State won’t release unclassified Clinton-Obama emails

Printed from:

( – State Department Spokesman John Kirby said at a briefing on Friday afternoon that the State Department will not be releasing 18 emails exchanged between President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton when she was secretary of state that have been found on Clinton’s private email server.

Kirby, however, said that these emails between the president and secretary of state “have not been determined to be classified.”

The government emails that were on Clinton’s private server have been requested in a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit.

In the same briefing, Kirby said that the State Department also would not be releasing seven email chains including 37 pages because these emails contain what he called “a category of top secret information.”

Here is the explanation Kirby gave at the briefing for the government’s decision not to release these documents:

State Department Spokesman John Kirby: “At approximately 7:00 p.m. tonight, the State Department will make publicly available online approximately 1,000 additional pages from former Secretary Clinton’s email account.

As we’ve explained previously, tonight’s release will not meet the court’s due date for producing all of the remaining emails, but we are still striving to produce as many documents as possible today. All documents posted today will be fully searchable, but in an effort to process and post as many as possible, the documents in today’s release will not have fully completed data fields on the FOIA website. We’re going to be adding this data next month and expect to be done by the end of February.

I also want to address some information that, I think, some of you have seen in the news just in the last few minutes or so. I can confirm that as part of this monthly FOIA production of former Secretary Clinton’s emails, the State Department will be denying in full seven email chains found in 22 documents, representing 37 pages. The documents are being upgraded at the request of the Intelligence Community because they contain a category of top secret information. These documents were not marked classified at the time that they were sent.

We have worked closely with our interagency partners on this matter, and this dialogue with the interagency is exactly how the process is supposed to work. As to whether they were classified at the time they were sent, the State Department, in the FOIA process, is focusing on whether they need to be classified today. Questions about classification at the time they were sent are being and will be handled separately by the State Department.

These emails will be denied in full, meaning that they will not be produced online on our FOIA website. And I don’t need to remind many of you that in response to a FOIA request it’s not unusual to deny or withhold a document in full. I’m not going to speak to the content of these documents. I understand there’s great curiosity. I’m just going to put that right out at the top–I am not going to speak to the content of this email traffic.

We are aware that there’s intense interest, and we’re announcing this decision now because the FOIA process regarding these emails has been completed. While we have requested a month’s extension to complete the entire review, we did not need the extension for these particular documents.

These emails denied in full are among the emails discussed recently by the Intelligence Community inspector general in a letter to Congress.

We will not, however, be confirming or speaking, as I said, to every detail provided in the documents or in the ICIG’s letter. One of these emails was also among those identified by the ICIG last summer as possibly containing top secret information. And then to remind, we are focused, as the Secretary wants us to remain focused, on producing former Secretary Clinton’s emails through the FOIA process. Producing these approximately 55,000 pages is a major undertaking, and our staff is working extremely hard to get this done in a manner that both protects sensitive information and reflects our commitment to transparency and disclosure.

I’d like now to shift direction to a different aspect of today’s release, an entirely different aspect, which relates to emails exchanged between President Obama and then Secretary Clinton.

As the White House has previously stated, Secretary Clinton and the President did on occasion exchange emails. As they have also said previously, such presidential records shall remain confidential to protect the President’s ability to receive unvarnished advice and counsel but will ultimately be released in accordance with the Presidential Records Act. I can confirm that 18 emails comprised of eight distinct email chains between former Secretary Clinton and President Obama are being withheld in full from the State Department’s FOIA production today of these emails of Secretary–former Secretary Clinton’s emails.

The decision to withhold presidential correspondence from State’s Freedom of Information Act production of former Secretary Clinton’s emails was widely covered months ago. In response to a FOIA request, again, it is not unusual to deny or withhold a document in full. To be clear, the emails between then Secretary Clinton and President Obama have not been determined to be classified. They are entirely separate and distinct from the emails in today’s release that were upgraded to top secret, secret, or confidential, and I’m not going to speak again to the content of that email traffic.