By Colonel Mike Angley
In 2007 I retired from the USAF as not only a Colonel, but also as a senior member of the U.S. Intelligence Community. Specifically, I had 26-years under my belt in the counterintelligence world, cutting my teeth as an operator during the Cold War. I understand the nature and capability of the foreign intelligence threat, having spent many years chasing Soviet KGB and other country officers around the world. When Hillary Clinton’s private email server use came to light, I was alarmed and began assembling thoughts and cautions about her that I previously shared on social media. This article is a polished version of what I’ve commented about in the past.
First, a primer on classified information. Most people are familiar with its three levels, each based upon the assessed amount of damage it may cause to national security if divulged: Top Secret (‘exceptionally grave damage’), Secret (‘serious damage’), and Confidential (‘damage’). All classified information falls into one of these three levels, and if it is basic classified information (not further restricted by special compartments or programs), it is sometimes called ‘Collateral Classified’ information.
Adding dimension (and seriousness) to the three levels are compartments and programs. Broadly speaking, classified information may be designated as ‘Sensitive Compartmented Information’ (SCI, a category usually assigned to information collected through sensitive, technical means). There are also ‘Special Access Programs’ (SAPs, narrow communities where need-to-know is tightly controlled and those given access are limited to a small, set number). The FBI investigation of Secretary Clinton showed she transmitted and received information up through Top Secret, Collateral, SAP and SCI.
Let’s focus on the damage she did. Compromising SAP and even SCI information is not easy, for good reason. In many cases, there may be one person in an entire organization read into a particular SAP. That person, if he is even allowed to maintain SAP materials, must meet rigid storage requirements which would include single access to an approved safe for holding it. SCI information is maintained in special vaults that are shielded to prevent electronic emanations from leaving and to block intercepts from the outside. Classified information is processed and transmitted over secure networks that are air-gapped (not connected to lower level systems) and they have had USB ports removed to prevent copying of magnetic data.
In short, moving SAP or SCI information from its strict, confined lanes of operation to an unclassified server is like moving mountains. It would NEVER happen casually, accidentally, or easily. What Hillary and her aides did was massive, significant, INTENTIONAL and certainly grave in danger to our national security. The following are some of the reasons why her crimes matter:
- Compromised intelligence sources and methods. Sometimes the U.S. government will spend millions or billions of dollars to develop the capability to exploit a foreign power’s trusted networks. If a disclosure tips off that power that the network is no longer reliable, the foreign government may:
- Pass disinformation through the channel to thwart our collection activity, or
- Turn off the channel and deprive us of needed intelligence, forcing us to spend even greater sums of money to exploit a new system.
- Arrest, kidnap, torture, and even murder of human assets. If Hillary’s compromised information pointed to human intelligence sources, their lives could be in danger. These may be U.S. intelligence officers or foreign sources who may be cooperating with us. If we demonstrate to potential sources that helping the U.S. is too risky, it makes it harder to recruit informants in the future.
- Compromised operations, specifically intelligence and military operations. There’s been some discussion that Hillary revealed sensitive drone information. This could not only shut off this asset as an effective intelligence or targeting platform, but it could also jeopardize military personnel and facilities if the location of the drone airfields were revealed.
- Showcase our own collection capability/platforms (and potential vulnerabilities). These include not only communication capabilities but satellite technology, among others. This could give an adversary insight into how to exploit our trusted systems.
- Damage to foreign relations. Sometimes we receive intelligence from foreign governments. Revealing it could damage these partnerships and harm foreign relations, the very kind of thing a Secretary of State needs to avoid.
Allow me to offer one additional counterintelligence perspective, specifically on whether her private server was ever breached by a foreign power. I can assert with 100% certainty that not only was it penetrated and compromised, but in all likelihood her emails, in REAL TIME, were intercepted, read, analyzed and shared at the highest levels of foreign governments. In particular the Kremlin and Beijing, at a minimum, were on the reading lists.
I say this for three reasons. First, a Secretary of State’s communication is an ongoing, critical target of foreign collection, regardless of venue (even if she had properly communicated via secure, approved means, it still would have been targeted). Second, a private server outside government channels is a juicy, goldmine for porous collection that a foreign intelligence service would never pass up. Third, it wouldn’t have required a hack to access her emails. Much of what a foreign government obtains is simply sniffed from electronic emanations via equipment sitting thousands of miles away. To me, discussion of a Russian ‘hack’ is a red herring to avoid the obvious, but I’ll entertain it, below.
Much hay has been made about whether the Russians accessed her private server. I find it ironic that the left vehemently rejected any notion before the election that her server had been compromised at all, especially by Vladimir Putin. In contrast, following the election, the same left wants us to believe the Russians hacked virtually everyone (except her), everything (except THAT server), and everywhere (except Chappaqua). Whether it was via a hack or more traditional intercept means, Putin has every single email that went over her server. I guarantee it.
Hillary’s email crimes matter. They matter to the taxpayer who foots the bill for compromised intelligence collection systems. They matter to the professionals in the Intelligence Community who may find their jobs hamstrung by her actions. Mostly, they matter to the men and women whose lives have been threatened as a result of her vain attempts to shield herself from the inconvenience of Freedom of Information Act requests. My hope is that the next Attorney General vigorously investigates and prosecutes her like so many others who did far less damage to national security.
Colonel Michael (“Mike”) Angley is retired from the United States Air Force, a published thriller author, and a conservative writer who fashions himself as Attila the Hun with a laptop. Mike wrote for Andrew Breitbart’s Big Government and Big Peace blogs before the Breitbart consolidation, receiving superb feedback and kudos for typically weaving in pop culture references with his far right perspectives. He enjoys writing about military affairs, national security issues, and politics and is an avid Second Amendment advocate. When he’s not writing, he’s busy annoying liberals with FaceBook posts and Twitter tweets that point out the obvious flaws and fallacies of the left.
During his 26-year USAF career, the Colonel was a Special Agent with the Office of Special Investigations (OSI). The OSI is a sister agency to the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) and has an identical mission that includes felony-level criminal, fraud, and narcotics investigations as well as counterintelligence and counterterrorism operations. His USAF experiences spanned multiple regions around the globe with five command assignments and duties at foreign, regional, theater and national levels.
He is a seasoned counterintelligence and counterespionage officer from the Cold War era, and if you ask him he’ll tell you the spy-vs-spy days were indeed the heady, glory era of espionage. During the latter half of his career he focused on counterterrorism missions in the Middle East and the Far East and operationalized many of today’s concepts for this unique arena while working the sand dunes of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and a few other “choice” locations. When Colonel Angley retired in 2007, he was a Senior Supervisory Special Agent and was in command of all worldwide OSI matters at Air Force Space Command in Colorado Springs, CO.
Mike Angley is also a published, award-winning author of three thriller novels in the “Child Finder” trilogy. His debut novel, “Child Finder,” received a glowing review from the Library Journal which placed it on its Summer Reading list in 2009. “Child Finder” and its companion sequel novels all won various awards from the Military Writers Society of America (MWSA) and the Public Safety Writers Association. In 2012, Mike was named MWSA’s “Author of the Year,” largely for work on his third novel, “Child Finder: Revelation.”
As an avid user of social media, Mike can be found and friended on Facebook (mike.angley) and followed on Twitter (@MikeAngley). His website is www.mikeangley.com. Following his USAF retirement, Mike and his family stayed in Colorado Springs, CO where they enjoy daily, majestic views of Pikes Peak and the Rocky Mountains.