…From the “groove yard of forgotten favorites,” to borrow a phrase from El Rushbo: 

As Hillary Clinton’s e-mail scandal unfolded last year, we reminded readers that the former Secretary of State (and senior aides) had access to the crown jewels of American intelligence, and some of that information might wind up on her “home brew” e-mail system.

“This much we know: Mrs. Clinton and most of her senior associates utilizing the e-mail system were cleared for the most sensitive information produced and retained by the U.S. government.  They had routine access to the full range of intelligence data, up to the TS-SCI level, and a number of SAR/SAP programs as well.  If you want to discuss that information–without the hassle of creating and utilizing e-mail accounts on SIPRNET or JWICS, just pull bits of material and put them into an unclassified e-mail and send them over an unsecure network.  It’s a fair bet that most (if not all) of her e-mails are in the hands of virtually any country with a national signals intelligence (SIGINT) capability.” 

All the more reason for the FBI to continue a criminal probe.  Mishandling classified information is a crime (just ask General David Petraeus).  But the Clinton e-mail system went far beyond sharing hard-copy files with a mistress/biographer, and storing them outside a secure facility.  By entering classified material into an unsecure e-mail system, the former Secretary of State and her associates likely exposed a wide range of classified material to intercept and collection by our enemies.  

Ignore the spin.  This is not a matter of ensuring that classified material was secure; it’s a question of who deliberately placed sensitive data on a non-secure network and engaged in that practice on a recurring basis.  But determining guilt may be more difficult that you’d think.  Unless there was a system administrator moving classified documents from State Department systems to the Clinton server, investigators may be compelled to compare original intel documents with the e-mails, line-by-line and word-for-word. 

While Mrs. Clinton continues her quest for the presidency, inspectors general from the various intelligence agencies (along with a phalanx of FBI agents) have quietly expanded their investigation of her e-mail network.  And the latest finding is one of the most damning.  As Fox News reported earlier today:

Hillary Clinton’s emails on her unsecured, homebrew server contained intelligence from the U.S. government’s most secretive and highly classified programs, according to an unclassified letter from a top inspector general to senior lawmakers.

Fox News exclusively obtained the unclassified letter, sent Jan. 14 from Intelligence Community Inspector General I. Charles McCullough III. It laid out the findings of a recent comprehensive review by intelligence agencies that identified “several dozen” additional classified emails — including specific intelligence known as “special access programs” (SAP).  

That indicates a level of classification beyond even “top secret,” the label previously given to two emails found on her server, and brings even more scrutiny to the presidential candidate’s handling of the government’s closely held secrets.

According to Mr. McCullough, two sworn declarations from one intelligence community element “cover several dozen emails [from Clinton’s server] containing classified information determined by the IC element to be at the confidential, secret, and top secret/sap levels.”  McCullough offered that revelation in an unclassified letter to leadership of the House and Senate intelligence committees and leaders of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, as well as the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) and State Department inspector general.

Spokesmen for the intelligence community declined comment on the Fox report.  

As their name implies, SAP programs are highly restricted.  Individuals must be “read into” the program when it is determined they have a valid “need-to-know.”  Many relate to the most sensitive collection efforts in the intelligence community, based on extremely well-placed sources and/or intelligence methods that–if revealed–would cause exceptionally grave damage to our intel efforts. 

Like most who worked in the spook business, your humble correspondent was read into a few SAP programs in his day.  Because I’m still honoring my non-disclosure agreement (unlike a former cabinet member we know), I won’t go into details about them.  But to give you some idea of the security involved, reviewing information gathered under one SAP effort meant going to a special vault, inside a Sensitive Compartmented Intelligence Facility (SCIF), and logging onto computer terminals reserved for that particular program.  If you weren’t cleared for the program, you didn’t get in–even if you had a TS/SCI clearance.  

In some cases, only a handful of people may be approved for a special access program.  Some of those are restricted to the most senior members of the U.S. government–the type of collection efforts a Secretary of State would have knowledge of.  At this point, we don’t know what type of SAP information was found on Mrs. Clinton’s server, but obviously, it represents a security breach of the first magnitude–and it’s a sure bet that hostile SIGINT services accessed that information.  

It’s the type of material that gets people killed.  Literally.  It’s one reason the Army is considering a demotion of retired General David Petraeus.  Turns out that he shared SAP information with his biographer and former mistress, Paula Broadwell.  Neither Petraeus nor Broadwell was ever accused of sharing that info over an unclassified e-mail system.  But Petraeus may lose a star and be forced to repay hundreds of thousands of dollars in retirement pay–the difference in the pension of check of a four-star, versus a Lieutenant General.  

Meanwhile, the Clinton campaign keeps chugging on.  But the odds of her indictment just increased dramatically.