To the average American, the crimes of murder and rape are the most serious but to the intelligence community, it is misuse of classified materials and information. The very existence of the Intel operation demands secrecy and they do not look kindly on violations.
Hillary was an idiot for keeping her own server and email account not because it would look bad or cost her votes but because, as secretary of state, she knew that a very large proportion of the emails she sent and received must, perforce, have contained classified information. To use her personal server for her email correspondence was to gamble her entire career on a proper filing system that distinguished classified from other material.
Now, she's caught the inspectors general at the State Department have found four emails that contained classified material, although they were not marked as such. Four she might get away with but the four were from a group of 40 the IG investigated. That leaves only 29,960 more to go.
Hillary will hide behind the fact that the classified emails were not marked as such. For a clerk, such an excuse might fly but not for the secretary of state. If her job entails any special knowledge at all, it is where the boundaries between classified and nonclassified information is to be found.
As with all of Hillary's scandals, this wound is self-inflicted. Had she not insisted on using her own server and e mail account, it would never have happened.
And, like all of her scandals, it will drag on for months or even years. It will take a long time to go through 30,000 emails and make judgments about their classification status. And a new batch of emails are going to be released by the State Department at the end of each month between now and the end of the year.
But what is different about this scandal is that it can become criminal in a heartbeat. Initially, the Justice Department incorrectly reported that the referral from the two inspectors general was criminal in nature. Then the department backtracked and said it was not.
But the underlying facts are potentially criminal and there is only a limited number of times that a secretary of state can plead ignorance about the classification status of a document.
The reason this scandal, above others, really threatens Hillary are the necks that have already been on the chopping block for this particular offense. Former CIA Director John Deutsch, General David Petraeus, and former National Security Advisor Sandy Berger have all been involved in such offenses and were punished accordingly. Deutsch was pardoned by President Clinton.
But the Intel boys take this offense seriously and are not going to look the other way. Not this time.
© Dick Morris & Eileen McGann