Friday, August 28, 2015

The Clinton 'Scandal' That Isn't

[TM note: speaking from experience, this piece is right on the mark.]

By David Ignatius - August 28, 2015

WASHINGTON -- Does Hillary Clinton have a serious legal problem because she may have transmitted classified information on her private email server? After talking with a half-dozen knowledgeable lawyers, I think this "scandal" is overstated. Using the server was a self-inflicted wound by Clinton, but it's not something a prosecutor would take to court.

"It's common" that people end up using unclassified systems to transmit classified information, says Jeffrey Smith, a former CIA general counsel who's now a partner at Arnold & Porter, where he often represents defendants who allegedly misused classified information.

"There are always these back channels," Smith explains. "It's inevitable because the classified systems are often cumbersome and lots of people have access to the classified emails or cables." People who need quick guidance about a sensitive matter often pick up the phone or send a message on an open system. They shouldn't, but they do.

"It's common knowledge that the classified communications system is impossible and isn't used," argues one former high-level Justice Department official. Several former prosecutors say flatly that such sloppy, unauthorized practices, while technically violations of law, wouldn't normally lead to criminal cases.

Clinton's use of a private email server while she was secretary of state has been a nagging campaign issue for months. Critics have argued that the most serious problem is possible transmission of classified information through that server. Many of her former top aides have sought legal counsel. But experts in national-security law say there may be less here than it might appear.

(More here.)

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