Sunday, January 31, 2016

Secret Emails: Who Classifies Them, Who Sends Them, Who Gets Them, and Why

GOP Believes This is How HILL Gets and Receives Her "Secret" Emails
(not proven beyond a reasonable doubt but GOP keeps on fishing)

How GOP Seeks to See Hillary at the End of the Day
(yes, tar and feathered and on the proverbial rail)

As the quip goes: “There ain't no there there.” At least not yet. As for me, I tend to believe Mrs. Clinton on this whole (ready for it) Email-gate (yeah, another “gate”). She has testified under oath several times that the emails she received were not classified until after the fact. On that point I do believe her – those who greatly dislike or worse, the Clinton’s, will of course hold the opposite view – refer to the graph above of a rail-riding trip out of town.

Further I do not believe she is silly enough to have gotten secret emails at her home on her email server, let alone Top Secret stuff, at any time. I simply do not believe that. 

Also, it is a bit naive to think that Mrs. Clinton's actions and explanations are lies and something nefarious. I do not believe that for one minute. I may be proven wrong at the end of the day, but with this GOP in this crazy-ass election season it is not likely that they are apt to let that aspect play out legally – not when there is so much to gain politically is on the table, and then we have those who say, “What is wrong with our system?” May I suggest the nearest mirror for a look see?

I now reference this very good rundown on the whole government classification system and process. PSA: I held a government Top Secret (SCI) clearance for years while I was on active duty, my later years in the intelligence field as an Interrogator – so I know a bit of what I am talking about.

The American government's system for classifying things as secret is widely considered a giant mess, by which agencies reflexively over classify things, and the reasons for classifying often make little sense. It is thus extremely easy to imagine that Clinton's emails were classified not because they contained super-sensitive national secrets, and possibly not for any good reason at all, but rather just as a product of America's broken classification system.

This goes back to 1982, when the Reagan administration began a program of such aggressive classification that the unofficial slogan was, “When in doubt, classify.” 

That waned under Bill Clinton but shot back up dramatically under George W. Bush, so much so that by 2004 the mere bureaucracy for classifying documents cost $7 billion per year.

Even John Bolton, a senior Bush official who often championed executive secrecy, once complained, “If there is anyone who fully understands our ‘system’ for protecting classified information, I have yet to meet him.”

The problem was not so much secrecy itself as bureaucratic disarray; something that contains no obviously sensitive information might nonetheless be reflexively classified, or might be classified because the information at some point passed through someone or something that also handles classified information. Or maybe the information is banal but it was later wrapped into a report or document that is itself classified for different reasons.

The problem, in other words, isn't that the rules for classification are too strict. It's that the rules are unclear, messy, or contradictory, to the degree that the rules exist at all, and individual people and agencies have learned to over classify to stay on the safe side.

The problem has grown so severe that it has hampered even the ability of American intelligence officials and policymakers to access the information they need to do their jobs. The head of the 9/11 Commission, Richard Ben-Veniste, told Congress in 2005 that “the failure to share information was the single most important reason why the United States government failed to detect and disrupt the 9/11 plot.  Information has to flow more freely. Much more information needs to be declassified. A great deal of information should never be classified at all.”

In 2010, as a result, Congress passed the Reducing Over-Classification Act, which ordered federal agencies to do exactly that.

But no one thinks that over classification has been fixed. Federal agencies still have a habit of heavily classifying things, regardless of whether they need to be.

As an example of how silly this can get, State Department employees are banned from reading WikiLeaks cables or articles that quote them, as the cables include classified information. So the people responsible for guiding American foreign policy are barred from reading foreign policy coverage that you and I may access freely. Virtually no one in the State Department likes this policy, by the way, but it is a product of the government's larger, and largely broken, system of assigning and dealing with classifications.  

I conclude by saying as a people and that includes the GOP, too, we blow a lot of hot air and rant about justice and fairness and due process… except in this case, right Mr. and Mrs. Gee Oh Pee? (that is when it fits our narrow need)... Well I'm done now. 

Thanks for stopping by and as it has been said many times before: “It ain’t over till it’s over.”

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