I don’t really want to blog about Hillary’s e-mails, but the topic really is unavoidable, isn’t it? I don’t see that the FBI report adds much new information to what was known after the State Department Inspector General’s report was released.   I don’t have any reason to change anything I wrote at that time: there is no getting around the fact that Clinton screwed up badly, and her screw-up—let’s be honest—is not entirely irrelevant to our assessment of her candidacy for the presidency.   But in the grand scheme of things, there is less here than meets the eye—less, in any case, than the Republicans would shove in front of our eyes. Looking at the long history of gross mistakes and misbehavior by US presidents, Clinton’s e-mail transgressions wouldn’t come close to making the A-list.

The big question is whether Clinton’s e-mail usage compromised national security. The simple and correct answer is that they did not.   First of all, I will point out once again that “national security” is one of the most abused terms in our political lexicon. Typically, practically any and every act of American foreign policy is justified in terms of national security. It’s a way of forestalling serious, critical discussion: after all, who will deny that our nation must, indeed, be secure? Can there be any more national objective more sacrosanct? Could there be any more heinous act by a responsible US government official than compromising national security?  But most of the work of the Secretary of State advances a variety of US foreign policy interests that are unrelated in any real, direct way to the safety and security of our people and territory.

But even if we accept the conventional, expansive definition of national security, there is no reason to believe that Hillary did any damage. The  fact is that the various “classified’ designations routinely get slapped onto documents with what might generously be called an excess of zeal; a lot of classified information is actually pretty innocuous.    Slate’s Fred Kaplan boils the issue down to its core better than I could. Read his whole post, but I think the bottom line is here:

….even if Russian, Chinese, Iranian, or Syrian spies had hacked into Clinton’s email servers, and if they’d pored through 60,000 emails and come across these eight chains that held top secret material, they would not have learned anything the slightest bit new or worthy of their efforts. The FBI’s discoveries should be viewed in that context.”



  1. Jeffrey Herrmann July 9, 2016 at 9:17 am

    Many years ago I held a Top Secret clearance and several more sensitive clearances for “compartmented information.” I saw people “negligently” mishandle highly sensitive classified information on an almost weekly basis. This is why prosecutorial discretion must be exercized in regard to the gross negligence, as opposed to the intential, subsection of the relevant criminal statute. (Add to that the dubious constitutionality of that subsection, which is why it has been the basis of only one prosecution in 99 years.) If every act of careless mishandling were prosecuted, the courts would be clogged with cases.
    Political motivation would be the most likely reason for a prosecutor to go after Hillary in these circumstances. Political motivation explains why Repugnicans are now rounding on their fallen Saint Comey, even though in his statement and testimony he vastly exceeded the role of a criminal justice investigator and fed the Repugnican propaganda machine with useful quotes, when all he needed to say was the facts do not warrant a prosecution.

    • tonygreco July 9, 2016 at 10:42 am

      Thanks for the insights. I agree that Comey overstepped. I assume that he thought he could blunt the inevitable Republican onslaught by anticipating and thus pre-empting it. But it was neither appropriate nor very successful.

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