A State Department spokesman said Wednesday Hillary Clinton and her aides were most likely briefed about how to handle classified information, but he declined to say whether they should have then been equipped to know how to handle information that “perceivably” could be classified.
The enlightening exchange, which occurred during the State Department’s daily press briefing, comes a day after it was revealed that the Intelligence Community inspector general (ICIG) had determined that at least two emails that were maintained on Clinton’s private email server contained information that was determined to be “Top Secret” — the highest level of classification for government information.
The FBI has since taken possession of Clinton’s server. The State Department has quibbled with the ICIG’s determination that some emails on the hardware were “Top Secret” when they were sent. The agency’s official position at this point was that the information was not classified until well after it was exchanged.
In Wednesday’s briefing, State Department spokesman Mark Toner was asked about any training Clinton and her aides received when they began working at the agency.
Reporter: Did all of her aides get some sort of training in how they handle classified information when they joined the State Department?
Toner: That’s a normal step, yes. They would all get briefings on handling classified material.
Reporter: Does the secretary get that as well or is that something presumed that a secretary knows.
Toner: I can’t speak to precisely to what she received in terms of training, but that’s a normal part of the process as well.
The reporter then pressed Toner on whether, then, Clinton and her aides should have known whether they were in possession of classified material and how to properly handle it.
Reporter: So, shouldn’t they have known better on information that could perceivably be classified not to have sent that over to a non-classified email account, let alone a non-governmental email account?
Toner: Again, you’re asking me to step back in time and make judgments on who was sending what at that time and how they were assessing the information. That’s not, frankly, our job here. Our job is to look at the information that Secretary Clinton has passed on to us and to release it publicly…We’re not aware — with the exception now of these two emails that have been flagged — and we’re looking at them — but we’re not aware of any classified material that was sent to her at that time.
Several State Department officials, and at least two outside Clinton allies, sent or received emails which contained information that has been retroactively classified. Those aides include Bill Burns, the former deputy secretary of state, Cheryl Mills, who served as Clinton’s chief of staff, Jake Sullivan, a top foreign policy adviser to Clinton, and Anne-Marie Slaughter, the director of policy planning at State.
Sidney Blumenthal, a longtime friend of Clinton’s, was also sent now-classified information. Jon Davidson, former President Bill Clinton’s deputy chief of staff, also received now-classified emails.