Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton completed no security briefings or courses on the proper handling of classified materials and how to conduct secure communications while at the Department of State, according to new Obama administration legal filings before the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
The surprise admission was released late Friday and could reignite the controversy over Clinton’s “careless” handling of classified materials as asserted by FBI Director James Comey, which has already been a central part of the presidential race.
The revelation also could renew calls for the Department of State to strip her of her security clearance. The co-founder of at least one retired military officers organization has called for a suspension of her clearance.
State Department officials previously reported they could not locate records certifying that Clinton or her top aides took the annually required security courses and briefings.
But on July 29, Obama administration officials went further, saying their failure to locate any documents meant that the “courses were not completed” by the secretary or her aides.
In comparison, State Department officials reported that Under Secretary Patrick Kennedy engaged in 12 separate security classes and briefings during Clinton’s time in office.
“If the search of these databases did not locate any such training records, then the courses were not completed,” concluded Eric Stein, the co-director of the State Department’s Office of Information Programs and Services in the July 29 filing before U.S. District Judge Richard J. Leon.
Mark Toner, the State Department’s deputy spokesman, told TheDCNF in a statement that the lack of briefing records doesn’t necessarily mean they were not trained.
He said Clinton received “in person orientation” on handling classified information. “The absence of documentation from training resources they did not use does not indicate that they were not trained.”
But Department of Justice officials were clear in their filing that if Clinton had security briefings or classes, it would show up in their databases.
They reported to the court that the State Department scoured the files and databases held by four different department training divisions: the Student Management Training System; the Cyber Security Administration; the Sensitive Compartmented Information electronic training records; and the certification records at the Foreign Service Institute’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security.
“State searched the record systems and databases that would contain records showing that the specified individuals completed the mandatory training courses — if they in fact completed them,” stated Benjamin Mizer, the principal deputy assistant Attorney General, and Marcia Berman, the assistant director of the Federal Program Branch at the Justice Department, in their filing before Judge Leon.
The government’s lawyers explained that the Bureau of Diplomatic Security is “the primary training institution for [State]” and would possess training records for Clinton and her aides. The SCI also “has access to SCI electronic training records.”
“If its search of STMS, the Cyber Security Administration database, and SCI electronic training records did not locate training certifications, then such courses were not completed,” both DOJ officials concluded.
Stein said that the same is true concerning the Bureau of Diplomatic Security records.“If DS’s search of the SCI training records did not locate any training records for an individual, then the training was not completed,” he stated in his affidavit before the court.
The government’s unexpected admissions were filed in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit brought by The Daily Caller News Foundation.
TheDCNF is seeking records that confirmed Clinton and her top aides completed mandatory security briefings on the handling of classified materials and on the proper way to engage in secure communications.
When the State Department released only a few documents to TheDCNF earlier this year, the news organization asked the department to search the private hard drives of the computers operated by Clinton and her aides.
State was not obligated “to conduct an additional search of individual-specific or shared drives for copies of the requested training certifications, because such certifications, if they existed, would be retained in the databases and records systems previously searched,” the Justice Department filed before the court.
“The State Department, under penalty of perjury, effectively just threw a former Secretary of State and her aides under the bus for failing to do what all State Department officials are required to do,” said Bradley Moss, a national security attorney who handled TheDCNF case.
DOJ lawyers also explained that the Cybersecurity Administration database further “contains records of all online training activity specifically related to the Department’s Cyber Security Awareness course.”
“There is no real wiggle room in the affidavit submitted by the State Department. If the training records are not there, then Secretary Clinton and her aides never did the training. Period,” he said.
All government officials within the national security establishment must take annual reviews of the handling of classified materials.
Some of the reviews are conducted in face-to-face briefings and others are in online sessions.
“You have to complete paperwork. You have to have face-to-face briefings,” recalled retired Col. James Williamson, a former Special Operations Forces officer and co-founder of OPSEC, a nonpartisan organization of Special Operations and intelligence officers.
“There’s an electronic record,” Williamson recalled in an interview with TheDCNF. “I would get a nastygram if I didn’t complete my online course. I have to make sure every year my employees would take the online course.”
He called the latest information about Clinton “just mind-boggling.”
State Department records released to TheDCNF show that Cheryl Mills and Jacob Sullivan, two top Clinton aides, took cybersecurity awareness courses once, but not for all four years.
The records show Clinton and aide Huma Abedin never took any cybersecurity awareness training.
Last March retired Lt. General Michael T. Flynn, President Barack Obama’s former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, told TheDCNF that the State Department should suspend her security clearance. He said the former secretary of state should be denied “any access to any classified or sensitive information.”
This was echoed by Williamson. Her security clearance “absolutely should be pulled. There is no way this woman should be trusted with classified documents, period,” he told TheDCNF.
Mark Zaid, the lead attorney for TheDCNF, said the latest filing shows the State Department is in “disarray” over its security requirements.
“The recent admission portray a State Department in disarray when it comes to upholding security requirements of senior officials with the greatest access to classified information,” he said.
The admission also could play a role in the State Department’s re-opening of an internal investigation of Clinton and her aides over their handling of classified materials.
The new State Department internal probe was announced after Comey declined to call for an indictment of Clinton over her use of a private email server to conduct official State Department business. The FBI noted that 22 emails found on Clinton’s private server were “Top Secret.”
Toner refused to respond to the effect of the revelations on their internal investigation. “As we have previously stated, in order to protect the integrity of our internal review we are not going to comment on its scope.”