Friday, July 8, 2016

Comey's Announcement: Reading Between the Lines

Yes Hillary, YOU'RE guilty...
After reading Director Comey's statement again, I want to make a few observations, and I am sure others who have worked with classified information can back me up on these things.

First, Comey mentions the “up-classifying” or upgrading of information to classified status. This has been a go-to defense for Clinton, her campaign, and her supporters. Let me explain this a bit. First of all, it is not standard practice to upgrade information that was deemed unclassified, or classified at a lower level.

This is because it brings undue attention to a potential adversary to that information. Generally, it is better to leave it alone in the hopes that our adversaries will continue to regard it as either false/planted information or unimportant and beneath their scrutiny. In other words, it gains value when it is suddenly classified or upgraded in classification.

If it has already been on the “low side” (non classified network or even public domain), it is just assumed an adversary has seen it and classifying it accomplishes nothing and only serves to bring attention to it.

I suspect that what Comey is referring to here is not information that was ever deemed unclassified, but information that was generated or obtained in a classified setting but had not yet been either derivatively classified using guidance or assessed by a classification office in the case where there is no guidance.

Standard protocol (and it isn’t just a suggestion) is that any information obtained or generated within a classified setting, whether it is from a classified briefing, information from an operation, or new information from intelligence sources, is to be treated and protected as classified at the highest level of that setting until it is either reviewed by a DC/CO (Derivative Classifier/Classification Officer) or OC (Office of Classification). Until then it should not be treated as unclassified, and should be treated as C/S/TS (plus designations) and handled accordingly until reviewed.

This suggests that most, if not all, of the “up-classified” information found in Hillary’s emails was of this nature; that it had not been reviewed and that she and those she was corresponding with in these email chains were completely ignoring the entire concept of protecting potentially classified information and simply discussing new information carelessly. This is gross negligence.

Of course, the fact that information which had been reviewed and deemed classified, all the way up to TS//SAR- at the time completely invalidates their argument about “it wasn’t classified at the time”.

Secondly, the fact that text was found within several email chains that had at least partial classification markings (I am assuming these were what is called portion markings) proves that this wasn’t merely a case of people spouting off information from memory and simply making a lot of careless mistakes. That such portion markings made it into emails is evidence of intent.

The only possible way that portion markings could have made it into an email is for a classified document on the high side (classified network) to be electronically copied (as with a USB stick or similar means), and then physically transferred to a low side computer.

Let me back up one second. Yes, it is possible that someone wrote an email and put in portion markings, but that would be on a level of stupid that is hard to comprehend. So I’ll go with the assumption that such text was electronically copied from high side to low side, being that it is far more likely.

In a classified setting, bringing a USB stick or blank CD or other device for copying information into the classified area is illegal. There are classified USBs and such, and they are controlled in the same manner as classified paper documents. They are not allowed to leave a classified controlled space, except using a locked briefcase/container, and tracked using a chain-of-custody, where it cannot be opened unless in another classified controlled space at the same or higher level.

To purposely bring such a device into a classified setting, electronically copy classified documents, take the device out of the classified setting, and stick it into a low side computer is intentional. It is the modern equivalent of photocopying classified documents, shoving them in your britches, and sneaking them out of the building. It is intentional, and it takes effort.

It requires knowingly and willfully circumventing security to do so. In other words, it is an action that is undertaken in the face of potentially getting caught. It is thus a crime, and the persons that did it knew they were committing a crime at the time they did it. Ignorance cannot be a defense in this matter.

I’m going to leave it at that. I just wanted to shine a little sunlight on what some of this stuff means.

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