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A Guest Commentary, because I could not have said it better:

Why YOU, an American, Should Care About Hillary’s Email Server
Again? It’s just email. It’s just politics as usual. It’s just a right wing conspiracy making a big deal over nothing. It’s just a tempest in a teapot. All politically motived. Not really important.

Yes, it is important. You may not understand why it is important, and why so many people who hold clearances are so upset about this email thing. So I’m going to try to explain it to you, because you really probably don’t understand. If, after understanding you still don’t care – that’s your choice, but still, you should understand.

You see, getting clearances is not a casual thing. There are Executive Orders that cover that – specifically Executive Order 13526. You can look it up online if you want. It governs everything that has to do with classified material.

For instance, when someone gets a clearance, they have to sign a paper. That paper says it is a federal crime punishable by imprisonment to improperly handle classified material. It tells you that you will lose your clearance and your employment if you leak or mishandle classified. Every single year that you hold that clearance you take training that tells you taking classified home, or putting it on a computer that has not been approved and isolated for processing classified, or sharing your password with someone else is a security violation. In fact, Ms. Clinton according to this Executive Order had to take the super heavy duty version of that training every year as she had the authority to determine what was classified for the State Department in regards to foreign negotiations with international officials, and if she was late, the President had to grant the exemption. Every workplace has security posters all over reminding you not to mishandle classified data. Every time you log into your computer, you are reminded of your responsibilities to not mishandle classified and agree that you have no right of privacy and your email and files are not yours and can be searched any time the government chooses to search them. Your responsibility to safeguard classified is an inescapable fact of your daily existence when you hold a clearance. You often can’t have a cell phone at work, you usually can’t have an unclassified computer at your desk, you usually have to worry about people overhearing your conversations when they are having an unclassified conversation on a phone in the next cubical. You have to take training and sign over and over that you know and are abiding by the rules. You may be asked to take polygraph tests and when you do, they ask you if you have ever done things like take classified out of a classified facility, reveal it to unauthorized people or process it on unclassified computers or share your password. If you know someone who holds a clearance they have probably told you that they would be in prison if they did what Hillary did. And odds are, they are probably right – there’s a guy in MD that just got arrested for it a couple weeks ago. There is no question they absolutely would have permanently lost their clearances, and they would be unemployed with no possibility of re-instatement.

The rules against being careless with classified aren’t arbitrary or casual. You see, protecting classified data is very expensive, it requires a lot of processes and extra computers and special facilities, so there’s a lot of resistance to classifying data unless it absolutely needs to be classified. Some people think that classifying data is just a way of hiding dirty government behavior (in fact such hiding of embarrassing information is explicitly forbidden in section 1.7 of EO 13526), and that classified data isn’t really actually all that important, but that is completely wrong.

The truth is, most classified data is classified for good reason under one of several justification clauses. Either the data is protecting military operations security, foreign government data, or it is protecting a technology, technology advantage or vulnerability (like weapon systems details, or cryptography, or nuclear materials stores, or weapons of mass destruction), or it is protecting intelligence sources and methods.

Military plans and operations security is what you think of when you hear the famous WW2 phrase “Loose Lips Sink Ships”. Operations security is transitory – it protects our soldiers who get put in harms way during military operations by ensuring that the enemy isn’t aware of what they are doing and are prepared for them. Protecting this data means fewer American soldiers are hurt or killed – the secrets we keep protect our soldiers from undue risks and can mean the difference between winning and losing a battle or a war. Leaking this kind of classified gets our people killed. After military actions complete, often this data is declassified and released to the public because the risk to our soldiers and operations is past.

Technology based classification is pretty obvious and pretty universally practiced in military, government, and even commercial sectors. The US government spends a significant amount of money trying to get a technology advantage over other countries so our soldiers will have better, more accurate, more effective warfighting abilities compared to other countries. This data is classified to preserve the investment of government dollars in new capabilities and the technology edge we have over other nations. Again – this type of classified data can make the difference between our soldiers coming home whole or injured or dead – or the difference between winning and losing a battle or a war. A famous case of this type of data classification is stealth technology, and most commercial companies like HP, Intel, even KFC (secret spices?) have parallel sensitive data that they protect in order to protect their competitive edge.

Sources and Methods is something different entirely. Data that was classified for sources and methods reasons is speculatively the most likely type of classified that would have been on Hillary’s email server. The reason sources and methods are protected is that if the data that is classified is leaked, the sources will be compromised and will no longer be an effective source of data. If the information comes from a person, that person will almost certainly be killed, our adversary will know that we had access to their data or plans, and other potential human sources of information will not talk to us because they can’t trust us to keep our mouths shut well enough that they won’t get killed. If the information comes from a foreign government source, then that government – and possibly other governments – will no longer share what they know because we can’t be trusted to keep our mouths shut or protect our sources. If the data comes from a technical collection method (think hacking computers for example), the method of data gathering can be denied because they now know how we get our data because we can’t keep our mouths shut. Leaking these sources and methods can make a data collection system completely obsolete overnight. And that can cost big bucks. Like millions or even billions of taxpayer dollars that YOU are shelling out to buy systems to make sure that we have the information that the President needs to make the best decisions for our country’s benefit and security. Sources and methods classification protects the investments that the government has made in collection capabilities and ensures that we can continue to have an information edge on the people who want to destroy us.

For any classification reason, the level of classification – CONFIDENTIAL, SECRET, or TOP SECRET relates to the degree of harm the nation, our soldiers, or our collection methods will incur if the information is lost to an adversary.

The thing that infuriates people with clearances about the whole email server thing (besides the double standard of consequences that has been applied) is how completely unnecessary it was, and the arrogant systematic irresponsible recklessness of the mindset that permeates what happened. Hillary Clinton was the Secretary of State, and by Executive Order she was required to know the rules inside and out. The two highest value targets for foreign intelligence collection in the world are the President of the USA, and the Secretary of State of the USA. Number 1, and Number 2. Every single foreign intelligence agency in the world, to the best of their ability, is listening to every phone call, reading every email they can from these two people. They have their very best hackers working on getting into these people’s computer systems every opportunity they get (note: Hillary has never said the Russians don’t have her emails – she knows they do). So – of all the people who needed to follow the rules – the rules that protect our taxpayer dollars, our soldiers’ lives, our international relationships – the Secretary of State is the one person who needs to follow the rules the MOST of anyone because she is the biggest target at the highest level of risk. And Hillary believed – and apparently continues to believe – that she didn’t have to follow the rules – the rules were for others, not for her. She has very reluctantly stated that she made a mistake – but this is wrong. There was no mistake here – there was irresponsible and reckless disregard for the security of our nation and peoples lives for her convenience.

There is no place to cut her slack either. The Secretary of State can have a classified communications connection and computer in a room that is properly protected to safeguard that data in his/her house including mobile connections just for asking – the President does, and so do others – all Hillary needed to do was say she wanted it and it would have been priority 1 – a matter of weeks to get it installed and operating. But for whatever reason, she didn’t do that, and classified data was compromised because of her very bad judgement.

So now you understand. Take your (possibly) new understanding and think about what it will mean to our nation to have a president who has been proven to practice reckless disregard for our national security and people’s lives.

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