“This is just a distraction,” Democratic pollster Mark Mellman says of the news the FBI is reexamining the Clinton email case.
During a press conference — which lasted all of three minutes — Hillary Clinton herself said, “I think people a long time ago made up their minds about the emails. I think that’s factored into that people think and now they’re choosing a president.”
But for people in the intelligence community -- including disgruntled FBI agents and even former officials in the Pentagon, it’s not that easy.
The revival of the Clinton email scandal reminds them of just how exposed Clinton left highly classified information.
Last September, an FBI report noted the bureau couldn’t find proof her private email server was hacked into by adversaries. But it noted that the private server had to be shut down repeatedly because of hacker attacks and a successful attack wasn’t likely to have left fingerprints. Also, some "hostile foreign actors" were able to break into the personal email accounts of Clinton’s close aides, obtaining a treasure trove of emails exchanged with her personal account.
Note that so far none of the WikiLeaks revelations have come from Hillary’s personal account. That could mean it wasn’t hacked, or it could mean that “hostile” actors are waiting to make use of them.
Given the growing suspicions that the Clinton Foundation may have exchanged favors with the Clinton State Department, her private server could be of great interest in establishing such links.
In short, we have to acknowledge the danger that Hillary Clinton could be the target of international blackmail in the White House.
Consider what happened the first time the Clinton couple was there. Bill Clinton’s involvement with the intern Monica Lewinsky had national security implications and also subjected him to possible blackmail.
Secret Service agent Gary Bryne reported in his book ‘Crisis of Character” that U.S. intelligence agencies had concluded that Russia, the U.K. and Israel had intercepted phone calls between Clinton and Monica Lewinsky.
In 2000, Insight magazine, after a one-year investigation by a team of reporters, claimed that the Israeli government had “penetrated four White House telephone lines and was able to relay real-time conversations on those lines from a remote site outside the White House directly to Israel for listening and recording.”
Boris Yeltsin, the former Russian president, wrote in his memoirs that Russian intelligence had picked up on Clinton’s “predilection for beautiful young women.”
From agreeing to talk with the insecure Lewinsky on short notice to making sure she had a job to her liking at the Pentagon (with a security clearance!) President Clinton did a great deal to keep Lewinsky quiet. Nonetheless, she ended up discussing her affair with 11 people. One of those was Linda Tripp, a Pentagon official who recorded their talks. But what if Tripp or someone else had taken those tapes to Chinese or Iranian diplomats instead of Kenneth Starr, the special prosecutor?
Indeed, in his book “Clinton, Inc.,” journalist Daniel Halper reports that there was a blackmail attempt against Bill Clinton.
In October 1998 in a bid to gain the release of Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard, an Israeli team led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu threatened to blackmail President Clinton with tapes of Clinton and Lewinsky.
When Clinton brought Israel’s request for Pollard’s release to CIA Director George Tenet, Tenet threatened to resign on the spot should Clinton cave and release Pollard. Clinton ultimately declined the Israeli request, though he would consider it once again before the end of his term.
In fact, Clinton was all too aware of the security risk the Lewinsky relationship represented. The Starr Report, released in September 1998, reveals that Clinton told Lewinsky that "he suspected that a foreign embassy was tapping his telephones, and he proposed cover stories" if they were ever questioned about their relationship.
The president and Lewinsky had "phone sex" 10 to 15 times, so Clinton told Lewinsky that, if asked, she should say "they knew their calls were being monitored all along, and the phone sex was just a put-on." This laughable "explanation" wouldn't have helped much if a foreign power had intercepted the explicit calls.
"I'm just horrified to think the commander-in-chief is conducting himself with such reckless disregard for his responsibilities, making himself part and parcel of every blackmail threat that one can imagine," retired Marine Lt. Gen. Charles Cooper told the Washington Times in 1998.
The Code of Federal Regulations (Title 32, Chapter 1, Part 147) makes clear that a person may lose a security clearance for "concealment of information that may increase an individual's vulnerability to coercion, exploitation, or duress, such as engaging in activities which, if known, may affect the person's personal, professional, or community standing or render the person susceptible to blackmail.”
Presidents have enforced such laws by issuing edicts such as Executive Order No. 12968 in August 1995. It states that individuals eligible for access to classified material must have a record of "strength of character, trustworthiness, honesty, reliability, discretion, and sound judgment, as well as freedom from conflicting allegiances and potential for coercion." It was signed by President Clinton. Three months later he began a relationship with an intern named Monica Lewinsky
The American people will have to decide if, after 20 years, the Clintons have really changed the way they operate and can be trusted to retake control of the Oval Office.
John Fund is a columnist for National Review. Follow him on Twitter @JohnFund.