Clinton's final emails to be released: 10 things we know and 5 we still don't

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks during a campaign event at the Old South Meeting House, Monday, Feb. 29, 2016, in Boston. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

The State Department was expected Monday to release the last of more than 30,000 work-related emails that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has turned over from her personal email account.

Clinton, the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination, handled all of her email correspondence while secretary through a private server in her home, a decision that continues to haunt her on the campaign trail as the public doubts her honesty and Republicans claim she endangered national security.

About 1,800 of the documents made public by the State Department have been partially redacted due to information that is now deemed classified, although Clinton maintains nothing was marked as classified when it was sent or received. At least 22 emails contained material that was found to be "top secret" or even more sensitive and cannot be released in any form.

The emails provide a complicated view of day-to-day State Department operations, some extraordinarily mundane and others dealing with matters of life and death. Terrorist attacks, foreign policy issues, and domestic political implications are all discussed at times, and the redactions hint at some secrets the government is still trying to protect.

Amid questions about TV listings and inquiries about the status of gefilte fish deliveries, there are many emails with potential national security implications that continue to cause concern for Clinton's presidential campaign. Some are said to discuss CIA drone strikes and intelligence sources, although the exact details of the most sensitive messages have been withheld from the public.

Clinton and her campaign have denied that she did anything wrong or illegal, but some Republicans claim she feloniously mishandled classified material. Nobody has been charged with a crime, but the State Department recently confirmed that FBI's investigation of Clinton's email setup is still ongoing.

With more than 52,000 pages of documents released, the press and the public are left with some unique insights into how Hillary Clinton's State Department operated but many unanswered questions about the impact of her email practices.


1. Slippage: One thing made abundantly clear by the documents released so far is that problems with dissemination of classified information via email within the State Department go far beyond Clinton's private server. Many emails that are now classified originated on accounts or other internal government email accounts that were also not secured and should not have transmitted classified information. Hillary Clinton has frequently said that she dealt with classified material through a separate, secured system, not over email. Former Secretary of State Colin Powell and aides to Secretary Condoleezza Rice also transmitted emails that turned out to contain classified information, and current Secretary John Kerry exchanged messages with Clinton from a private account when he was a senator. According to the Associated Press, this has been an ongoing challenge for the State Department, where diplomats and staff have often sent and received secret information over unsecured email accounts.

2. Benghazi questions: One reason why Clinton's email practices have received so much attention is that the Obama administration's critics still have questions regarding the attacks on a State Department compound and a CIA annex that killed four Americans in Benghazi in September 2012. The House committee investigating the attacks posed many questions to Clinton about her email messages when she testified before them in October. Emails Clinton sent to her daughter and others suggest that she immediately believed the assault was a terrorist attack, but her public statements afterward hinted that protests over an anti-Islam video were responsible. The intelligence community's assessment for several days after the incident was that it was a spontaneous protest, though, and she has said her public statements reflected the best information available at the time.

3. Send nonsecure: In an email exchange with aide Jake Sullivan, Clinton complained of troubles getting talking points via a secured fax line. "If they can't, turn into nonpaper w no identifying heading and send nonsecure," Clinton wrote. It is unclear if the information in question was classified or if sending it over unsecured means would have violated any rules, but the State Department has said there is no evidence that the document was ever emailed to Clinton. Also, an official told the Associated Press that Clinton ultimately did receive a secure fax from Sullivan around the same time that may have included those talking points.

4. Sidney Blumenthal: Clinton received many emails, both unsolicited and in response to her requests, from former Bill Clinton White House staffer Sidney Blumenthal. The Obama administration did not allow him to work in the State Department, but he continued to pass Clinton intelligence from his own sources about various Middle East conflicts and sometimes even domestic politics. House Benghazi Committee Chairman Rep. Trey Gowdy cited several of Blumenthal's missives when questioning Clinton last fall and mockingly described him as her "primary adviser." She maintained that his information was sometimes useful, and the emails show that she occasionally forwarded them on to her staff and asked that they be distributed without his name on them. Some of Blumenthal's messages were also harshly critical of political leaders, one calling House Speaker John Boehner "louche, alcoholic, lazy, and without any commitment to any principle." Another recently released Blumenthal email described a deputy national security adviser as an "assassin-priest."

5. Spammed: Clinton received five phishing emails from hackers linked to Russia on August 3, 2011. They all contained misspelled references to traffic tickets. Had Clinton opened the attachments to those messages, it would have made her system vulnerable to hacking. Her campaign said there is no evidence that she opened the files, though. "All these emails show is that, like millions of other Americans, she received spam," campaign spokesman Nick Merrill told CBS.

6. Libyan war: The emails show Clinton's close involvement with the Obama administration's policy in Libya and the effort to remove dictator Muammar Qaddafi. Clinton has presented the conflict as an example of "smart power at its best," but the country's descent into chaos in the aftermath and the Benghazi terrorist attacks have raised questions for some about her judgment. Libya has also recently become a new breeding ground for ISIS, making Clinton's responsibility for the power vacuum there a relevant concern in the 2016 presidential race. Her emails could provide ammunition for critics who want to link her to violence there.

7. Son-in-law: An email highlighted by the Associated Press in December suggests Clinton intervened in a matter involving her son-in-law. An investor in a deep-sea mining firm had sought her son-in-law's help setting up meetings with the State Department. Clinton asked an aide to follow up on the request. It is unclear whether any meetings occurred, but Clinton has faced criticism from Republicans about possible conflicts of interest between her family's business and her government activity.

8. Blackberries: Emails between Clinton and her staff occasionally reference problems with her server. Additional emails obtained by the Daily Caller show that concerns about outages on the server led the State Department to offer Clinton a Blackberry with a email address that would mask her identity but would be subject to Freedom of Information Act requests. Clinton aide Huma Abedin responded that doing so "doesn't make a lot of sense." Clinton has said that one reason she used her private account was for "convenience" because she did not want to have to carry separate Blackberrys for her personal and work emails.

9. Media management: Many emails Clinton received contained forwarded news articles about her and about other government matters, and some indicate that her office tried to influence media coverage. In at least one case, she responded seeking corrections to a Washington Post article about her role in Libya. Other emails obtained by Gawker show one of Clinton's aides negotiating with a reporter to use specific language to describe one of her foreign policy speeches in exchange for an advance copy of the text.

10. Over-classification: One email that has been deemed "secret" contained an 11-page document from 2008 that had been leaked to Al Jazeera and was available to the public on the network's website. Other now-classified emails discussed Wikileaks documents and news reports about drone strikes. Clinton campaign spokesman Brian Fallon has accused the intelligence community of "over-classification run amok" and mocked the notion that a forwarded news article could be considered classified. When Colin Powell learned that some of his emails are now considered classified, he also called it absurd.


1. What is personal?: In response to a 2014 request from the State Department, Clinton provided copies of more than 30,000 work-related emails. She deleted nearly 32,000 emails that she considered personal. A factsheet on Clinton's campaign website details how her attorneys determined what was work-related and what was personal. It also notes that the Federal Records Act gives government employees the responsibility to determine which of their emails should be preserved. Republicans have questioned what those "personal" emails truly contained, and there have been reports that the FBI was able to recover them. Judicial Watch, a conservative organization that has filed many lawsuits over Clinton's records, recently claimed that all of Clinton's emails will eventually be reviewed, including the personal ones.

2 Who approved this?: One question frequently raised by Republicans is who within the State Department signed off on Clinton's use of a private server and why. The public still does not know exactly how the unusual arrangement came to be. "It just boggles the mind that the State Department allowed this circumstance to arise in the first place," federal Judge Emmet Sullivan said recently in one case, according to the Washington Times. The staffer who managed the server for Clinton, Bryan Pagliano, asserted his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination when questioned about the matter by Congress.

3. Is it really top secret?: Clinton's campaign has called for all of her "top secret" emails to be released, but intelligence agencies are unlikely to approve of that. As a result, the public is left with only politically motivated leaks and speculation by Clinton's allies and enemies to infer what they might have contained. Some sources who have reviewed the emails claimed they identified intelligence sources and put lives at risk, while others have adamantly denied that and said there are only veiled references to intelligence officers. Sources have also told Reuters that certain emails very closely mirrored passages from classified documents, but no documents are copied in full. Clinton signed non-disclosure forms taking responsibility for protecting classified information, whether it was marked or not, but without additional information, it is hard to judge whether Clinton realistically would have known it was classified when she received it.

4. Was security breached?: Cybersecurity experts have speculated that Clinton's server was probably hacked by foreign intelligence services at some point, but there has been no official confirmation that this did or did not occur. A Senate committee found evidence of attempted intrusions from hackers in China, South Korea, and Germany in 2013 and 2014. The State Department's own servers have been hacked by Russian intelligence, so Clinton's emails might not have been any more secure there than in her private account.

5. Was it just parallel reporting?: In some cases, information that existed in classified documents may also have been available to State Department staffers through unclassified sources. This is what the government calls "parallel reporting," people learning the same information through different methods. Clinton's campaign has dismissed some of the concerns over her emails as the result of turf wars between government agencies. The New York Times reported earlier this month on several specific instances where information in Clinton's emails that an intelligence agency considered classified was obtained by a State Department employee through other means.

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