Tensions in the dispute over Hillary Clinton’s ostensibly illegal use of a private email server to store and exchange classified information while secretary of state have risen as the nation’s intelligence agencies have sought to block the State Department from releasing emails on the basis of their “top secret” classification.

The New York Times reports:

In the months since, a battle has played out between the State Department and the intelligence agencies — as well as Congress — over what information on Mrs. Clinton’s private server was classified and what was the routine business of American diplomacy, according to government officials and letters obtained by The New York Times.

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. […]

At a Democratic presidential debate in New Hampshire on Thursday night, Mrs. Clinton dismissed the issue, as she has in the past. She said the government was overzealously classifying information after the fact, citing as evidence the State Department’s finding that two emails sent to Colin L. Powell’s private email account and 10 others sent to the personal accounts of aides to Condoleezza Rice when each served as secretary of state should now be classified years after the fact. It is against the law to have classified information outside a secure government account.

“This just beggars the imagination,” Mrs. Clinton said, going on to argue that the issue was merely an extension of Republican criticism over the attack against the American mission and C.I.A. annex in Benghazi, Libya, in 2012.

It remains unknown what exactly the 22 emails contain, given their classification as “top secret,” but the officials described them generally, on the condition of anonymity. The officials included people familiar with or involved in the handling of the emails in government agencies and in Congress. […]

The handling of classified information on Mrs. Clinton’s server is now the subject of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, as well as the State Department’s security and intelligence bureaus. According to the law and security procedures Mrs. Clinton agreed to follow when she became secretary, such material should not even have been sent over the State Department’s official but unclassified state.gov server.

At the same time, the officials said, some of the classifications being sought for the emails fall into a gray area between public knowledge and secrecy. In such instances, the original source of the information — and thus the level of its classification — can be disputed, and has been, vigorously at times, they said. Other emails have been the subject of rigorous debate over what constitutes a secret and what the nation’s diplomats can say about intelligence matters as they grapple with international crises.

Continue reading here.

— Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

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