A real head scratcher. With all the former Secretaries of State, politicians and reporters, you’d think someone would have brought up the point made below by “Jay Hatheway is a professor of history and chairs the Department of History at Edgewood College in Madison. He previously served in the military as a Special Forces top secret control officer in Europe.”
Hatheway’s comment isn’t exactly a defense of Hillary Clinton’s use of emails, but explains that it may not be as careless, or as flippant about secret or confidential government information as many have been led to believe. She could classify or declassify at will. The thing is, he brings up some very good points:
The partisan attacks against Hillary Clinton and her alleged misuse of classified documents is fundamentally flawed.
For the most part, journalists and politicians have avoided any discussion about the actual process of classification: Documents do not simply appear as classified on a server; someone must be the classifier. In the case at hand, Secretary Clinton was an original classification authority.
She was given this authority by Executive Order 13526, signed into law Dec. 29, 2009, by President Barack Obama. It allowed the secretary a free hand to classify or declassify at will as long as classification guidelines were followed. All Cabinet members have this authority.
What is missing in the current discussion is precisely an acknowledgement of this authority. While one may disagree with what is or is not classified, many of Clinton’s critics assume documents are self-classified. Who exactly do the critics believe assigned a classification level in the first place?Absent a discussion about this process, it is obvious that the attacks on Clinton have no real merit. That the FBI could judge certain email chains classified is obfuscation. How can anyone second guess an original classification authority or designate except to argue that there is a disagreement over what ought to be classified?
But that is the point: the classification level was not the FBI’s to determine. It was exclusively the business of the secretary of state in virtually all of her electronic communications.
In a similar vein, how can members of the House claim to know what the proper classification level was or wasn’t. They couldn’t know unless they were inside of Clinton’s head. Should the secretary determine that her communications were in fact not to be classified, then they are not, all objections aside.
The intent of designating a person as an original classification authority is to give that
person the specific ability to classify as she or he sees fit. The issue then boils down to whether or not something should be classified or not classified in the first place, and the guidelines give original authorities wide latitude depending on the subject matter in question.
As if to confound the issue, critics also challenge the secretary on her use of a private server, something which even our current Wisconsin governor seems to have done.
In short, this endless saga seems to be a misdirection, and since most Americans do not know about the classification process, they can be manipulated when they hear “top secret.” The entire affair is political theater at its worst, and the real losers are the American people.