The seven email chains from Clinton's time as secretary of state,
amounting to 22 separate messages, will be withheld from the public
as a result because the information in them is classified at the
highest level as "top secret," State Department spokesman John Kirby
The announcement came three days before the Iowa caucuses, when the
first votes are cast for the presidential nominations and where
Clinton is locked in a tight race with Vermont Senator Bernie
Sanders to become the Democratic nominee for the November election.
"These documents were not marked classified at the time that they
were sent," Kirby said. He added that the department was now
investigating whether the information in them was classified at the
time it passed through her private clintonemail.com email account
run on a server in her New York home.
The department and intelligence officials have been arguing about
the emails, which are being made public under a federal court order,
for at least five months. The State Department initially maintained
that Clinton might have obtained the same information independently
through non-classified channels.
The decision to no longer pursue this argument will add to the
questions Clinton has faced for months over her handling of
sensitive government information as she seeks to maintain her
position as the favorite to become the Democratic nominee.
The Clinton campaign criticized the State Department's decision as
the result of "bureaucratic infighting" and "over-classification run
amok," adding that the emails should be released.
Some information has been censored in more than 1,300 emails already
made public because the State Department says it is classified,
including the privately shared thoughts of foreign leaders and
government officials. But this is the first time that entire chains
are being withheld.
Congressional Republicans have criticized and investigated Clinton
for her use of a private email server for her work as a secretary of
state from 2009 to 2013. Some of her Republican rivals for the
presidency, including New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, have
called for her prosecution.
Reince Priebus, the Republican National Committee's chairman, said
in a statement that Clinton had "put our national security and
diplomatic efforts at risk."
The government forbids handling of classified information, which may
or may not be marked that way, outside secure government-controlled
channels, and sometimes prosecutes people who remove it from such
channels. The government classifies information as top secret if it
deems a leak could cause "exceptionally grave damage" to national
[to top of second column]
U.S. Representative Adam Schiff of California, the House
Intelligence Committee's leading Democrat, defended Clinton in a
statement, saying classification determinations are "often very
complex" and she was "responding to world events in real time
without the benefit of months of analysis after the fact."
The Federal Bureau of Investigation has taken Clinton's server and
other computer equipment, but has declined to share details of its
White House spokesman Josh Earnest downplayed questions about
whether Clinton might be prosecuted by the Justice Department.
"That's not something I'm worried about," he told reporters.
Clinton initially said she never sent or received classified
information through her email. In recent weeks she has more often
said none of her emails were marked that way.
Following a court-ordered schedule, the State Department has already
released most of the roughly 30,000 work emails Clinton returned to
The department had been ordered to release all the emails by Friday,
but last week asked the court for a one-month extension.
The State Department also said it would agree with a request from
the White House that Clinton's emails with President Barack Obama,
18 in all, be withheld from public release for several years under
the Presidential Records Act.
(Additional reporting by Patricia Zengerle in Washington; Editing by
Eric Beech, Lisa Shumaker and David Gregorio)
[© 2016 Thomson Reuters. All rights
Copyright 2016 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.