FBI and State Dept clashed over Clinton e-mail classification

NEW YORK • There was intense disagreement last year between the US State Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) during the course of the Hillary Clinton e-mail investigation over whether some of Mrs Clinton's e-mail messages should be considered classified, including discussion of a possible "quid pro quo" to settle one dispute.

Documents released on Monday show that, in one particular case, senior State Department official Patrick Kennedy pressed the FBI to agree that one of Mrs Clinton's e-mail messages on the 2012 Benghazi attack would be unclassified - and not classified as the bureau wanted.

What remains unclear from the documents is whether it was Mr Kennedy or an FBI official who purportedly offered the "quid pro quo": marking the e-mail message unclassified in exchange for the State Department approving the posting of more FBI agents to Iraq.

Officials at the FBI and the State Department said on Monday that no deal had been struck or offered.

They noted that the Benghazi e-mail message in question had been made public with a sentence blocked out, meeting the FBI's demand for classification. They also said that no additional FBI agents had been posted overseas.

There is no indication from the documents that Mrs Clinton was aware of the discussion. Her rival presidential nominee Donald Trump and other Republicansseized on the new documents as evidence of what House Speaker Paul Ryan said "bears all the signs of a cover-up".

The FBI's latest release of 100 pages of internal investigative files prolonged the intense public scrutiny of Mrs Clinton's use of a private e-mail server as secretary of state, which perhaps has been more damaging to her presidential campaign than any other issue.

The documents also cast attention on the role of Mr Kennedy, a State Department civil servant for more than four decades, in working to oversee the review and release of tens of thousands of Mrs Clinton's private e-mail messages.

One of the FBI reports said State Department employees who in early 2015 reviewed nearly 300 of Mrs Clinton's e-mail messages on the Benghazi attack in response to requests from Congress "felt intense pressure" from Mr Kennedy and other State Department officials to complete their review quickly and "not label anything as classified".

After the e-mail issue emerged in March 2015, Mrs Clinton insisted for months that she had never sent or received e-mail messages that contained classified information.

However, she was forced to backtrack when the FBI concluded this year that at least 110 e-mail messages had contained classified information, even if they had not been marked as such at the time.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 19, 2016, with the headline 'FBI and State Dept clashed over Clinton e-mail classification'. Print Edition | Subscribe