Hillary Clinton emails released by the State Department Monday include exchanges with former British officials that have been upgraded to classified because they contain “foreign government information” and information concerning “foreign relations or activities.”
One of the two email exchanges, which were sent in Sept. 2010, involved former U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair, who at the time was in negotiations with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as part of a Middle East peace convoy. The other sensitive email came from David Miliband, then a member of Parliament who had narrowly lost an election for Labour Party leader to his younger brother.
The emails are among the 7,100 pages of Clinton records released by the State Department Monday. Approximately 125 pages worth of those emails contain information that the agency upgraded to classified before its release.
The emails, which landed on Clinton’s private email server, raise questions about her handling of sensitive government information. As Reuters reported last month, information which comes from foreign officials is generally “born classified” — meaning that it was classified in nature at the time it was sent and received.
Clinton has steadfastly denied that she handled classified information on her personal email account.
The Blair email, which bore the subject line “Info for you,” detailed his trip to meet with a foreign official with the initials “BN” — an apparent reference to Netanyahu.
Blair was at the time serving as the representative of the Quartet, an informal diplomatic group set up to help mediate peace talks in the Middle East.
On Sept. 24, 2010, Clinton emailed Blair telling him that her aide Jake Sullivan would call him to debrief him ahead of a meeting with Netanyahu.
“We are on a fast moving train changing direction every hour but determined to reach our destination. Thx again for jumping into action this week. It’s great having you on the team,” Clinton wrote.
Blair responded hours later, updating Clinton and Sullivan on his meeting with the Israeli leader.
“Ready to speak when convenient but should do it on secure line,” he wrote.
He followed up with three emails which are nearly completely redacted because the State Department upgraded the information to the “confidential” classified category. The emails went to Sullivan’s state.gov email account and Clinton’s personal email account, which was hosted on a private server.
Blair concludes one of the heavily-censored emails, stating that he had plans to fly to London, but added “If you wished I would stay to try to arrange.”
Clinton asked Sullivan for his opinion, and the pair exchanged several emails which are redacted, though not because the information is now considered classified.
The chain concluded with Sullivan telling Clinton: “He’s staying.”
While it is unclear what Blair wrote to Clinton, it can be surmised that it included information gleaned from his meeting with Netanyahu.
The email from Miliband, who at the time was a member of Parliament, came just days after he lost out to his younger brother, Ed Miliband, to lead the Labour Party.
“Losing is tough. When you win the party members and MPs doubly so. (When it’s your brother…),” Miliband wrote.
He then informed Clinton that he planned to stay in Parliament but had announced that he would not serve in his brother’s shadow cabinet. The next portion of the email is redacted because it contains “confidential” information.
Since it is unclear what information in the emails has been classified, it is impossible to tell whether it is something that would have been considered classified at the time it was sent. The State Department has maintained that none of the sensitive information contained in Clinton’s emails was classified when it was created. Others have questioned how that is possible, pointing out that many of the conversations in question dealt with time-specific issues.
During a press conference ahead of Monday’s release, the State Department avoided weighing in on whether Clinton violated the Foreign Affairs Manual’s regulations concerning foreign government information.
“If you stipulate that information given in confidence by a foreign government to a U.S. official is foreign government information, it seems like you are under an obligation to treat it as confidential or higher in terms of classification. Can you explain to me why that’s debatable?” a Reuters reporter asked State Department spokesman Mark Toner.
Toner skirted the question, saying: “I can’t litigate those kinds of things, I can’t pass judgment from this podium right now. Certainly not when there’s other reviews or other investigations that may be under way.”