Saturday, February 6, 2016

Retroactive Classification, Old Folks with New Media – Ugly Combination

The Great Email Debate. Put her in jail! Throw away the key! She’s unfit to be Commander-in-Chief! Yup, Hillary screwed up. Clearly. It is a violation of federal law to maintain classified emails outside of an appropriately cleared and secured government account. But as I have blogged before, there are lots of Boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) and older who did not grow up in a world of social media, digital communication, servers, digital encryption, hacking, emails, texting, etc., etc. Hell, they didn’t even use computers or have access to mobile phones until way late in their lives.
When such technologies seeped into their lives in dribs and drabs, these were not immediately embraced as their preferred communications tools du jour. They still wrote letters and used snail mail. Senator Lindsay Graham (R – South Carolina) is younger than Hillary, but he’s never directly sent or received an email, by his own admission.
For those who mastered email, they were proud of their new skillset. Wow! Not much for most of us, but…. Others mastered the nuances of the Microsoft tools, from Word and Excel to PowerPoint and Outlook. Some stepped up to operating in a PDF world. A few braved video and image manipulation software, but on average, their digital skills, and underlying theoretical understanding was hardly up to the level of succeeding generations who organically adhere to these new tools as if they were body parts. They Tweeted, LinkedIn and Liked and did their best.
To admit they didn’t understand or know was a sign of weakness for those who otherwise claimed the status that their age and experience otherwise provided. But frankly, that technical expertise was not deep and was filled with misconceptions or appreciations of risks and sensitivities. The advisors they drew either shared this second level understanding of communications technology or simply did not prioritize that understanding because their principal did not. Feeling old, you are not about to let the world know how you really didn’t get that “new-fangled” stuff, because if you do, all those younger voters are going to roll their eyes and write you off.
Should Hillary’s advisors have stopped her use of an outside server when they first found out about it? Filled with emails sent, received and forwarded? Sure, if they understood what all that meant. If someone was in charge of “that.” If you are looking for a guilty mind, one who scoffs are the regulations and should be accordingly punished, does Hillary fit that bill? If you’re on the GOP side of the issue, of course. If you are a Dem, get back to the issues. In reviewing Clinton’s emails for release to the public, the Department of State retroactively classified 1,274 of the first batch of her emails that were reviewed.
More emails were reviewed. “Of the nearly 30,000 emails from Mrs. Clinton’s server that have been released by the State Department under a court order, 18 emails sent to or from her have also been classified as secret, and 1,564 others have been classified at the lower level of ‘confidential.’
“[In late January], the State Department said that 22 emails had now been classified as ‘top secret’ and would not be released, and would have part or all of their contents redacted, or blacked out. A review of 3,700 more emails by the department and intelligence agencies continues.” New York Times, February 4th.
To make matters worse, the State Department and the CIA have battled with each other over what should be classified…. retroactively. “At the center of that argument, the officials said, is a ‘top secret’ program of the Central Intelligence Agency that is anything but secret. It is the agency’s long effort to track and kill suspected terrorists overseas with armed drones, which has been the subject of international debates, numerous newspaper articles, television programs and entire books.
“The Obama administration’s decision to keep most internal discussions about that program — including all information about C.I.A. drone strikes in Pakistan — classified at the ‘top secret’ level has now become a political liability for Mrs. Clinton’s presidential campaign.
“Some of the skirmishes over Mrs. Clinton’s emails reflect the disagreements in a post-9/11 era over what should be a government secret and what should not… [The above-noted] 22 emails were deemed so highly secret that State Department officials in this case agreed with the intelligence agencies not to release them even in redacted form… The emails are included in seven distinct chains that comprise forwarded messages and replies, and in most cases involved discussions of the C.I.A. drone program, government officials said.” New York Times, February 5th.
Some emails she should have known were top secret or confidential, but she hardly was the only Secretary of State who ‘violated’ this provision. And strangely – NOT – the other comparably situated Secretaries of State who made the same violations were Boomers too. Republican Boomers in a Republican administration.
“The State Department has discovered a dozen emails containing classified information that were sent to the personal email accounts of Colin L. Powell and close aides of Condoleezza Rice during their tenures as secretaries of state for President George W. Bush.
“Two emails were sent to Mr. Powell’s personal account, and 10 to personal accounts of Ms. Rice’s senior aides. Those emails have now been classified as ‘confidential’ or ‘secret’ as part of a review process that has resulted in similar ‘upgrades’ of information sent through the personal email server that Hillary Clinton used while she was secretary of state from 2009 to 2013. The State Department did not say who sent the emails to Mr. Powell or to Ms. Rice’s aides, or who received the messages…
“The State Department’s inspector general, Steve A. Linick, wrote in a letter on Wednesday that a review of communications with four other secretaries of state had uncovered the 12 emails and that they should be removed from the department’s archives. Even though the emails were not marked classified at the time, Mr. Linick said the information in the emails should have been recognized as secret or confidential because of the subjects and annotations cautioning against distributing the emails widely.
“Mr. Linick wrote to the undersecretary of state for management, Patrick F. Kennedy, that ‘the substance of the material and “NODIS” (No Distribution) references in the body or subject lines of some of the documents suggested that the documents could be potentially sensitive.’
[Powel and Rice were no happier with the State Department’s take on these emails that is Hillary with her entire email mess]
“Mr. Powell, in a telephone interview, disputed the department’s designation, saying he had reviewed the two emails with the inspector general’s office and responded incredulously, ‘What are you talking about?’ The emails, he said, were sent by two career ambassadors and forwarded to him by his executive assistant, something he encouraged for important matters. One involved a kidnapping in the Philippines, the other general views on the situation in the Middle East. Both, he said, were now considered ‘confidential.’
“Ms. Rice, now at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, was not available to comment, but her chief of staff, Georgia D. Godfrey, said that she did not use email or have a personal email account while secretary. She noted that the inspector general said the email in question involved ‘diplomatic conversations’ sent to her assistants and contained ‘no intelligence information.’” NY Times, February 4th.
 Seems like Boomer+/Secretaries of State are just plain bewildered by it all. See any patterns here? Still want to play a blame game? And other than “politics as a weapon,” what exactly are the character flaws for Colin, Hillary and Condoleezza that would thus make them unfit for office? Really?
I’m Peter Dekom, and I am simply trying to keep this great email debate real.

No comments: