Here’s What’s in Those ‘Top Secret’ Clinton Emails
Policy + Politics

Here’s What’s in Those ‘Top Secret’ Clinton Emails

© Kevin Lamarque / Reuters

We finally have some insight into the content of two “top secret” emails found on Hillary Clinton’s private email server and flagged by a government auditor.

One message included a discussion of a news article detailing a secret U.S. drone operation in Pakistan, according to a report by the Associated Press. A separate exchange could have referenced – depending on one’s interpretation – highly classified material in an improper manner.

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The inspector general for the 17 spy agencies that make up the U.S. intelligence community told Congress on Monday that two of 40 emails reviewed in a random check of the 30,000 emails Clinton gave the State Department included information deemed "Top Secret/Sensitive Compartmented Information," one of the government's highest levels of classification.

Under mounting criticism for her use of a private server for sending and receiving official email during her four years as secretary of state, Clinton consented this week to turn over to the FBI the private server she used while at the State Department. Republicans have lambasted the frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination for what they insist was her negligence in handling the nation’s secrets. Donald Trump, the GOP frontrunner, has repeatedly asserted that she may have engaged in criminal activity.

The two emails in question were marked classified after consultations with the CIA, which is where the material originated, government officials told the AP. They stressed, however, that Clinton did not transmit the sensitive information herself and that “nothing in the emails she received makes clear reference to communications intercepts, confidential intelligence methods or any other form of sensitive sourcing.”

The email exchange over drones begins with a copy of a news article that discusses a CIA drone program that targets terrorists in Pakistan and elsewhere. Although technically an official secret operation, the drone program is generally well known in the national defense community and is often discussed in the news media. The copy of the article makes reference to classified information, and a Clinton adviser followed up with oblique references that some might interpret as official confirmation of the drone program.

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The second email appears “more suspect,” according to the AP report. While nothing in the message was “lifted” from classified documents, some officials interviewed by the news organization said that it improperly points back to unspecified highly classified materials. Other officials, however, characterized what was done in far less sinister terms.