Speaker Ryan Moves to Block Hillary from Receiving Classified Briefings

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Speaker Paul Ryan sent a letter to James Clapper Director of National Intelligence formally requesting that he refrain from providing any classified material to Hillary Clinton while she is a presidential candidate. The request is based upon the findings announced by F.B.I. Director Comey during his July 5, 2015 press conference:

Although we did not find clear evidence that Secretary Clinton or her colleagues intended to violate laws governing the handling of classified information, there is evidence that they were extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information.

For example, seven e-mail chains concern matters that were classified at the Top Secret/Special Access Program level when they were sent and received. These chains involved Secretary Clinton both sending e-mails about those matters and receiving e-mails from others about the same matters. There is evidence to support a conclusion that any reasonable person in Secretary Clinton’s position, or in the position of those government employees with whom she was corresponding about these matters, should have known that an unclassified system was no place for that conversation. In addition to this highly sensitive information, we also found information that was properly classified as Secret by the U.S. Intelligence Community at the time it was discussed on e-mail (that is, excluding the later “up-classified” e-mails).

None of these e-mails should have been on any kind of unclassified system, but their presence is especially concerning because all of these e-mails were housed on unclassified personal servers not even supported by full-time security staff, like those found at Departments and Agencies of the U.S. Government—or even with a commercial service like Gmail.

Separately, it is important to say something about the marking of classified information. Only a very small number of the e-mails containing classified information bore markings indicating the presence of classified information. But even if information is not marked “classified” in an e-mail, participants who know or should know that the subject matter is classified are still obligated to protect it [emphasis provided].

In his letter, Ryan points out that there is no legal requirement to provide Hillary with Classified information. The Speaker justifies his request for such an appropriate sanction by relying upon Comey’s statement about security or administrative sanctions:

To be clear, this is not to suggest that in similar circumstances, a person who engaged in this activity would face no consequences. To the contrary, those individuals are often subject to security or administrative sanctions.

Ryan letter

In a case with very “similar circumstances,” Naval Reservist Bryan Nishimura pleaded guilty to unauthorized removal and retention of classified materials, which he kept on his personal devices. Although the “investigation did not reveal evidence that Nishimura intended to distribute classified information to unauthorized personnel,” he was nonetheless sentenced to two years of probation and a $7,500 fine. “Nishimura was further ordered to surrender any currently held security clearance and to never again seek such a clearance.”

Denying Hillary access to classified information seems like a very appropriate “security or administrative sanction.”