Hillary Clinton’s top campaign spokesman believes a vast right-wing conspiracy of sorts is behind Tuesday’s explosive report about the discovery of emails on the former secretary of state’s server that are classified at levels higher than previously known.
According to NBC’s Andrea Mitchell, Brian Fallon, Clinton’s communications director, believes that the Intelligence Community’s inspector general, I. Charles McCullough III, is “selectively” leaking information in coordination with Republicans.
.@brianefallon says Clinton emails werent classified when sent or received accuses Intel IG of working w/ GOP to leak selectively
— Andrea Mitchell (@mitchellreports) January 20, 2016
The accusation is a throwback to Bill and Hillary Clinton’s complaints that a cabal of conservatives were involved in a “vast right-wing conspiracy” to take them down.
As Fox News reported on Tuesday, McCullough sent a letter last week to the chairmen of the Senate Intelligence and Foreign Relations Committees — as well as to the heads of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the State Department’s inspector general — noting that his investigators had discovered “several dozen emails containing classified information determined by the IC element to be at the CONFIDENTIAL, SECRET and TOP SECRET/SAP information.”
“SAP” refers to “special access programs” which can be created only by the heads of certain federal agencies when “the vulnerability of, or threat to, specific information is exceptional.” SAP is also created when “the number of persons who ordinarily will have access will be reasonably small and commensurate with the objective of providing enhanced protection for the information involved.”
[dcquiz] The emails containing the SAP information are separate from the two emails containing “top secret” information that McCullough’s agency discovered on Clinton’s server in July. That finding touched off an FBI investigation and led to the seizure of Clinton’s server. Clinton’s team and the State Department disputed McCullough’s finding. But Fox reported last month that intelligence officials had reaffirmed their determination that the emails did indeed contain “top secret” information when they were created.
According to NBC News, an intelligence source said that the new information found on Clinton’s server was so sensitive that McCullough and some of his aides had to receive additional clearance before viewing it.
Fallon was asked during an interview on CNN Wednesday morning why he believes McCullough is working with Republicans.
“I think this was a very coordinated leak yesterday,” Fallon said.
Asked what evidence he has, Fallon stated his belief that McCullough sought to save face in response to a Politico article published two months ago that “directly challenged” his determination this summer that the two emails maintained on Clinton’s server were “top secret.”
“I don’t think he liked that very much. So I think that he put two Republican senators up to sending him a letter so that he would have a excuse to resurface the same allegations he made back in the summer that have been discredited,” Fallon said, without providing evidence to back up his claim.
He cited a Politico report published late Tuesday based on an intelligence source who claims that the SAP information comes from news articles discussing drone strikes. The intelligence community considers such information to be highly sensitive even if it revealed in news articles.
A spokeswoman for the Intelligence Community inspector general declined to comment to The Daily Caller on Fallon’s accusations, which she said “are not substantively related to our oversight responsibilities.”
In his defense of Clinton, Fallon fell back on the explantion his boss began using after “top secret” emails were found on her server last year — that the classified information the emails contained was not “marked” as such when she sent or received it.
Before that, Clinton and her team had claimed, simply, that she did not send or receive classified information on her personal email account.
While Clinton’s “marked” email defense likely puts many of her supporters at ease, a document she signed when she started at the State Department in Jan. 2009 undermines her position.
Signers of that document — the Classified Information Nondisclosure Agreement, or SF-312 — acknowledge that “classified information is marked or unmarked classified information, including oral communications.” (RELATED: Document Completely Undermines Hillary’s Classified Email Defense)
The mishandling of SAP is what led to the downfall of former CIA director Gen. David Petraeus. Petraeus resigned from the agency in 2012 after he was found to have provided classified information to his biographer and mistress, Paula Broadwell. He was put on probation and fined last year. It was also reported this week that Defense Sec. Ash Carter is considering retroactively demoting Petraeus to a three-star general.
Many observers have wondered why Petraeus was prosecuted for mishandling classified information while Clinton has so far gone unscathed.
This article has been updated with additional information and comment from the Intelligence Community’s inspector general.