Wednesday, July 6, 2016

James Comey is Entitled to His Opinion, But That's All It Is (UPDATE)

It's over! No indictment for Hillary over her damn emails! Final electoral roadblock removed!

I guess we can all move on with our lives, eh? if.

Let's break down the section of yesterday's statement from FBI Director James Comey's that Republicans will be desperately grasping onto over the next few months. Via the press release:
Although we did not find clear evidence that Secretary Clinton or her colleagues intended to violate laws governing the handling of classified information, there is evidence that they were extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information.
The phrasing here seems damning at first, but check out what he says a few paragraphs down:
While not the focus of our investigation, we also developed evidence that the security culture of the State Department in general, and with respect to use of unclassified e-mail systems in particular, was generally lacking in the kind of care for classified information found elsewhere in the government.
With just weeks to go until the national party conventions, it can't help but feel overtly political to take such specific aim at Hillary Clinton for being a part of a flawed "security culture of the State Department in general". Comey also managed to pick a fight with a whole other department in the process, and State was quite eager to jump in and defend themselves a few hours later. If he wanted a mess, it looks like he got his wish.

Also, a careful reading makes one wonder if the "extreme carelessness" he speaks of was mainly aimed at Clinton, her colleagues or all of them put together. And just how much evidence is there for such carelessness? Just a little or a whole lot? Just once, or over and over again over four years? He's oddly vague on specifics despite making such an "extreme" characterization.

He goes on:
For example, seven e-mail chains concern matters that were classified at the Top Secret/Special Access Program level when they were sent and received. These chains involved Secretary Clinton both sending e-mails about those matters and receiving e-mails from others about the same matters. There is evidence to support a conclusion that any reasonable person in Secretary Clinton’s position, or in the position of those government employees with whom she was corresponding about these matters, should have known that an unclassified system was no place for that conversation. In addition to this highly sensitive information, we also found information that was properly classified as Secret by the U.S. Intelligence Community at the time it was discussed on e-mail (that is, excluding the later “up-classified” e-mails).

Separately, it is important to say something about the marking of classified information. Only a very small number of the e-mails containing classified information bore markings indicating the presence of classified information. But even if information is not marked “classified” in an e-mail, participants who know or should know that the subject matter is classified are still obligated to protect it.
After all of this huffing and puffing, it turns out that only a "very small number" of these e-mails bore markings indicating classification. But does this mean they had "CLASSIFIED" emblazoned on the top or had less obvious indications within them? Again, vague. Did Clinton send any of these "marked" emails or just receive them? He doesn't say. Were any of these part of the Top Secret group? Again we don't know, but probably not. Are the Top Secret emails the same as the "innocuous" drone program emails we heard about earlier this year? Could be, but who knows. And what does "very small number" even mean? 2 or 3? For some reason he was specific on the number in the Top Secret group, but not here.

For more on the unusual or even questionable nature of this public statement, I recommend reading responses from Alan Dershowitz, former Department of Justice spokesman Matthew Miller and others.

James Comey must have known that his carefully-chosen words would amount to red meat thrown to Clinton's opposition right in the middle of a contentious election year. There's no reason to ignore something so obvious. He's entitled to his non-legally binding statement about these emails, but his opinion matters far less than the fact that Hillary Clinton is legally in the clear.

Besides, guess who else gets to publicly air opinions on this matter until the election? Hillary Clinton. The American people will then have to decide whether to believe a Republican FBI Director and elect Donald Trump...or believe a Democratic former Secretary of State and elect her instead.

I'm not sure this will be a hard choice.

UPDATE: It appears that "very small number" of emails marked classified is, in fact, two. And those were mistakenly marked! BNR has more, including this NYT quote:
While [Comey] did not identify any, he was evidently referring to two emails that one of Mrs. Clinton’s close aides, Monica R. Hanley, sent to prepare her for telephone calls with foreign leaders, according to a State Department official familiar with the matter, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss classified information. One email, dated Aug. 2, 2012, noted that Kofi Annan, the former secretary general of the United Nations, was stepping down as special envoy trying to mediate the war in Syria. A second one, sent in April 2012, discussed Mrs. Clinton’s call to the newly inaugurated president of Malawi.
In other words, get this...
Wow, Comey's political hit-job statement is already falling apart before our eyes. I'm really looking forward to his congressional testimony tomorrow!



  1. andrea and the NYT front page say he refuted her claim.

    classified matters means the drone attacks everyone knew about because they were reported in newspapers and showed pictures, but that the white house then wasn't commenting on, and that was classified, but she had to deal with what the people in those nations were reporting, not what was admitted or wasn't, and that was the matter under discussion, not the classified data per se. And because those newspaper articles referred to the fact that there was no official confirmation or denial, that meant to that creep Comey that it was evidence she knew the 'matter' was classified, but the 'matter' wasn't whether the drones came from us and their targets, the 'matter' was the international reaction, so knowing what was reported in the newspapers was pretty important and not classified.

    that shark Comey was looking for blood and found none. He waited until the investigation was completed and then longer, to accept her offer to testify and he wasn't there, he had hoped to catch her in a cover-up, so that he could claim intentional violation, and of course she didn't hide anything, she didn't do anything wrong in the first place.

    so this is an attack on her biggest strengths, competence, and of course she's highly competent, and honesty, whatever is reported, she isn't always right but she's never knowingly deceitful.

    And they say he is speaking to power, he is a dick who ought to be fired for that.

    is there some action citizens can take against him, for unlawful interference in a presidential election, he broke their rules, and knowingly, admittedly, he hadn't that right, he violated my civil rights by trying to derail the first female candidate, scolding a woman will lead to even more violence against women.

  2. also, he may be entitled to his opinion but he is not entitled to give it in a press conference, and pretend it is the position of the department of justice, or anything at all more than just his own nasty opinion.

  3. This Comey, who is supposed to be so upstanding, is going to be forced to go before Congress and admit it was his personal partisan feelings about the case that he publicly ranted about at yesterday's news conference. He gave very few details and it was quite obvious that he wasn't happy with exonerating her, so he was going to draw as much blood from her as he could by inserting himself into the campaign by assassinating her character based on his own personal opinions. He needs to step down from his position for doing this!!!

    1. will he be? Will the Republicans try to find evidence they think he hid and instead reveal he had none? But they'll keep those hearings secret and use them to 'leak' more lies, just like the one that claimed she was under criminal investigation, and that had to have come from Comey, it was never true. He hoped what he found might lead to a criminal investigation.

      I think it's time for Lorretta to step up the the plate and punish him for over-stepping his authority and violating the rules that apply to press conferences. If it's the Republicans we have to count on, we can count on non-fact leaks and smears.

      it's long over-due that the FBI director gets to get away with making up his own rules, in violation of the ones that were written for him.