|The anatomy of a non-scandal: The media feels a thrill, the dogs begin to bark.|
I can hear things when the news is on. I suspect everyone can who's listening. When the latest episode of the Clinton email "scandal" broke yesterday, I heard differing things on different networks:
- MSNBC had the State Dept. spokesman on, who said 22 emails were held back from release because elements in the intelligence community had asked that they be reclassified. This was clearly stated: 22 emails that were not classified at the time were now being reclassified at the request of another department, not the State Department where Clinton worked. This a common practice when people leave a sensitive government position.
- CNN covered it and had a guest on that pointed out the the emails in question were not classified at the time. I didn't watch long enough, but typically CNN would talk about it for a couple of hours off and on, and someone with say "What effect does this have on Iowa, a couple of people will say "the timing couldn't have been worse, even though it's possible she didn't do anything but she should have known that it just doesn't smell right."
- Fox News had on a reporter who said "OH NOES 22 EMAILS WERE DISCOVERED TO BE CLASSIFIED AT THE TIME THEY WERE SENT AND EACH OF THE 22 REPRESENTED A CRIMINAL OFFENSE. Who of us are surprised by that on Fox? Who of us don't assume it's complete bullshit. (Hint: Republicans drooling for more scandal!!)
- On MSNBC's "With All Due Respect," show, hosted by two centrist political reporters, Mark Halperin and John Hellerman, the hosts offered the classic political pundit's narrative, which was the 22 emails were apparently not classified at the time but it's a problem for Hillary because there's always something there with Hillary that shows why people don't trust her. They of course said she didn't do anything wrong except she botched the "political optics."
- Finally, from two network evening news shows, CBS and PBS, we get reports that said oh no, Hillary's emails were classified and this can't be good, then of course introduce the information -- second or third from the lede -- that they weren't classified at the time and there probably was nothing wrong except it's Hillary and this can't be good because Iowa and optics and Republicans and scandal and stench and trust and oh noes...
- Hillary Clinton -- like Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell before her -- used a private email system while Secretary of State.
- When the news came out about her use of a private server, a whole bunch of political noise erupted.
- These emails have been scrutinized because of multiple FOIA requests to see them. These emails would have undergone some kind of scrutiny eventually, regardless of these FOIA requesst, before any of them would have been released. It's a typical process of sorting out records that are too sensitive to realize now, which should be preserved as presidential documents that might end up in a presidential library, and which are fine for public view. It's common that one technocrat or another in the process will request a reclassification for some reason or another. It's a common occurrence.
- Who requested these emails through FOIA? Judicial Watch, a foundation established by Larry Klayman in 1994 for the purpose of hounding the Clintons. It filed 18 lawsuits involving Vince Foster, Whitewater, etc. (This foundation received a lot of support from Richard Mellon Scaife, a notorious wealthy conservative who later funded the Swift Boar Veterans for Truth attacks on John Kerry.) Nothing came of any of these scandals, but the Clintons were continually harassed during their administration. This is old news going after new news. Surprised? No one is.
- Another FOIA request for Hillary's emails was filed by America Rising, an opposition research PAC that came out of the Mitt Romney 2012 campaign. Now it's dedicated to spreading negative stories about Democratic candidates, among other political operations.
- Another FOIA request for Hillary's emails was filed by the conservative news operation Daily Caller, which was founded by conservative gadfly Tucker Carlson and Neil Patel, a former adviser to Dick Cheney.
- There is a regular clearing and sorting process for government documents, including emails, but that process has been hijacked by the above FOIA requests. Still, in response to those requests, different departments in the Obama administration have undertaken the usual process of clearing documents for public access. It's not unusual that the Intelligence community would be more zealous in protecting information than the State Dept., leading to the reclassification of the 22 emails. Don't be surprised if they demand more reclassification.
- At some point, this process will end, not necessarily before the 2016 election.
- The process is working.
- Any email document that is reclassified -- whether rightly or wrongly -- will not be released. These documents may never see the light of day, unless it's determined that they were wrongly reclassified, in which case they may become public after declassification.
- Those emails that can be released, will be released.
- At this point, there is no evidence that any email documents were at risk, whether on government (non-secured) servers or Clinton's private (non-secured) servers. Both systems may in fact be "secure," meaning essentially unhackable. There has been no evidence of hacking on either system.
- There was and is a highly secure State Dept. system for moving documents, cables, and other communications that is typically used for sensitive State Dept. communications. Clinton used this system for sensitive information transmission. This system and its documents are not in dispute.
- Again, the process is working, the system is working, and at this point there is no evidence that any emails or documents were ever at risk, even now. Unless, of course, there are leaks after the fact, over which Hillary Clinton no longer has control.
This all happens with a grotesque assist from the political media that thrives on phony narratives because, ah, who the fuck knows?
Clinton email scandal? There's no there there, and any intelligent, well-meaning human being knows it.
Note. I know that Hillary "apologized" for using a private email server. She did this after being hounded mercilessly by the political media. I guess her advisers convinced her that she should make such an apology. It was a political calculation, not a "real" one. If I were Hillary, I would have told the political press to go fuck themselves and when hounded again I would have told them to reread the original go-fuck-yourselves message. The only point I would concede on this is that Hillary may understand that the apology would mute, if only briefly, the cacophony of nonsense that oppo assholes gin up and upon which political pundits thrive. Maybe she's right. I don't know.
- Here's a over-wordy (hell, I'm over-wordy) analysis on Vox that explains the over-re-classification problem.
- Here's a typical political writer, this time on Slate, that gins up the controversy while admitting there may be no there there, but "it couldn't happen at a worse time for Hillary." Disappointing from a usually reliable writer.
- Here's an AP report that fails to report that State Dept. spokesman John Kirby distinctly announced that all of the 22 emails were not classified at the time they were sent but were subsequently "upgraded" at the request of the Intelligence services. That AP would handle this information they way they did smacks of feeding a narrative that "this couldn't come at a worse time for Hillary who has trustworthiness issues." Bad reporting on purpose. At least Slate avoids this mistake.
- Here's an example of how Fox News spins the Clinton email story. Kind of odious. Compare and contrast with other reports, please.
- Both the NYTimes and WaPo carry the story. The Times takes until the fifth paragraph to reveal that
"The State Department said it had “upgraded” the classification of the emails at the request of the nation’s intelligence agencies. Mr. Kirby said that none of the emails had been marked at any level of classification at the time they were sent through Mrs. Clinton’s computer server."
Good for the NYTimes for reporting that. Fox News' reporter withheld that. The WaPo's report so completely obscures most facts that it hard to glean anything from it. For instance:
"Clinton has also said that the information in question was not classified at the time the emails were sent — a point that intelligence officials have disputed.
"State Department spokesman John Kirby said Friday that his agency had not yet made a determination on that key question."
My beef with that report is that it contradicts what was reported in the NYTimes and also contradicts what I saw John Kirby say on live TV. I saw it. He said that none of the emails were classified at the time they were transmitted. So reports the NYTimes. What's with the WaPo? The "dispute" with intelligence officials is that they now choose to classify previously unclassified material that Clinton doesn't believe needs such treatment. Get it right, WaPo.
Here, I found John Kirby's statement on video. I can't embed it, so here's a link to CNN. Not classified at the time, not classified at the time. Get it?
There's no there there in this email nonsense. Wish it would go away, probably won't.