A veterans advocacy group that has sued the State Department over its failure to turn over Hillary Clinton’s emails is asking Attorney General Loretta Lynch to take action against the former secretary of state for ordering one of her top advisers to strip classification markers off of a set of talking points and send them through unencrypted channels.
In the letter, Veterans for a Strong America (VSA) executive director Joel Arends points to federal statute 18 USC 793, which he asserts Clinton violated when, in a June 17, 2011 email, she ordered adviser Jake Sullivan to strip a document containing talking points of its “identifying heading and send nonsecure” instead of sending via secure fax. (RELATED: Bombshell Emails Shows Hillary Instructed Adviser To Strip Markings From Sensitive Talking Points)
As Arends notes, 18 USC 793 states that it is a federal crime punishable by fine and up to 10 years in prison to “cause to be communicated, delivered or transmitted…to any person not entitled to receive [classified information], or willfully retains the same and fails to deliver it on demand to the officer or employee of the United States entitled to receive it.”
Gross negligence is also punishable under the statute. A person having knowledge that classified material was illegally removed from its “proper place of custody” and “fails to make prompt report of such loss, theft, abstraction, or destruction” has violated that portion of the law.
The State Department said Friday that it does not know for certain whether the talking points that Clinton asked to be stripped and sent nonsecure contained classified information. An agency spokesman said that an additional search of all 55,000 pages of Clinton’s emails was conducted for a follow-up email of the talking points sent from Sullivan. No such record was found.
But the mere fact that Sullivan intended to send the talking points over secure fax suggests that the information contained in the talking points was likely classified, many observers argued Friday.
Clinton would also have had no way of knowing whether classified information was included in the talking points when she ordered Sullivan to strip the document of its markings and to send away.
“It appears that the information contained in the emails referenced herein was classified, that the classified information was illegally transmitted, and that the Secretary ordered said classified information be stripped of its classification markers and transmitted through unencrypted channels,” Arends wrote to Lynch.
“It is false that Hillary Clinton asked for classified material to be sent over a nonsecure system,” Clinton’s campaign spokesman, Brian Fallon, said in a brief statement on Friday.
Arends and his veterans group have a vested interest in Clinton’s State Department records as well as the integrity of the security clearance process.
“Being a 21-year military veteran and a current holding of a U.S. security clearance,” Arends said that he is “aware that incidences of improper disclosure of classified information demand swift and sure action.”
In March, just days after news broke that Clinton exclusively used a personal email account to conduct all of her State Department business, VSA sued the State Department for Clinton’s emails and phone logs for just before and after the Sept. 11, 2012 Benghazi attacks.
VSA had filed a Freedom of Information Act request in July 2014 for the records but had not received the documents by the time Clinton’s personal email account was revealed. Had VSA obtained the emails and call logs, they would have found that Clinton sent one email to her daughter as the Benghazi attack was still occurring to state that an “Al Queda-like [sic] group” was behind the attack. (RELATED: Hillary Told Daughter Chelsea That Terrorists Were Behind Benghazi Attack The Night It Happened)
Other records from that time frame show that Clinton spoke to Egyptian Prime Minister Hisham Kandil and told him “we know the attack in Libya had nothing to do with the film. It was a planned attack, not a protest.”
But while Clinton was privately acknowledging that the Benghazi onslaught was a pre-planned terrorist attack, she and the Obama administration indicated in public that an anti-Muslim video may have sparked the incident.
VSA hoped to use Clinton’s records in a book called “What Difference Does It Make?” — the title borrowed from a line Clinton’s controversial comment during a Jan. 23, 2013 Senate hearing that it did not matter whether the murder of the four Americans at Benghazi was because of a protest or because a group of “guys outside for a walk one night” decided to kill Americans.
“What difference at this point does it make?” Clinton bellowed.
The FBI is already investigating Clinton’s off-the-books email setup, but Arends hopes that Lynch will open another inquiry into Clinton’s email to Sullivan.
“Action is critically important when the disclosure of classified of information came as a result of the Secretary of State using an unsecured server on which to transmit our nation’s secrets,” Arends wrote, urging the Justice Department “to put politics aside and to act upon the apparent disclosure, transmittal and improper handling of classified information by the former Secretary and those under her direction.”
Bradley Moss, who is representing VSA, says that holding a security clearance is a privilege, “and a sacred one at that.”
“It has been incredibly disheartening for the approximately four million of us who hold security clearances to see the rather sloppy (if not illegal) way in which Secretary Clinton and her aides handled classified information during their time at State,” Moss told The Daily Caller.
“If this were done by one of my rank and file clients, their clearances would have been revoked.”