Recent Posts

Emails, State Secrets & the Integrity of the Law

Friday, August 14, 2015

As an information technology/cyber-security professional, if I ran an email server on what the National Security community calls the "Non-secure Internet Protocol Routed Network" (or NIPRNet - national security-speak for the Internet) and had emails containing Top Secret/Secure Compartmented Information (SCI) information, the very least that would happen is I would lose my security clearance, and thus my job or business.  I would also face the very real risk of jail time.

What is so staggering about the Clinton email scandal is how the former Secretary of State conducted her affairs in a way that even a junior programmer fresh out of school with an 'interim' security clearance would (or should) know to be way beyond the pale.

In order to understand why this is such a big story, we have to start with a simple observation.  And again, this is about as basic as it comes: There is no such thing as a 'classified email'

Email is a means of transmitting information.  It is the information, not the email, that is the subject of classification.  As such, it makes no difference whether the emails had any classification 'markings'.  Email systems that are used in the military and other government departments that deal with potentially classified information are configured to prompt the user to attach a classification marking (or label) on each email before sending. (Those labels would be UNCLASSIFIED, SECRET, and TOP SECRET/SCI)  This is designed to force the sender to make a judgment as to the nature of the information being transmitted.

Thus the dissembling from the Clinton camp is amazing, and actually threatens national security.  (And this from someone running for President!)  The claim that the 'emails' were not classified when they were sent is ridiculous on its face.  The information in the emails was classified before the email was even typed, thus the emails should have been properly marked by the sender.  And if some of the more sensitive emails were properly marked when sent, and those markings were removed, a serious felony has been committed both by the sender and even more so by whomever removed the markings.

But what makes this story even more egregious is the 'spillage' of information down multiple levels of classification.  Email communications within the national security community traverse different networks. It is bad enough that information classified SECRET would 'spill' from a secret network to the NIPRNet.  This does happen from time to time, but it is the responsibility of every person who comes into possession or contact with that email to recognize the spillage and report it.  But to have TOP SECRET/SCI information 'spill' all the way down to the NIPRNet is almost unimaginable.

What makes this a threat to national security is the message that is sent. The 'Bradley Manning' affair (leaking a massive trove of classified information to WikiLeaks) prompted rules pertaining to 'burning' CDs when classified information is involved.  Then came Edward Snowden.  If Clinton can get away with such an absolutely egregious disregard for the law when it comes to classified information, on what basis would the government then suppose to try Snowden if he were to return?  On what basis would the government enforce these laws at all?

Hillary Clinton is a Progressive, for whom the ends justify the means and the laws apply to everyone else but her. 

No comments

Post a Comment

Don't Miss