By John Hnatio
Two days ago, I wrote up a short piece on FBI Director James Comey’s precedent setting speech announcing that there was not enough evidence of wrongful intent to prosecute Hillary Clinton for establishing her own private and insecure e-mail communications system to send confidential, secret, and top secret national security information.
Yesterday, I had the chance to study Director Comey’s testimony before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and review a broad range of commentary on the matter. I conclude that perhaps the most poignant thing said by Director Comey in all of this is, “They may conclude I’m an idiot… but what I hope they will not conclude is that I am a dishonest person.”
Now let’s review a somewhat consolidated summary of the vast commentary about Mr. Comey’s reasoning and his actions in the matter of Secretary Clinton and her e-mail system.
In his testimony on the Hill, Director Comey declares “no reasonable prosecutor” could determine that charges were warranted. When he was asked if Secretary Clinton broke the law, Comey said that there was not enough evidence to “establish beyond a reasonable doubt” that Clinton actually broke any law. He said that his recommendation not to prosecute Hillary Clinton was based on two simple questions “What did the person do? And when they did that thing, what were they thinking?”
FACT ONE: On January 22, 2009, the day after the Senate confirmed her as the new Secretary of State, Clinton received a security briefing and signed a document acknowledging that she understood the proper handling and protection of classified information and pledging to do so.[i] Thereafter she intentionally failed to take mandatory yearly re-briefings, and even issued State Department wide admonitions to her employees to not use their personal accounts for official purposes.[ii]
FACT TWO: Secretary Clinton knowingly, willfully, and intentionally violated this security pledge by establishing her own private e-mail communications system in violation of Department of State’s own cybersecurity rules that she herself mandated.[iii]
FACT THREE: Secretary Clinton did not establish her own private e-mail communications system for mere convenience. The motivation for establishing the clandestine system was to preclude access to her communications from the prying eyes of other government officials outside her circle of confidants, including Congress. It was also used as a shield against government records laws and disclosures under the Freedom of Information Act (5 U.S.C. § 552).[iv]
FACT FOUR: Secretary Clinton considered herself above the security regulations and laws that guide the protection of classified information for people in lesser positions. For example, when she asked the National Security Agency to provide her with a highly sophisticated mobile telephone like the one used by President Obama, they refused. So she decided to continue to use her personal Blackberry anyway.[v]
FACT FIVE: Secretary Clinton then sent 110 e-mails in 52 e-mail chains containing Confidential (C) or Secret (S) National Security Information (NSI). Eight of those chains contained Top Secret (TS) NSI some of which in turn contained Special Compartmented Information (SCI).[vi]
FACT SIX: Secretary Clinton knew full well that she was sending and receiving classified information on her private e-mail communications system in violation of the law. On January 22, 2009, she received a security briefing where it was made clear that classified information does not need to be marked in order to be classified.[vii] As Secretary of State she knew full well the sensitivity of her classified communications marked or unmarked.
FACT SEVEN: 18 U.S. Code § 793 – Gathering, transmitting, or losing defense information, Section (f) makes it clear that “gross negligence” is the test for prosecution in the case of Secretary Clinton. Yet according to Director Comey’s convoluted misreading of the law that, in a Section 793(f) case, it is not enough for the prosecution to prove mere “gross negligence,” even though that’s exactly what subsection (f) states.[viii]
FACT EIGHT: Any assertion that there has been only one prosecution based on gross negligence in the past 100 years for the mishandling of classified information is patently false. For example, Bryan Nishimura, a California Naval reservist, was sentenced to two years’ probation and a $7,500 fine after he pleaded guilty to removing classified material and downloading it to a personal electronic device. There exist numerous other examples including the famous Wen Ho Lee case involving the mishandling of classified nuclear weapons information at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in 1999.[ix]
FACT NINE: Secretary Clinton’s actions are not limited to prosecution under just 18 U.S. Code § 793. There exist a plethora of other laws that can be applied. Among these are 18 U.S. Code § 798 — disclosure of classified information, 18 U.S. Code § 2071 — concealment, removal or mutilation generally of classified information, the Espionage Act of 1917 and others.[x]
FACT TEN: The Department of Justice (DOJ) Prosecutors’ Manual demonstrates that FBI Director Comey too placed himself above the rules in his handling of the matter. The Prosecutors’ Manual requires that statements must be cleared through several departments of filters to avoid just what has happened in the Clinton e-mail case. Department of Justice policies are that you never comment on people that you do not indict.[xi]
During his testimony on the Hill Director Comey insisted that Secretary Clinton was given no special consideration nor held to a more lenient standard than a less prominent person would have been. Director Comey stated in defense of his decision not to recommend prosecution, “I think it’s possible she didn’t understand what a ‘C’ meant when she saw it in the body of an email like that.” Really?
Dare the real truth be told, indicting Secretary Clinton would require the Justice Department to apply an appropriate legal standard that would endanger countless highly placed political appointees throughout the government who have and continue to violate, without fear the very same laws that people in lesser positons are forced to follow under fear of criminal prosecution. The fact that people of high position like Colin Powell and aides to Condoleezza Rice also had private e-mail accounts is absolutely no defense for the actions of Secretary Clinton, but rather an indictment of those in high positions of power. Unfortunately, the circumstances of the entire Clinton e-mail scandal do not seem to support anything that Director Comey has told us so far.
To top off this bizarre state of affairs, Director Comey revealed that the FBI’s interview with Secretary Clinton was not taken under oath or recorded. When asked why not, he remarked, “It’s still a crime to lie to us.” Well I don’t know about you, but I for one would certainly have liked to read an official transcript of the FBI’s interview of Secretary Clinton. I want to know if the FBI asked questions like:
- Did you sign a State Department security acknowledgement form dated January 22, 2009?
- When the NSA told you that you could not have a secure phone like President Obama’s did you continue to use your personal BlackBerry anyway?
- Do you know what classified information is?
- Does classified information have to be marked to be classified?
- Did you set up a separate e-mail system?
- Did you fail to attend a 2011 cyber security briefing especially set up for you by your own staff?
- Did you sign a 2012 policy memorandum to all employees of the Department of State telling them that personal computer systems were not secure and not to use them?
- Who gave you permission to violate State Department security rules to set up the system?
- Was classified information transmitted on your private e-mail system or not?
- What efforts did you take to make sure your private e-mail system was secure? How?
- Would you characterize your conduct as grossly negligent?
- Do you or your husband know Loretta Lynch?
- Why did your husband meet with Loretta Lynch in the back of an airplane a few days ago?
- Did you or your husband attempt to obstruct justice by influencing Attorney General Lynch not to prosecute your case?
And, the list goes on and on and on.
Now back to Director Comey’s statement, “They may conclude I’m an idiot…but what I hope they will not conclude is that I am a dishonest person.” I think political satirist Will Rogers’ story about the hungry mountain lion says it all.
“There was a starving mountain lion. He hadn’t eaten for days. He was walking over the hill when he came across this huge bull quietly grazing in the field. He attacked the bull and ate so much that his stomach started to hurt so bad that he groaned. Just then a hunter in the nearby woods heard the groan, spotted the mountain lion and shot him dead.
Do you know the moral of this little story?
Well, let me tell you. If you are full of bull it’s better to just keep your mouth shut” Will Rogers
Ladies and gentlemen, based on all of the above, I am forced to conclude that Director Comey, Loretta Lynch, the entire Department of Justice, and many of our political leaders are all full of nothing but hornswoggle. Yes, Director Comey you all are a bunch of dishonest idiots. It’s time for change in America.
[i] The Hill. (March 25, 2016) “Records show Clinton received just one training brief on classified info.” As retrieved from the World Wide Web on July, 8, 2016 at: http://thehill.com/policy/national-security/274304-records-show-clinton-received-just-one-training-on-classified-info
[ii] Fox News. (March 25, 2016) “Clinton skipped special cyber briefing in 2011, documents show.” As retrieved from the World Wide Web on July, 8, 2016 at: http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2016/03/25/clinton-skipped-special-cyber-briefing-in-2011-documents-show.html
[iii]Town Hall (February 5, 2016) “Email Scandal Spin: No, Hillary, Powell and Rice Didn’t ‘Do It Too’“ As retrieved from the World Wide Web on July, 8, 2016 at: http://townhall.com/tipsheet/guybenson/2016/02/05/no-the-powell-and-condi-classified-emails-story-is-not-a-gamechanger-n2114842
[v] CBS News. (March 16, 2016) “Emails show NSA rejected Hillary Clinton’s request for secure smartphone.” As retrieved from the World Wide Web on July, 8, 2016 at: http://www.cbsnews.com/news/emails-show-nsa-rejected-hillary-clinton-request-for-secure-smartphone/
[vi] FBI Press Release: Statement of Director Comey. (July 5, 2016) As retrieved from the World Wide Web on July, 8, 2016 at: https://www.fbi.gov/news/pressrel/press-releases/statement-by-fbi-director-james-b.-comey-on-the-investigation-of-secretary-hillary-clintons-use-of-a-personal-e-mail-system
[vii] The Federalist. (July 7, 2016) “Documents Say Hillary Clinton Knew She Was Breaking National Security Laws.” As retrieved from the World Wide Web on July, 8, 2016 at: http://thefederalist.com/2016/07/07/documents-say-hillary-clinton-knew-she-was-breaking-national-security-laws/
[viii] The Wall Street Journal. (July 5, 2016) “The Clinton Email Probe and the Question of Gross Negligence.” As retrieved from the World Wide Web on July, 8, 2016 at: http://blogs.wsj.com/law/2016/07/05/the-clinton-email-probe-and-the-question-of-gross-negligence/
[ix] Judicial Watch. (July 6, 2016) “Comey’s FBI Helped Convict Navy Reservist who ‘Handled Classified Materials Inappropriately’.” As retrieved from the World Wide Web on July, 8, 2016 at: http://www.judicialwatch.org/blog/2016/07/comeys-fbi-helped-convict-navy-reservist-handled-classified-materials-inappropriately/
[x] The Daily Caller. (September 21, 2015) “Eight Laws Hillary Clinton Could Be Indicted For Breaking.” As retrieved from the World Wide Web on July, 8, 2016 at: http://dailycaller.com/2015/09/21/eight-laws-hillary-clinton-could-be-indicted-for-breaking/#ixzz4Dr3IIt22http://dailycaller.com/2015/09/21/eight-laws-hillary-clinton-could-be-indicted-for-breaking/
[xi]“Alternet. (July 6, 2016) FBI Director James Comey Breaks Federal Prosecutor Rules by Smearing but Not Indicting Clinton over Emails: Prosecutorial excess and abuse of power.” As retrieved from the World Wide Web on July, 8, 2016 at: http://www.alternet.org/election-2016/fbi-director-james-comey-breaks-federal-prosecutor-rules-smearing-not-indicting