Cummings Responds to Inaccurate Leaks to New York Times on Clinton Emails
WASHINGTON—Today, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, Ranking Member of the Benghazi Select Committee, issued the following statement in response to inaccurate leaks to the New York Times regarding former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s email usage:
“I spoke personally to the State Department Inspector General on Thursday, and he said he never asked the Justice Department to launch a criminal investigation of Secretary Clinton’s email usage. Instead, he told me the Intelligence Community IG notified the Justice Department and Congress that they identified classified information in a few emails that were part of the FOIA review, and that none of those emails had been previously marked as classified. The Benghazi Select Committee has obtained zero evidence that any emails to or from Secretary Clinton were marked as classified at the time they were transmitted, although some have been retroactively classified since then. This is the latest example in a series of inaccurate leaks to generate false front-page headlines—only to be corrected later—and they have absolutely nothing to do with the attacks in Benghazi or protecting our diplomatic corps overseas.”
Cummings also released a memo sent by the Intelligence Community Inspector General yesterday notifying Congress that “none of the emails we reviewed had classification or dissemination markings.”
The Intelligence Community Inspector General explained that, as part of his office’s recent review, he identified what is now considered to be classified material in previously unmarked emails. He also explained that he referred the matter to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and others as individuals outside government may still have access to these retroactively classified documents.
This is not the first time inaccurate information has been leaked to news outlets that ran inaccurate front-page stories that subsequently had to be corrected.
On June 18, 2015, Politico ran a front-page story entitled “Benghazi Panel Probes Sidney Blumenthal’s Work for David Brock.” The reporter relied on an anonymous source that fed her an inaccurate characterization of email exchanges between Secretary Clinton and Sidney Blumenthal.
The source apparently took an email that was produced to the Select Committee in February, isolated Secretary Clinton’s statement about the White House, removed it from the original email exchange about the presidential debates, and then added it to a different email exchange involving Media Matters. The source then apparently misrepresented that the State Department had withheld this new hybrid document from the Select Committee.
In 2013, another anonymous source provided an inaccurate characterization of an email from National Security Council official Ben Rhodes, including words that simply were not there, in order to misrepresent the White House’s role in editing the intelligence community’s talking points. As CNN later reported, this mischaracterization “made it appear that the White House was primarily concerned with the State Department’s desire to remove references and warnings about specific terrorist groups so as to not bring criticism to the department.”
In addition, former Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa was awarded 12 Pinocchios in 12 months by the Washington Post Fact Checker for his repeated inaccurate claims about Benghazi.
Issa mischaracterized a State Department cable in 2013 by claiming that Secretary Clinton “outright denied security in her signature in a cable, April 2012.” It was later revealed, however, that the cable had only a pro-forma stamp of her signature, like millions of cables that go out from the State Department every year. The Fact Checker gave this claim “four pinocchios,” concluding that “Issa presented this as a ‘gotcha’ moment, but it relies on an absurd understanding of the word ‘signature’.”
Issa was awarded four more Pinocchios in 2014 when he suggested at a political fundraiser in New Hampshire that the military’s response was deficient because former Secretary Clinton ordered former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to “stand down”—ignoring a report issued a week earlier by Republicans on the House Armed Services Committee finding no stand-down order.