Nearly three-year-old comments from a top State Department official suggest that diplomats across the department routinely declined to use special protections for classified information to prioritize convenience.
In a 2013 speech uncovered by Fox News on Monday evening, former under secretary for political affairs Wendy Sherman said that diplomats would have information on their smart phones “that would never be on an unclassified system.”
The existence of Blackberry devices “has changed the way diplomacy is done,” Sherman, a veteran diplomat who was the chief U.S. negotiator on the nuclear agreement with Iran, told the American Foreign Service Association in 2013.
“Things appear on your Blackberries that would never be on an unclassified system, but you’re out traveling, you’re trying to negotiate something, you want to communicate with people — it’s the fastest way to do it,” she added.
In particular, Sherman recalled the 2011 United Nations General Assembly, during which then-Secretary Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonBudowsky: Why GOP donors flock to Manchin and Sinema Countering the ongoing Republican delusion Republicans seem set to win the midterms — unless they defeat themselves MORE and top European diplomat Catherine Ashton were negotiating language expressing support for Middle East peace in the middle of a broader meeting of European Union officials.
“They sat there as they were having the meeting with their Blackberries transferring language back and forth between them and between their aides to multitask in quite a new fashion,” said Sherman.
The video is likely to raise fresh scrutiny on how top State Department officials handled classified information, given the ongoing questions about Clinton’s exclusive use of a private server while in office. Critics have worried that Clinton’s email arrangement may have comprised official secrets as well as shielding government records from ever being made public.
Emails released by the State Department show Clinton sending aides to her emails about the meeting with Ashton and other diplomats working on a Middle East peace deal around that time. Some of the emails have since been classified for containing information about U.S. foreign relations and foreign government information.