Hillary Clinton’s private email server contains several messages discussing Shahram Amiri, the Iranian nuclear scientist who the Islamic republic executed earlier this week amid allegations he was a spy for the U.S. government.
One of those emails, which a Clinton aide forwarded to the then-secretary of state in July 2010, referred to Amiri as “our friend.”
It is unclear if the existence of the sensitive emails — which were first revealed by Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton during an interview Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation” — put Amiri at additional risk of conviction or execution by Iran. But Cotton, a Republican, suggested that the emails provided further evidence that Clinton’s use of a private and unsecured email server put American secrets at risk and was “reckless and careless.”
“I’m not going to comment on what he may or may not have done for the United States government, but in the emails that were on Hillary Clinton’s private server, there were conversations among her senior advisors about this gentleman,” Cotton told “Face the Nation” host John Dickerson.
“That goes to show just how reckless and careless her decision was to put that kind of highly classified information on a private server. And I think her judgment is not suited to keep this country safe,” Cotton added.“U.S. authorities have said that Amiri defected on his own accord in 2009 and provided secrets about Iran’s nuclear program to the government. Federal sources told The Washington Post that the CIA planned to pay Amiri $5 million in exchange for the sensitive information.
But a year after his defection several videos of the scientist appeared online. Soon after, he showed up at the Iranian interest section of the Pakistani embassy in Washington, D.C. asking to return to his homeland.
Amiri, who leaves behind a wife and child, held a press conference in Tehran after his return and claimed that he had been kidnapped by American and Saudi intelligence agents on religious pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia.
The Iranian government initially publicly backed that story, but Amiri fell off the radar soon after. At some point he was convicted of treason and sentenced to 10 years in prison. He was executed by hanging on Wednesday.
Gholamhosein Mohseni Ejehi, a spokesman for the Iranian judiciary, said on Sunday that Amiri was convicted of treason for providing “the enemy with vital and secret information of the country,” the Associated Press reported.
“This person who had access to the country’s secret and classified information had been linked to our hostile and No. 1 enemy, America, the Great Satan,” Ejehi added.
It is unclear, as Cotton suggested on Sunday, whether mentions of Amiri in Clinton email traffic put him at greater risk.
The emails, which Cotton did not detail but were later identified by the AP, are not redacted or classified.
One of the emails, which Richard Morningstar, then the State Department’s special envoy for Eurasian energy, sent to Jake Sullivan, Clinton’s top foreign policy adviser, on July 5, 2010, suggests that the State Department regarded Amiri as an ally.
Morningstar referred to Amiri as “our friend.”
“Per the subject we discussed, we have a diplomatic, ‘psychological’ issue, not a legal issue,” reads Morningstar’s email, which Sullivan forwarded to Clinton.
“Our friend has to be given a way out. We should recognize his concerns and frame it in terms of a misunderstanding with no malevolent intent and that we will make sure there is no recurrence. Our person won’t be able to do anything anyway. If he has to leave so be it.”
Sullivan referred to Amiri again in a July 12 email to Clinton, the AP reports.
“The gentleman you have talked to [under secretary of state for political affairs] Bill Burns about has apparently gone to his country’s interests section because he is unhappy with how much time it has taken to facilitate his departure. This could lead to problematic news stories in the next 24 hours. Will keep you posted,” Sullivan wrote.
Amiri is referenced again, this time by name, in a Sept. 17, 2010 email which Sullivan forwarded Clinton. The mention came in a CNN article in which Yusuf bin Alawai bin Abdullah, Oman’s foreign minister, claimed that Omani negotiators negotiating the release of three American hikers arrested in Iran floated the idea of an exchange for Amiri.
Bin Alawai declined to tell CNN if Amiri was exchanged for one of the hikers, Sarah Shourd. But “it may have helped,” he told the network.
Sullivan forwarded the article and an email chain to Clinton.
In it, Janet Sanderson, the State Department’s deputy assistant secretary for the bureau of near eastern affairs, said that bin Alawai’s remarks were “unhelpful.”