Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Response to No Reasonable Prosecutor

(See: Just Above Sunset: No Reasonable Prosecutor)

Damn, I’d really hoped that the eventual announcement of the findings of the FBI, more or less exonerating Hillary Clinton on her handling of her emails, would pretty much shut down the Republican noise machine. Silly me. But I soon realized, even before James Comey had finished his presentation, that this beast of a story just grew more legs.

First of all, as far as I can tell, even the legal part ain’t really over, at least not until Attorney General Loretta Lynch announces whether she will indeed follow the FBI’s recommendations, which there frankly seems to be plenty of incentive for her to not do, simply to demonstrate that there was no bribery involved or foolishness having to do with that meeting with Bill Clinton at the airport.

And secondly, FBI Director Comey seemed to make sure he left enough hanging to keep this thing going for awhile. For one thing, the Republicans will certainly want to ask him questions about how he could have come to his obviously preposterous conclusions, given the case he laid out (and as I write this, it is now known he’ll be talking to the House Oversight Committee on Thursday)

But also, while it may be understandable that he might call the press together to announce that he won’t be recommending any indictments, I’m not sure why he would find it necessary to throw into the mix his personal opinions, having nothing to do with the law — saying "there is evidence that they [Hillary and her staff] were extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information” (although, in fact, probably no more careless than Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice were before her) — which seemed to serve no purpose other than to give the Trump campaign juicy soundbites for their attack ads.

Why would he do that? Maybe because Comey, as a Bush Appointee, is a presumed Republican himself, and no friend of Hillary? Although maybe not. Who knows.

In fact, did he even have to make his recommendations public at all? Maybe it might have been better if he hadn’t, except that I suspect that Lynch, even if she didn’t know ahead of time what he was going to say, may have suggested he do it, in hopes it might defuse some of the political chatter if it happened out in the open.

Still, one thing I’ve not really been able to figure out is what led Hillary to handle her emails the way she did, and I think I may have figured that out by following Ian Millhiser’s link in his ThinkProgress piece, to Newsweek Kurt Eichenwald’s February 8th article, “The Shocking Truth: Colin Powell’s Emails Don’t Matter”, in which he points out that, for anyone to insure they never ever transmit or receive classified information by email, they'd have to walk around in a portable "Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility” ...
… or what is known in intelligence circles as a SCIF. 
Most senior officials who deal with classified information have a SCIF in their offices and their homes.These are not just extra offices with a special lock. Each SCIF is constructed following complex rules imposed by the intelligence and defense communities. 
Restrictions imposed on the builders are designed to ensure that no unauthorized personnel can get into the room, and the SCIF cannot be accessed by hacking or electronic eavesdropping. A group called the technical surveillance countermeasures team (TSCM) investigates the area or activity to check that all communications are protected from outside surveillance and cannot be intercepted. 
Most permanent SCIFs have physical and technical security, called TEMPEST. The facility is guarded and in operation 24 hours a day, seven days a week; any official on the SCIF staff must have the highest security clearance. There is supposed to be sufficient personnel continuously present to observe the primary, secondary and emergency exit doors of the SCIF. Each SCIF must apply fundamental red-black separation to prevent the inadvertent transmission of classified data over telephone lines, power lines or signal lines.
Basically, it’s a room. Sometimes it’s a tent. But you can’t be sitting at your desk in your office and communicate sensitive information, and still make absolutely sure you keep it safe.

And by the way, as you may have heard, much of what information is, at some point, made classified, isn’t secret, or at least shouldn’t be kept secret. Much of what eventually becomes “classified” is made so by the FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) staff, just acting in an abundance of caution in keeping some innocuous Associated Press article from being released to the public.
People outraged by the (false) belief that [Secretaries of State Colin] Powell and [Condoleezza] Rice’s aides broke the law are creating a fantasy world where every official email, no matter its content, must go through a SCIF just in case the FOIA staff eventually determines, sometime in the future and applying different standards, that the information in the email should not be released to the public under a FOIA request out of classification concerns. 
Given the cumbersome procedures of using a SCIF, that would mean the secretary of state would have to spend a lot of time sitting inside a locked box and sending emails not yet designated as containing secret information, solely to avoid the partisan gnashing of teeth that could potentially occur if someday the FOIA staff were to retroactively decide they should not be released to the public out of classification concerns.
And in Powell and Rice’s case, there’s also this:
Plus, both Powell and Rice had the authority, granted by President George W. Bush through executive order, to classify and declassify any document created by the State Department. So if either of them had received an email from another agency containing information that had not gone through a SCIF, he or she could have independently declared that it did not need to be secret and sent it along to anyone they chose.
In other words, had Obama only granted this same power to Hillary, she could have just unilaterally declassified all that stuff on the spot, and avoided all the partisan tooth-gnashing that’s been happening ever since.

So, given how difficult it was to do the job without publicly disclosing that the AP had published a news article mentioning that we have a drone program, there seems to be good justification for doing what Powell, Rice and Clinton all did, and I’m not sure I wouldn’t have been tempted to do the same -- and maybe even at the risk of voters taking umbrage at my doing it, and deciding then to elect Donald Trump president instead of me.

Yikes! This is the world turned upside down!

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