Politico

A new batch of just over 900 messages released Friday contains 11 deemed ‘secret’.

By Josh Gerstein and Rachael Bade
Published: 01/29/16 – 03:27 PM EST
Updated: 01/29/16 – 08:39 PM EST

The furor over Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email account grew more serious for the Democratic presidential front-runner Friday as the State Department designated 22 of the messages from her account “top secret.”

It was the first time State has formally deemed any of Clinton’s emails classified at that level, reserved for information that can cause “exceptionally grave” damage to national security if disclosed.

State did not provide details on the subject of the messages, which represent seven email chains and a total of 37 pages. However, State spokesman John Kirby said they are part of a set the intelligence community inspector general told Congress contained information classified for discussing “Special Access Programs.”

“These documents were not marked classified at the time they were sent,” Kirby said in a statement. He said State is still looking into whether they should have been considered classified at the time they were created.

“I’m not going to speak to the contents of the traffic,” the spokesman said.

The Clinton campaign blasted the decision to withhold the 22 messages as “top secret.”

“This is overclassification run amok. We adamantly oppose the complete blocking of the release of these emails,” campaign spokesman Brian Fallon said on Twitter. Appearing on MSNBC after the news broke, Fallon vowed to fight the decision.

“You have the intelligence community, including an Intelligence Community Inspector General, as well as the inspector general at the State Department, that have been insisting on certain ways of deciding what is classified and what’s not,” he said. “We know that there has been disagreement on these points, and it has spilled out into public view at various points over the last several months. It now appears that some of the loudest voices in this interagency review that had some of the strongest straightjacket-type opinions on what should count as classified, have prevailed. That’s unfortunate. We strongly disagree with the finding that has been reached today, and we are going to be contesting it and seeking to have these emails released.”

“We will pursue all appropriate avenues to see that her emails are released in a manner consistent with her call last year,” Fallon said in a statement released through the campaign.

Clinton’s main rival for the Democratic nomination, Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.), issued a terse, two-sentence statement about the email developments.

“As I said at the first Democratic debate, there is a legal process in place which should proceed and not be politicized. The voters of Iowa and this nation deserve a serious discussion of the issues facing them,” Sanders said.

State was ordered by a federal judge to complete its public release of Clinton’s emails by Friday, but said last week it will not be able to meet that deadline. Just over 900 emails totaling 1,670 pages were released on the department’s website on Friday evening, leaving more than 7,000 pages still in the review process.

The new releases and the “top secret” batch brought the number of emails in Clinton’s account deemed classified to more than 1,600. In the new release, 11 more emails were designated as “secret,” which is the middle tier of classification, while 231 were labeled at the lowest tier, “confidential.”

As with past Clinton email releases, the “confidential” or “secret” information was deleted from the messages released publicly on Friday. However, the messages deemed “top secret” will not be published even in part, Kirby said.

The latest batch of emails spans a wide array of subjects, including policy on North Korea and Haiti and Guantanamo. Some appear to have been delayed in the review process because they involved key players in other parts of the government, including White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, who was a National Security Council official at the time. Many are so heavily redacted the subject of the exchanges can’t be determined.

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