At least two of the emails Hillary Rodham Clinton received on her personal email account while secretary of State, including one about the North Korean nuclear program, contained highly classified information, claim CIA officials.
The CIA and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency “concluded that the emails were ‘Top Secret,’ the highest classification of government intelligence, when they were sent to Mrs. Clinton in 2009 and 2011," The New York Times reported Monday evening.
The Clinton camp immediately struck back, saying it disagreed with the conclusion of the intelligence review.
“I did not send or receive any information marked classified,” Mrs. Clinton told the Associated Press in an interview Monday. “I take the responsibilities of handling classified materials very seriously and did so.”
The State Department also disputed the findings and pointed out that different agencies often have different views about what is or is not classified.
“Classification is rarely a black and white question, and it is common for the State Department to engage internally and with our interagency partners to arrive at the appropriate decision,” State Department spokesman John Kirby said in a statement. “At this time, any conclusion about the classification of the documents in question would be premature.”
Sending, receiving, or storing classified information – information that, if disclosed, could cause "exceptionally grave damage to national security," as President Obama defined it in 2009 – outside of a secure government account is illegal, as such accounts are more vulnerable to hacking. While no one has yet established that Clinton sent or received information that was classified at the time, the ongoing questions have dogged Clinton's campaign for the presidency from the start.
After deleting what she said were more than 31,000 personal messages, Clinton gave the State Department more than 30,000 work-related emails that she sent and received using a private email server set up at her home in New York, while serving as secretary of State from 2009 to 2013.
The State Department is slowly reviewing and publicly releasing those emails. According to the Times' report, I. Charles McCullough III, the inspector general for the intelligence community, found two emails containing what he determined was “Top Secret” information in the course of reviewing 40 of Clinton’s work-related emails for potential security breaches.
Clinton has staunchly maintained that she never sent or received anything that was classified – at the time.
“There is always a debate among different agencies about what something should be retroactively [marked classified],” Clinton told the AP Monday. “But at the time, there were none."
She also said she does not need to apologize for using a private email account, because “what I did was allowed."
While it's still very early in the race, Clinton's rival, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, has surged in the polls while Clinton continues to be dogged by questions about her use of the private email server. She says the questions have not damaged her campaign.
“Not at all. It’s a distraction, certainly,” Clinton told the AP. “But it hasn’t in any way affected the plan for our campaign, the efforts we’re making to organize here in Iowa and elsewhere in the country. And I still feel very confident about the organization and the message that my campaign is putting out.”