Hillary Faces National Security Establishment Uprising
Democratic presidential candidate and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is facing an uprising in the national security establishment prompted by long-standing anger about her cavalier handling of classified materials and government secrets.
As Clinton’s case progresses, it appears the probe is being directed by intelligence and national security law enforcement authorities rather than civilian agencies subject to political influence, according to a Daily Caller News Foundation investigation. There are currently at least four national security investigations, including those by the FBI, Department of Justice, and the inspectors general for the Department of State and the Intelligence Community.
“The way I’m reading this is that there’s this uprising in the national security bureaucracies to prosecute Mrs. Clinton,” Tom Fitton told TheDCNF. Fitton is president of the nonprofit government watchdog Judicial Watch, which is preparing to depose top Clinton aides and possibly her as well, in litigation stemming from the State Department’s maladroit handling of a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.
Fitton’s group has also won multiple federal court victories regarding release of 55,000 pages of emails sent to and from Clinton’s use of a private email address and server located in her New York home to conduct official government business during her four years as the nation’s chief diplomat.
“There’s just this kind of ‘just-the-facts approach’ out of the national security establishment on this,” Fitton told The DCNF. “I don’t see Mrs. Clinton escaping prosecution here.” Ultimately, the national security division (NSD) at the Justice Department will decide whether or not to recommend to Attorney General Loretta Lynch Clinton or any of her aides be indicted.
Virtually all former Justice Department and US Attorneys interviewed by The DCNF described the division, which was created by President George Bush in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, as the least politicized division in the department. Charges of partisan management of other Justice Department divisions have been frequently lodged during Barack Obama’s tenure in the Oval Office.
The little-known division is made up of prosecutors who have backgrounds in military affairs, intelligence, anti-terrorism and espionage. There are no political appointees among the 400 employees working in the division.
“They are straight arrows, a mission-focused kind of approach,” according to Kenneth Wainstein. He was the assistant attorney general who established the division in 2006. “They focus on the mission. They focus on how those agents achieve that mission, whether it’s stopping terrorism or stopping spies. When they walk into their office, they park their politics at the door,” Wainstein told The DCNF.
“None of the prosecutors in the National Security Division are going to approach this with a political perspective,” said another former senior Justice Department official from the Bush junior years. “They certainly are not going to be worried about it in terms of partisan politics,” he told The DCNF. The official only would talk on the condition of anonymity.
National Security division prosecutors do things “by the book,” said Luke Dembosky, who left the division earlier this month after a year-and-a-half as deputy assistant attorney general for the NSD. “They have the utmost integrity, from the top of the division to the bottom.”
Dembosky joined as partner in the Washington law firm Debevoise & Plimpton LLP as a litigation partner in cybersecurity and data privacy issues after leaving the Justice Department.
The anger toward Clinton within the intelligence community apparently has been simmering for years. In 2009, for example, the National Security Agency (NSA) rebuffed Clinton’s request to use an unsecured BlackBerry for her emails while she was in “Mahogany Row,” the highly secured offices used by all secretaries of state. The suite is secured as a “Sensitive Compartmentalized Information Facility,” or SCIF, which allows occupants to receive and review the nation’s most important national security secrets.
Clinton wanted to be allowed to use her BlackBerry while handling sensitive materials in the SCIF, according to emails released Wednesday by Judicial Watch. She also sought for her aides to have the same privilege. The emails were obtained via the FOIA.
In a Feb. 8, 2009, email, Donald Reid, Clinton’s senior coordinator for security infrastructure in the State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security, dourly reported Clinton and Cheryl Mills, her chief of staff, were “dedicated BB (Blackberry) addicts.” He also said Clinton didn’t use her official government desktop computer because she was “hooked” on BlackBerrys during her 2008 presidential campaign.
The NSA’s response in an Information Assurance Directive told Clinton to “shut up,” according to the emails. Clinton and her aides were subsequently forbidden from using their BlackBerrys in the SCIF office.
The intensity of anger among intelligence community figures became clear when Gen. Michael T. Flynn, former defense intelligence agency director under Obama, told The DCNF in a Feb. 2 interview that “someone who does this is completely irresponsible, but totally unaccountable and shows a streak of arrogance to the American public that is unworthy of anyone thinking they can run for President of the United States.”
“This is unbelievable,” Flynn added. “I don’t think anybody should be talking about her being potentially the next President of the United States.”
Not all are so sanguine about non-partisanship at the National Security Division of the Justice Department. There have been concerns about the impartiality of its head, Assistant Attorney General John Carlin, who was appointed largely on the recommendations of White House lawyers who previously worked with him at the FBI and at the NSD.
Carlin was chief of staff to then-FBI Director Robert Mueller from July 2009 to July 2011 and prior to that was deputy chief of staff for seven months. In the latter position, Carlin worked for Lisa Monaco, who is now in the White House Counsel’s office. Carlin reportedly was nominated over the objections of then-Attorney General Eric Holder.
Former U.S. Attorney Joseph DiGenova told TheDCNF that, while the division is non-political, Carlin is a person “who is known to have very political instincts,” somebody who is “extremely political.”
A 2013 Foreign Policy article by Shane Harris said the White House influence over Carlin was troubling to many Washington lawyers. “There should be some walls between the Justice Department and the White House. The White House should not have a direct feed,” said an unnamed former government official who didn’t support Carlin’s nomination.
Harris, who is now with The Daily Beast, wrote Carlin’s close relationship with top lawyers in the White House counsel’s office “has created an impression among many national security lawyers in Washington that Carlin is the White House’s inside man at the Justice Department.”
Still, Carlin has supporters from the Bush administration. In a December 2013 letter to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, 11 former Justice Department officials expressed “strong support” for Carlin, saying, “he understands the importance of building consensus, while at the same time pursuing the objectives that he believes are right and in our national interest.”
Among the signers of the letter were former Attorney General Michael Mukasey and Bush’s former Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff. Wainstein told TheDCNF he believes it’s unlikely the White House will overrule an indictment approved by the NSD. “There are very strict lines that prevent the White House from ‘interfering’ with a particular case,” he said.