Same Song---Different Verse

Bill Neinast

History repeats itself.  A few years ago, the Clinton statement of the day was, "It depends on what the meaning of the word 'is' is.”  That is being repeated now by the other half of the Clinton family.

The only difference is the wording.  Today it is, “It depends on how the classification is classified.”

The waffling and shuffling by Hillary Clinton on the drip, drip, drip of her mishandling of classified information has been interesting.  If the subject were not so serious, her reactions would be funny.

Sometimes she says she never sent or received anything with a security classification.  Reminding her that sensitive material is classified even without a SECRET or TO P SECRET stamp seems to have no effect on her denials. 

The public did not seem too concerned about this so long as there was just something about some secret information.

Last week, though, those drips turned into a torrent.  That is when Charles McCullough III, the Intelligence Community Inspector General, informed Congress that two government agencies had flagged emails on Clinton's server as containing classified information, including some on "special access programs," which are above "top secret" in classification level.

That is a serious allegation.

As noted in this column on March 19, 2014, I have experience in handling classified material.  Here is a repeat of part of that column.

Along the way, I learned that TOP SECRET is not top secret.  This surfaced in 1960 in the Headquarters of the United States Army, Europe, Heidelberg, Germany.  I had the need to know and had signed for a TOP SECRET report of investigation of a serious security breach.

Some fishermen had pulled a cache of classified U.S. material from the Seine River in the heart of Paris, France.  Luckily, they alerted proper authorities and released the material to them.

The investigation established that an Army enlisted man assigned to the vaults for classified material in the U.S. Embassy in Paris had become disgruntled over something and had thrown the material into the river.

In reviewing the report, I read some things that seemed to be security classifications, but I had never seen them before.  I called the custodian of the report and asked what the words meant.  He asked, “Where’d you hear that?”  I told him that I was reading them from the report on my desk.

He told me to “Shut up!, sit tight, and don’t let the report out of sight.”  In short order, a G2 (Intelligence) officer appeared at my desk, satisfied himself that I was doing what I had to do, stayed with me until I completed the review, and went with me to deliver the report to my supervisor, and then to the Commanding General for approval.

Trying the soldier who chunked the material would have required introducing the material in open court.  That could not be allowed, so he was administratively discharged with an Undesirable Discharge and sent back to the states.

Even the classification titles in that case were classified and a proper clearance was needed to access them. 

About ten years later, I was selected to attend the Army War College and had to get another higher security clearance to clear me for access to material like that in the Paris security breach case.

A year later, because of that clearance I was the counsel for a high ranking Army officer before a closed session of the Senate Intelligence Committee.  Although that was almost 50 years ago, names and subjects are probably still classified and I cannot say more.

So here’s the perspective.

I have not previously heard the term “special access programs” or SAP.  I assume that is current jargon for the system that includes the type of material and classifications that I reviewed in Germany in 1960.

Whether SAP is a separate classification or a series of classification does not matter.  Either way, it illustrates the extremely sensitive material circulated in State Department channels.  Allowing material like that to be stored on private servers that can be easily hacked is a serious criminal offense.

General Petraeus was tried and convicted of a much less serious security breach.  Failing to indict and try Hillary Clinton for what IG McCullough reported would be the crime of the century.


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