Regardless of whether it is classified or otherwise sensitive or not, it is illegal to transfer official government information to a private computer.
Let me explain how this works. There are two major types of classified information; that which is protected by executive order, and that which is protected by statute. Information protected by executive order is known as National Security Information, or NSI. Each President typically releases an order early in his term with details on how such information is to be protected, for how long, etc. The latest such order, E.O. 13526, was issued by President Obama in 2009. Other major types of information, dealing with such things as the design and use of nuclear weapons and the production of special nuclear material such as enriched uranium and plutonium, are classified by statute, namely, the Atomic Energy Act of 1954, as amended. The most sensitive category of this type of information is known as Restricted Data, or RD. The Atomic Energy Act established another category of such information pertaining mainly to the military use of and yield of nuclear weapons, known as Formerly Restricted Data, or FRD. There is also a third, seldom encountered category, dealing mainly with foreign intelligence information, known as Transclassified Foreign Nuclear Information, or TFNI. The levels of classification, from top to bottom in order of sensitivity, are Top Secret, Secret and Confidential. The categories, from top to bottom in order of sensitivity, are RD, FRD, TFNI, and NSI.
Information that is protected by statute, such as RD, is “born classified.” It is under the purview of the Department of Energy (DOE). If there is any doubt whether it must be protected or not, it must be submitted to a “Derivative Classifier,” who consults classification guides within his/her area of competence to decide whether it is classified or not, and at what level. If the guides don’t cover it, it may be submitted to one of the few individuals in the country with Original Classification authority for a determination. RD is never automatically declassified, nor must a date or event be set for its eventual declassification. RD information may occasionally be declassified by proper authority. In that case, another specially trained individual, known as a Derivative Declassifier, is appointed to decide whether documents are no longer classified, or may be classified at a lower level. Note the important distinction between information and documents. In some cases declassifiers are authorized to act alone, and in others declassification decisions must be made by a declassifier and another classifier or declassifier acting together.
NSI is not “born classified.” However, it may not be automatically assumed unclassified, either. Each government agency has authority over its own NSI. Each typically has the equivalent of DOE’s Original Classifiers, Derivative Classifiers, and classification guides. Unlike RD, a date or event must be set for declassification of NSI. Under the current executive order, declassification must occur within 25 years, except under special circumstances. Currently, NSI documents may not be automatically declassified, even when the declassification date has passed or the declassification event has happened. They must first be reviewed by an authorized declassifier.
Other than classified information, there are other types of information which must be protected, and to which legal penalties apply if released deliberately or through negligence. These include Official Use Only, which must meet one of the nine exemptions to the Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA, Unclassified Controlled Nuclear Information, or UCNI (DOE), Safeguards Information (NRC), Protected Critical Infrastructure Information or PCII (DHS), etc. It is illegal, and the lowliest employee of the federal government should know it’s illegal, to have any of these types of information on a private computer.
So much for a very elementary description of the classification process in the US. Some of the above is relevant to the case of Hillary Clinton, and some not. However, the fact that she simply ignored all the legal and administrative requirements regarding the handling and protection of sensitive information demonstrates that she is incompetent to be a federal mailroom employee, far less President of the United States. It is sad but hardly surprising in this day and age that most journalists and media organizations have such an abject lack of any sense of a responsibility to inform the public that they ignore all these facts. Their main function, as far as they are concerned, is to defeat the hated and despised conservative outgroup. As a result we find them circling the wagons around her, determined to suppress any hint of the real gravity and implications of her incompetence as Secretary of State. This should provide us with a rather clear indication of what they are talking about when they speak of the “moral compass” referred to in my previous post.
As my readers know, I don’t believe in the existence of objective moral truths. However, I am human. As a result, I experience moral emotions. When I contemplate the fact that Hillary Clinton is very likely to become President of my country, I experience a moral emotion that is familiar to all of us. Shame.