William Burns

More details of Clinton’s twenty-two “top secret” emails are revealed; nine were written by Clinton and most of the rest were written by her aide Jake Sullivan.

As part of a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit by Vice News reporter Jason Leopold, the State Department reveals more information about seven chains of 22 “top secret” emails involving Clinton. (Curiously, FBI Director James Comey mentioned on July 5, 2016 that there actually were eight “top secret” email chains, but the eighth chain is not mentioned by the department.)

The contents of the emails remain totally classified, but previous media reports indicate that most of them discussed approval for covert CIA drone strikes in Pakistan, and some of them may have identified CIA operatives working undercover.

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A sample of the Vaughn Index form submitted by the State Department, in response to the Vice News Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit. (Credit: public domain)

For the first time, the department reveals which years the emails were sent and who sent and received them. All the emails were from 2011 or 2012 – the State Department began to have a say in approving CIA drone strikes in 2011. Nine of the emails were written by Clinton, and the other thirteen were written by her aide Jake Sullivan. Two were also cc’d by Sullivan to her chief of staff Cheryl Mills and/or Deputy Secretary of State William Burns.

The State Department disclosure comes in the form of a “Vaughn Index,” which is a document used by government departments in FOIA lawsuits to justify the withholding of information under various FOIA exemptions. Vaughn Indexes contain at least some information about the withheld text, to justify keeping it redacted, but this one does not. Steven Aftergood, the director of the Project on Government Secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists, says that according to government regulations, “State’s document does not fulfill the requirements for a Vaughn index.” (Vice News, 7/22/2016) (The Hill, 7/22/2016)

Clinton sends an email containing classified information despite having left the State Department.

Clinton sends an email to former Deputy Secretary of State William Burns, former Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell, State Department official Jeffrey Feltman, Clinton’s former deputy chief of staff Jake Sullivan, Clinton’s former chief of staff Cheryl Mills, and Clinton’s deputy chief of staff Huma Abedin. Many of the email recipients continue to advise Clinton after leaving the department at the same time she did, around February 2013.

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From left to right, William Burns (Credit: public domain) Kurt Campbell (Credit: public domain) Jeffrey Feltman (Credit: PatrickTsui / FCO)

In the email, Clinton recalls “remember how after US signed 123 deal [with] UAE [the United Arab Emirates] and we were in Abu Dhabi [the capital of the UAE].” This is a reference to a 2009 pact between the US and the UAE to share nuclear energy information and materials, with the UAE also agreeing not to pursue building a nuclear weapon. Much of the rest of the email is unintelligible because it is heavily redacted for containing information that is later considered classified, at the “confidential” level.

The email will be made public in August 2016 due to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for documents sent by Clinton after her tenure as secretary of state ended to officials still at the State Department. This is the only email in response to the FOIA request sent or received by Clinton later deemed classified.

Department spokesperson John Kirby will later comment: “I am not going to speak to the content but I would point you to that one of the FOIA exemptions here we used was 1.4B which is foreign government information. And as we previously explained, while foreign government information may be protected from public release, both the executive order on classification and the foreign affairs manual acknowledge that foreign government information can often be maintained on unclassified systems.” (NBC News, 9/1/2016) (US Department of State, 6/26/2016)

One of Clinton’s “top secret” email chains includes two emails written by Clinton.

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Deputy Secretary of State William Burns (Credit: Reuters)

In July 2016, the State Department will reveal some limited details about 22 “top secret” emails involving Clinton. One email chain is sent sometime in 2012, and involves two “top secret” emails. The chain begins with an email written by an unnamed State Department official to other unnamed department officials. It makes its way to Sullivan, who forwards it to Clinton, Clinton’s chief of staff Cheryl Mills, and Deputy Secretary of State William Burns. Clinton then replies to Sullivan. Then there’s another back and forth between Clinton and Sullivan. The contents of the emails remain unknown. (Vice News, 7/22/2016)

December 24, 2010 – Court forces release of Clinton Wikileaks discussion email that confirms State Dept knew about her email account

“Judicial Watch announced today that the State Department provided a previously hidden email which shows that top State Department officials used and were aware of Hillary Clinton’s email account.

On December 24, 2010, Daniel Baer, an Obama State Department deputy assistant secretary of state, writes to Michael Posner, a then-assistant secretary of state about Clinton’s private email address:

Baer: “Be careful, you just gave the secretary’s personal email address to a bunch of folks …”

Posner answers: “Should I say don’t forward? Did not notice”

Baer responds: “Yeah-I just know that she guards it pretty closely”

Mr. Posner had forwarded Clinton’s email address, which was contained in an email sent to State Department senior leadership, about WikiLeaks.

It appears the State Department produced this email in 2016 in redacted form, blacking out Clinton’s personal email address and the discussion about Clinton’s wanting to keep her email address closely guarded.

Judicial Watch sought the email after a former top Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) State Department official testified to Judicial Watch about reviewing it between late 2013 and early 2014.

The testimony and the email production comes in discovery granted to Judicial Watch on the Clinton email issue in a FOIA lawsuit (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of State (No. 1:14-cv-01242)). Clinton also faces potential questioning under oath in this lawsuit.

Despite a recent court order requiring production of the email, the DOJ and State Departments only produced it 10 days ago after Judicial Watch threatened to seek a court order to compel its production.

“Judicial Watch just caught the State Department and DOJ red-handed in another email cover-up – they all knew about the Clinton email account but covered up the smoking-gun email showing this guilty knowledge for years,” stated Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton.” (Read more: Judicial Watch, 9/30/2019)