Why State Department will not release 22 Clinton emails

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The State Department announced Friday that it will not release 22 emails from former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton because they contain “top secret” information, the highest level of government classification.

State Department spokesman John Kirby said the documents, totaling 37 pages, were not marked classified at the time they were sent, but are being upgraded at the request of the Intelligence Community because they contain sensitive information.

“We can confirm that later today, as part of our monthly (Freedom of Information Act) productions of former Secretary Clinton’s emails, the State Department will be denying in full seven email chains, found in 22 documents, representing 37 pages,” Kirby said. “The documents are being upgraded at the request of the Intelligence Community because they contain a category of Top Secret information.”

A spokesperson for the Intelligence Community’s inspector general declined to comment.

The State Department will release another batch of Clinton’s emails Friday, but the release is expected to fall well behind the judge-imposed timetable for producing all of her emails.

The emails have been publishing over the last eight months more or less in accordance with a schedule set by Judge Rudolph Contreras, with increasingly large batches uploaded to a State Department website at the end of each month.

This month’s release was supposed to be the final one and include just over 9,000 pages of documents — the largest number to date.

But last Thursday, the State Department filed a motion to extend the final productions until February 29 because the department had failed to send more than 7,000 pages of those emails to other government agencies for review, only recognizing the mistake earlier this month.

That delay was then compounded by a huge snowstorm that shut down the federal government for several days, according to the State Department’s motion.

In a separate filing Thursday night, lawyers for the State Department said the State Department “candidly acknowledged — and regrets — that it was responsible for the failure to send the documents for consultation and that it was simply a mistake that occurred during the enormous undertaking of reviewing and processing the entire Clinton email collection in a compressed time frame.”

A State Department official told CNN Thursday, “State Department staff are working extremely hard to get as many emails are through our FOIA process as possible,” but wouldn’t elaborate on what was in the legal filing.

Contreras has not yet ruled on the State Department’s request for more time. But regardless of his ruling, the State Department is unlikely to meet its full production quota since, as it acknowledges in Thursday’s filing, some of the emails flagged for further review had not even been sent to a dozen relevant agencies for review.

“State has experienced some difficulty contacting some of the appropriate agency personnel since the snow storm and is still making arrangements with some of the receiving agencies for secure delivery of the documents,” the department lawyers wrote, emphasizing that these represent a small portion of the total remaining emails.

Lawyers for the plaintiff in the Freedom of Information Act case have submitted their own filing opposing the State Department’s request for more time.

The delay, they note, pushes the final release back until after the early presidential primaries, causing “grave, incurable harm.”

In May, Contreras ordered the State Department to “aspire to abide” by the monthly production schedule. And while the timeline he set is aspirational, the department must also submit reports each month to explain its progress.