The Slatest

Hillary Wrote at Least Six Now-Classified Emails. Why That Matters—and Why It Doesn’t.

Hillary Clinton speaks on the campus of Des Moines Area Community College on Aug. 26, 2015, in Ankeny, Iowa.

Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

The vast majority of the reporting on the most recent batch of Hillary Clinton emails, released Monday night, has given the public a peek into the mostly banal office life of the former secretary of state, but little else. The Washington Post, though, has found one small but significant fact that goes beyond gefilte fish and The Good Wife: Clinton “wrote and sent at least six e-mails using her private server that contained what government officials now say is classified information.”

To be clear: This is not a game changer. The State Department says the information in question was classified only after Clinton left her post. Since the material has been redacted, we don’t know just how sensitive it was—but government officials who have seen some of the un-redacted messages tell the Post that the conversations were, in the paper’s words, “generally benign.” The report, then, won’t significantly reshape a controversy that’s been dragging on for months.

Still, the development is noteworthy given it makes clear that Clinton wasn’t simply a passive recipient of the sensitive information. That doesn’t contradict Team Hillary’s official position, but it does remove the possible defense that, at worst, she had only received sensitive information and unwittingly forwarded it along, as her allies had previously hinted. As a result, the report could force Clinton into a slightly smaller semantic box than she already is in when defending herself on the campaign trail. She can still say that she never knowingly sent sensitive material that was marked “classified” at the time, but she won’t have the option of saying that she never put that information in an email and hit “send.”

To date, the State Department has released roughly a quarter of the 30,000-odd work emails that Clinton turned over to the agency late last year at its request. So far, portions of 188 of those messages have been classified prior to their release.

While the State Department maintains that it has found no evidence that Clinton sent or received information that was classified at the time, intelligence community watchdogs have disputed that claim. After taking a close look at a small sample of about 40 emails sent to or from Clinton’s personal account, a pair of government inspector generals warned earlier this summer that they’d found what they said were several intelligence secrets, at least two of which they said should have been marked as “top secret” but weren’t. The information, the investigators said, is classified now and was likewise back when it was sent. According to the Post’s sources, though, “Clinton did not write” those emails. These newly discovered messages, however less troubling their contents may be, will be much more difficult for Clinton to deny responsibility for.

For (much!) more on Clinton’s private email saga, check out this detailed Slate explainer.