Lack of Clinton charges sends dangerous message to intelligence professionals

I am appalled that there are high-level policymakers in this country who still fail to recognize the serious national security implications of the use of a personal email server by Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonThe road not taken: Another FBI failure involving the Clintons surfaces DHS cyber agency to prioritize election security, Chinese threats ABC chose a debate moderator who hates Trump MORE when she was Secretary of State. They brush it off as though it were just some other political controversy; as if it has no implications whatsoever on our national security or the future conduct of government employees.

I was in the CIA for nine years. I am intimately familiar with the information classification system. I used it every day on the job. Like every other one of my colleagues at the agency, I approached the handling of classified information with immense care because I understand the ramifications.

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One of the primary reasons our government developed the information classification system was to provide the most highly sensitive operations of the federal government with extra protection from foreign actors who could use that information against the United States. It is a matter of national security that we keep our plans and intentions private. I asked FBI Director James Comey during his testimony in front of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee if Secretary Clinton’s personal email server setup made America’s secrets vulnerable to hostile elements. He answered yes—unequivocally. He also confirmed that nothing was protecting that information and could not answer how it is not a crime to store classified information with nothing in place to protect it.

But the most important issue has gotten lost in all this debate over Secretary Clinton’s email server: to preserve the safety of our sources of intelligence and information.

So much of the intelligence presented to government officials comes from human intelligence, or HUMINT. This comprises the critical information individuals around the world work to provide the United States. These brave men and women risk everything for this cause. They depend on us to keep their actions a secret. When we mishandle classified information by making it vulnerable to foreign eyes; when we provide a gateway for cyber experts to enter our government systems, we are doing those men and women a grave disservice. In fact, that is an understatement—we are putting their lives at risk.

What message does the FBI Director’s recommendation that the Justice Department not press charges against Secretary Clinton send to other government employees? Certainly it delegitimizes the strict rules in place surrounding the handling of classified information. Rules that are not stringently upheld are more likely to get broken. It is why, when I asked Director Comey if he was worried about the message his recommendation sends to government employees, he responded, “Oh, I worry very much about that.” He emphasized the “severe discipline” an employee at the FBI would face if they engaged in the same activity.

I am appalled. I am outraged. Her intentions aside, her political aspirations aside, and her suitability to be President of the United States aside, the indisputable facts are these: Secretary Clinton maintained an unauthorized server in the basement of her home which had very little protection on which she and her aides discussed Top Secret, Secret, and Confidential subjects some of whose sources were more likely than not HUMINT in some nature. To say that there was no wrongdoing on the part of Secretary Clinton is wrong. And she deserves to be held accountable, because the lack of consequences for her actions tells the men and women that risk their life to collect and protect information that the U.S. Government doesn’t care about their efforts.


Rep. Hurd represents Texas’ 23rd District. He served as an operations officer in the CIA from 2000-09.