The FBI just released 100 more pages about the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server and the classified emails on it while she was Secretary of State. The release appears to include allegations that the State Department offered to provide the FBI with more resources overseas if the classification on a Clinton email was retroactively altered. But the FBI itself says that it was all a misunderstanding.
The FBI found that roughly 110 emails in 52 email chains on Clinton’s private server contained classified information. Patrick Kennedy, Clinton’s Undersecretary of State, allegedly asked that at least one classified email, which was classified and remains so, be downgraded as “unclassified” in exchange for a “quid pro quo.”
The documents are redacted to protect the identities of FBI agents, but the agent was apparently told that the FBI was being offered a deal from the State Department that would allow the FBI, “to place more Agents in countries where they are presently forbidden.”
That “presently forbidden” area appears to have been Iraq, where FBI agents were formerly embedded with Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) soldiers. The FBI helped conduct hundreds of anti-terrorism raids in Afghanistan and Iraq until late 2010, when they reportedly left those two countries. Joint FBI-JSOC raids, including frequent firefights, have continued in countries like Somalia and Libya.
But the FBI says that the requests made by the State Department for downgrading had to do with an upcoming Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) release, and not the investigation into Clinton’s conduct.
“A senior State Department official requested the FBI re-review that email to determine whether it was in fact classified or whether it might be protected from release under a different FOIA exemption,” the FBI told CBS News. “A now-retired FBI official, who was not part of the subsequent Clinton investigation, told the State Department official that they would look into the matter.”
The FBI also claims that the request for additional agents to be assigned overseas had nothing to do with the discussion over email classification.
“Having been previously unsuccessful in attempts to speak with the senior State official, during the same conversation, the FBI official asked the State Department official if they would address a pending, unaddressed FBI request for space for additional FBI employees assigned abroad,” the FBI said.
According to the newly released documents, Patrick Kennedy and an FBI agent reviewing the Clinton emails had disagreed about “matters related to the FBI’s role and authority overseas.” Some people inside and outside of the FBI have questioned why agents are accompanying the US military in raids overseas, especially since an FBI agent was wounded in the Logar province of Afghanistan in June of 2010.
Other pages from the release appear to back up this claim that there was perhaps a major misunderstanding between Patrick Kennedy and FBI agents over what they were talking about. Kennedy allegedly asked that one of the emails be classified as “B9,” with is not a classification for security purposes, but instead a likely reference to a FOIA exemption that allows certain information to be withheld in a FOIA release.
The most curious part? FOIA exemption B9 is an incredibly rare FOIA exemption that allows agencies to redact information regarding “geological and geophysical information and data, including maps, concerning wells.”
According to the FBI’s statement to CBS News, “Although there was never a quid pro quo, these allegations were nonetheless referred to the appropriate officials for review.”
Update October 18, 2016, 3:47pm: The Washington Post has spoken with the FBI agent who was alleged to have negotiated a quid pro quo. (Emphasis mine.)
In an hour-long interview with The Washington Post, his first public comments on the matter, McCauley acknowledged that he offered to do a favor in exchange for another favor, but before he had any inkling of what Kennedy wanted. The FBI and the State Department have denied that McCauley and Kennedy ever engaged in a “quid pro quo.”
McCauley, who has since retired from the FBI, said he asked Kennedy to send him the email in question and then inquired with another bureau official about it because he had only a partial understanding of the request. McCauley said that when he learned the missive concerned the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, he told Kennedy he could not help him.
“I said, ‘Absolutely not, I can’t help you,’ and he took that, and it was fine,” said McCauley, who was the FBI’s deputy assistant director for international operations from 2012 to 2015.
In a statement released by the State Department, Kennedy said he reached out because he wanted “to better understand a proposal the FBI had made to upgrade one of former Secretary Clinton’s emails prior to its public release,” and that McCauley raised the topic of FBI slots in Iraq “as an entirely separate matter.” He said he could not speak to McCauley’s recollection but insisted: “There was no quid pro quo, nor was there any bargaining. At no point in our conversation was I under the impression we were bargaining.”
You can read the full story here.