The FBI didn’t notice that some emails from Hillary Clinton’s private email server were marked classified with a “(C)” when they were sent — something that seemingly would have been one of the first and most obvious checks in an investigation, and one that FBI agents instantly recognized put the facts at odds with Clinton’s public statements.
The Intelligence Community Inspector General spotted it after the FBI missed it, texts between FBI agent Peter Strzok and his mistress, FBI lawyer Lisa Page, reveal. “Holy cow,” Strzok wrote, “if the FBI missed this, what else was missed?”
“Remind me to tell you to flag for Andy [redacted] emails we (actually ICIG) found that have portion marks (C) on a couple of paras. DoJ was Very Concerned about this,” he wrote.
“Found on the 30k [emails] provided to State originally. No one noticed. It cuts against ‘I never sent or received anything marked classified,'” he wrote, referring to statements by Clinton downplaying the danger of her email practices.
Much of the more in-depth investigation considered whether Clinton and her aides emailed materials that were classified but were not marked as such, a harder determination to make.
The exchange occurred on June 12, 2016. FBI Director Jim Comey disclosed the findings of marked-classified emails to the House on July 7.
On May 10, 2016, Strzok had suggested that in his mind, the investigation was closer to being finished than to just getting started — suggesting that if it weren’t for the inspector general, it might have closed down and cleared her despite missing the most obvious first step.
“I cannot overstate to you the sense of urgency about wanting to logically and effectively conclude this investigation,” he said.
The ommission allowed Clinton to repeatedly and prominently state that she had “never received nor sent any material that was marked classified” on her private email server while secretary of state.
She even said so at major debates, and because the FBI hadn’t caught the letter (C), and therefore never stated its findings, PolitiFact rated the claim “Half True.”
When the FBI belatedly noticed and relayed the truth, the fact-checking site said “Now we know it’s just plain wrong.”
Clinton decided to print out 55,000 pages instead of providing the State Department with her emails in their digital format, a technique sometimes used by lawyers to make searches harder for their opponents. A CTRL-F search for “(C)” could have missed the markings because State had to re-digitize the forms with Optical Character Recognition, which can get tripped up on symbols, perhaps interpreting it as something like “[C]” or a copyright symbol. Nonetheless, the classified marker always appears at the beginning of a paragraph and is visually distinct.
Markings denoting the different levels within the category of “classified” information include, in order: (C) for confidential, (S) for secret, and (TS) for top secret.
The comments come from 500 pages of texts released Wednesday by Senate investigators.