June 3, 2019 – Former State official testifies he warned about Clinton email issues and was concerned about interference with classified Clinton Benghazi emails
“Judicial Watch announced today that John Hackett, the former Director for Information Programs and Services (IPS), which handles records management at the State Department, testified under oath that he had raised concerns that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s staff had “culled out 30,000” of the secretary’s “personal” emails without following strict National Archives standards. The full deposition transcript is available here.
John Hackett, as part of a series of court-ordered depositions and questions under oath of senior Obama-era State Department officials, lawyers, and Clinton aides, also revealed that he believed there was interference with the formal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) review process related to the classification of Clinton’s Benghazi-related emails.
Hackett served first as deputy director then as director for Information Programs and Services, which handles the FOIA request program and the retirement of and declassification of documents at the State Department. He was at the department from April 2013 to March 2016.
In March 2015, Clinton told reporters that she and her staff had deleted more than 30,000 emails “because they were personal and private about matters that I believed were within the scope of my personal privacy.” ABC News reported: “However, after a year-long investigation, the FBI recovered more than 17,000 emails that had been deleted or otherwise not turned over to the State Department, and many of them were work-related, the FBI has said.”
(Heather Samuelson, the Clinton lawyer who deleted the Clinton emails, separately testified to Judicial Watch that she received immunity from the Justice Department.)
Hackett answered during the deposition that he recalled a conversation that he had when he was at the State Department about requesting rules or parameters from Secretary Clinton or her attorneys that they used to segregate her personal and official work emails.
Hackett: I recall it wasn’t much of a conversation. I — I was — I mean, I have to say, it was emphatic to the Under Secretary of Management — and I didn’t speak in tones like that very often to him — you know, that we needed these — you know, the guidelines.
Judicial Watch: And when you said, the Under Secretary, are you referring to Patrick Kennedy [then-Under Secretary of State for Management]?
Hackett: I think I might have raised it to Rich Visek, the Acting Office of Legal Advisor, or Peggy — or Margaret Grafeld [an executive-level State Department FOIA official] raised it to Rich, as well.
Judicial Watch: Why did you feel so strongly that this was necessary, that they provide this information?
Hackett: Well, we heard that there were 50,000 or 60,000 emails, and that they had – “they” being the Secretary’s team — had culled out 30,000 of these. And which is — so we wanted to know what criteria they used. The standard from the National Archives is very strict. If there was — if there were mixed records, that would be considered a federal record. If it was mixed personal and mentioned a discussion, that would be — under the narrow National Archives rules, it would be considered a federal record.
(…) Hackett testified that his initial concern over Secretary Clinton’s email use arose in June 2013 when he said he viewed a photograph on the WTOP website of Clinton “sitting on a plane with a BlackBerry. “And that got me thinking that, well, what — what was that BlackBerry? Was it a government BlackBerry? And if so, where were the emails relating to that BlackBerry?” Hackett said.
Hackett testified he went to then-IPS Director Sheryl Walter “after seeing that photograph and suggested that we had to be careful about what sort of responses we made relating to Hillary Clinton’s emails, when it — if there was a No Record Located response that was being given out. In fact, I advised Sheryl that we should stop giving No Record Located responses until we come to — kind of come, you know — find out what that BlackBerry meant, come to ground about what was known about the former Secretary’s emailing habits.”
Asked how Walter responded, Hackett said “My recollection is, she agreed with me.”
“The other thing that we did, or I did at that time, was, we wanted to find out what this BlackBerry meant,” Hackett testified. “So we tasked — my recollection is, we verbally tasked Tasha Thian, the department’s Records Manager at that time, to look into the BlackBerry. And I believe Tasha contacted Clarence Finney in the Secretary’s office to ask him what he knew about the former Secretary’s emailing habits.”
Asked what Thian found out, Hackett responded: “I don’t recall exactly what she found out, but she didn’t find out much. Tasha also contacted the part of the State Department that’s part of the intelligence community, and Intelligence and Research Bureau, to ask to see if there were any classified emails on — in the classified systems that the Secretary might have produced. And I do recall that I think Tasha came back with the answer that they did not have any.”
Hackett went on to say that “There was a lot of confusion about exactly what that BlackBerry, you know, meant at that time. you had a concern as to how the department was responding to FOIA requests that related to Secretary Clinton’s emails after you saw the photograph of the Secretary holding a BlackBerry. … My recollection is — and I had only been there two months — that someone had told me that, — and I can’t remember — that she did not have an email account, a government email account. So there was obviously a contradiction here when, you know, there’s that photograph. So we were just trying to find out what was the ground truth. So that’s why I had a concern about issuing responses that said no records had been located.” (Read more: Judicial Watch, 7/02/2019)
October 13, 2016 – Lisa Page emails DoD and FBI officials regarding a quid pro quo offer from the State Department to the FBI
Judicial Watch announced today it received 215 pages of records from the U.S. Department of Justice revealing former FBI General Counsel James Baker discussed the investigation of Clinton-related emails on Anthony Weiner’s laptop with Clinton’s lawyer, David Kendall. Baker then forwarded the conversation to his FBI colleagues.
The documents also further describe a previously reported quid pro quo from the Obama State Department offering the FBI more legal attaché positions if it would downgrade a redaction in an email found during the Hillary Clinton email investigation “from classified to something else.”
On October 13, 2016, former FBI attorney Lisa Page sent an email, which apparently references a related Judicial Watch FOIA lawsuit and further discusses a previously reported quid pro quo offer from the State Department:
Jason Herring will be providing you with three 302s of current and former FBI employees who were interviewed during the course of the Clinton investigation. These 302s are scheduled to be released to Congress in an unredacted form at the end of the week, and produced (with redactions) pursuant to FOIA at the beginning of next week. As you will see, they describe a discussion about potential quid pro quo arrangement between then-DAD in IOD [deputy assistant director in International Operations Division] and an Undersecretary at the State Department whereby IOD would get more LEGAT [legal attaché] positions if the FBI could change the basis of the FOIA withhold re a Clinton email from classified to something else. [Emphasis added] (Read more: Judicial Watch, 2/11/2019)
Colin Powell thinks Benghazi was a “stupid witch hunt” and Condoleezza Rice agrees.
Former Secretary of State Colin Powell writes an email to former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on this day about the Republican-led House Benghazi Committee investigation. “Benghazi is a stupid witch hunt. Basic fault falls on a courageous ambassador who thoughts [sic] Libyans now love me and I am ok in this very vulnerable place.” He is referring to former ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens, who was killed in the 2012 Benghazi terrorist attack.
Powell also comments, “But blame also rests on his leaders and supports back here. [Patrick] Kennedy, Intel community, [State Department] and yes HRC,” referring to Hillary Rodham Clinton.
“Completely agree,” Rice responds. (Washington Post, 09/14/16)
The hacker website DCLeaks.com will publish Colin Powell’s hacked emails on September 13, 2016.
Patrick Kennedy and other State Department officials allegedly attempt to change or remove the classification codes of some Clinton emails to make their release less politically damaging for Clinton.
An unnamed State Department official who worked in the Office of Information Programs and Services (IPS) will be interviewed by the FBI on August 17, 2015. She will claim there was a deliberate effort to change some Clinton emails bearing the “B(1)” code, which classifies information due to “national security,” to the “B(5)” code, which classifies information mostly due to “interagency or intra-agency communications.”
This person “believed there was interference with the formal [Freedom of Information Act] FOIA review process. Specifically, [the State Department’s] Near East Affairs Bureau upgraded several of Clinton’s emails to a classified level with a B(1) release exemption. [Redacted] along with [redacted] attorney, Office of Legal Counsel called State’s Near East Affairs Bureau and told them they could use a B(5) exemption on an upgraded email to protect it instead of the B(1) exemption.”
The interviewee reported in early May 2015 that Under Secretary for Management Patrick Kennedy “held a closed-door meeting with [redacted] and [redacted] [Justice Department’s] Office of Information Programs where Kennedy pointedly asked [redacted] to change the FBI’s classification determination regarding one of Clinton’s emails, which the FBI considered classified. The email was related to FBI counter-terrorism operations.” (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/23/2016)
In October 2016, Fox News will report, “This appears to be one of two emails that kick-started the FBI [Clinton email investigation] in the summer of 2015.” (Fox News, 10/6/2016) The email in question was sent on November 18, 2012 by department official Bill Roebuck and forwarded to Clinton by her aide Jake Sullivan. If Kennedy tried to change the classified code on this email he must have failed, because when the email is published on May 22, 2015, it is classified at the “secret” level (the medium level below “top secret”) due to a section using the B(1) code. (US Department of State, 5/22/2015)
However, classification codes may be changed on other emails. On August 26, 2015, Fox News will report that “Kennedy, who was deeply involved in the Benghazi controversy, is running interference on the classified email controversy on Capitol Hill. Two sources confirmed that Kennedy went to Capitol Hill in early July  and argued [the November 18, 2012] email from Clinton aide Jake Sullivan [plus one other email] did not contain classified material. … One participant found it odd Kennedy insisted on having the discussion in a secure facility for classified information, known as a SCIF,” although Kennedy claimed the two emails were unclassified. (Fox News, 8/26/2015)
Then, on September 1, 2015, Fox News will report that “At least four classified Hillary Clinton emails had their markings changed to a category that shields the content from Congress and the public… in what State Department whistleblowers believed to be an effort to hide the true extent of classified information on the former secretary of state’s server. The changes, which came to light after the first tranche of 296 Benghazi emails was released in May , was confirmed by two sources — one congressional, the other intelligence. The four emails originally were marked classified after a review by career officials at the State Department. But after a second review by the department’s legal office, the designation was switched to ‘B5’…”
One of the lawyers in the office where the changes are made is Kate Duval, who once worked for Williams & Connolly, the same law firm as Clinton’s personal lawyer David Kendall. Duval also served as an attorney and advisor in the Obama Administration on oversight issues and high-profile investigations, most recently at the Department of State and, before that, as Counselor to the Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service. There are internal department complaints that Duval, and a second lawyer also linked to Kendall, “gave at the very least the appearance of a conflict of interest during the email review. A State Department spokesman did not dispute the basic facts of the incident, confirming to Fox News the disagreement over the four classified emails as well as the internal complaints. But the spokesman said the concerns were unfounded.” (Fox News, 9/1/2015)
Kennedy will also be interviewed by the FBI on December 21, 2015. Redactions will make the interview summary difficult to follow, but apparently he will be asked about these accusations. He will say that while the official who accused him “says it like it is” and has “no fear of telling truth to power,” he “categorically rejected” the allegations of classified code tampering. (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/23/2016)
- (B1) "information withheld in the interest of national defense or foreign policy"
- (B5) information withheld due to "interagency or intra-agency communications"
- Capitol Hill
- classification markings
- classified emails
- David Kendall
- Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI)
- Fox News
- Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)
- Hillary Clinton
- Kate Duval
- Near East Affairs Bureau
- Office of Information Programs and Services (IPS)
- Office of Legal Counsel
- Patrick Kennedy
- Secure Compartmented Information Facility (SCIF)
- State Department
- Williams & Connolly
October 2012 – A State Department investigator accuses officials of using drugs, soliciting prostitutes, having sex with minors, and several investigations were influenced, manipulated or called off by senior officials
“CBS News‘ John Miller reports that according to an internal State Department Inspector General’s memo, [dated October 2012], several recent investigations were influenced, manipulated, or simply called off. The memo obtained by CBS News cited eight specific examples. Among them: allegations that a State Department security official in Beirut “engaged in sexual assaults” on foreign nationals hired as embassy guards and that members of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s security detail “engaged prostitutes while on official trips in foreign countries” — a problem the report says was “endemic.”
The memo also reveals details about an “underground drug ring” was operating near the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad and supplied State Department security contractors with drugs.
Aurelia Fedenisn, a former investigator with the State Department’s internal watchdog agency, the Inspector General, told Miller, “We also uncovered several allegations of criminal wrongdoing in cases, some of which never became cases.”
In such cases, DSS agents told the Inspector General’s investigators that senior State Department officials told them to back off, a charge that Fedenisn says is “very” upsetting.
“We were very upset. We expect to see influence, but the degree to which that influence existed and how high up it went, was very disturbing,” she said.
In one specific and striking cover-up, State Department agents told the Inspector General they were told to stop investigating the case of a U.S. Ambassador who held a sensitive diplomatic post and was suspected of patronizing prostitutes in a public park.
The State Department Inspector General’s memo refers to the 2011 investigation into an ambassador who “routinely ditched … his protective security detail” and inspectors suspect this was in order to “solicit sexual favors from prostitutes.”
Sources told CBS News that after the allegations surfaced, the ambassador was called to Washington, D.C. to meet with Undersecretary of State for Management Patrick Kennedy, but was permitted to return to his post.
Fedenisn says “hostile intelligence services” allow such behavior to continue. “I would be very surprised if some of those entities were not aware of the activities,” she said. “So yes, it presents a serious risk to the United States government.”
A draft of the Inspector General’s report on the performance of the DSS, obtained by CBS News, states, “Hindering such cases calls into question the integrity of the investigative process, can result in counterintelligence vulnerabilities and can allow criminal behavior to continue.” (Read more: CBS News, 6/10/2013)
The following day, Foreign Policy writes, “In a fast-developing story, U.S. ambassador to Belgium Howard Gutman has been named as the diplomat accused of soliciting “sexual favors from both prostitutes and minor children,” according to State Department documents obtained by NBC News. Gutman denied the allegations, in a statement to The Cable and other outlets.
“I am angered and saddened by the baseless allegations that have appeared in the press and to watch the four years I have proudly served in Belgium smeared is devastating,” he said. “At no point have I ever engaged in any improper activity.” (Read more: Foreign Policy, 6/11/2013)
On June 17, 2013, Foreign Policy writes, “The State Department investigator who accused colleagues last week of using drugs, soliciting prostitutes, and having sex with minors says that Foggy Bottom is now engaged in an “intimidation” campaign to stop her.
Last week’s leaks by Aurelia Fedenisn, a former State Department inspector general investigator, shined a light on alleged wrongdoing by U.S. officials around the globe. But her attorney Cary Schulman tells The Cable that Fedenisn has paid a steep price: “They had law enforcement officers camp out in front of her house, harass her children and attempt to incriminate herself.”
Fedenisn’s life changed dramatically last Monday after she handed over documents and statements to CBS News alleging that senior State Department officials “influenced, manipulated, or simply called off” several investigations into misconduct. The suppression of investigations was noted in an early draft of an Inspector General report, but softened in the final version.
Erich Hart, general counsel to the Inspector General, did not reply to a request for comment. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said last week that “we hold all employees to the highest standards. We take allegations of misconduct seriously and we investigate thoroughly.” She also announced that the department would request additional review by outside law enforcement officers on OIG inspection processes.” (Read more: Foreign Policy, 6/17/2013)