In Pete Hill’s recent letter, he asked, “Why didn’t she (Clinton) classify her outgoing emails?” That’s a good question; and Pete offered multiple possibilities from the mundane to the nefarious. FBI Director Comey stated she was careless, and I totally agree. But, that’s only part of the answer. The rest of the answer has mostly to do with the gap between law and technology.
The laws which govern handling and controlling classified were written decades ago in an era where most classified things had physical dimensions - paper documents, images, weapons, systems. When email became the norm, the law was updated to essentially say, “mark the same as paper documents.” DoD took that a step further and implemented software called TITUS to automatically add classification labels to emails. This latter change violated federal law by enabling unauthorized people to make original classification decisions and automatically applying incomplete and erroneous classification labels without regard to content.
As CIOs for federal agencies transitioned technology to services oriented architecture, significant conflicts arose with the 1980s-era classification policies. Federal agencies could not modernize their information sharing technologies (not just email) and comply with classification law simultaneously. All federal agencies that generate and handle classified information have been wrestling with this dilemma for some time.Finally, I’ve not encountered a political appointee or 4-star in the DoD or their direct supporting staff who has actually read classification law, so while I don’t excuse Clinton’s carelessness, it’s no surprise that she didn’t know it either.
David Vail, O’Fallon
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