Here is what I can personally say about Special Access Programs (SAP’s), their criticality, impact, and potential consequences, as a result of leak or compromise, and what I can attest to in an unclassified form:
- The names of each SAP are themselves classified Top Secret because the information within the SAP are far and above Top Secret.
- SAP’s are so sensitive that even people who have security clearances giving them access to Top Secret Sensitive Compartment Information (TS SCI), an enormously high security clearance level, cannot have access to a SAP’s unless they receive a special indoctrination into the SAP based on an operational “must know” that exceeds all other “need to know” standards. This means, regardless of the point that Hillary was SecState, staff aides like Huma Abedin, Cheryl Mills, etc. had absolutely ‘zero’ reason to have any access to any SAPs, period. How that happened and who authorized it is criminal in itself. If Clinton determined a need, the SAP Program Manger would have been called in to brief her. (See my comments below on SAP Program Managers.) Both before and after which depending the need for her to know she would have been read on prior and at a determined later point, read off.
- Being “read on” for a SAP is far more then acknowledging in writing that you have been briefed on the SAP. It is an in-depth “indoctrination” into the given SAP, and each SAP is itself compartmented separately from other SAPS. Having access to one SAP does not give you access to another SAP, and in fact rarely does. During my career, while I have probably been read on to over one hundred SAPs, rarely was I read on to more than one SAP a time, and in only a handful of situations ever more than three (and only because they in fact were connected). Only a tiny handful of people have knowledge of all SAP’s. SAP’s are the most stringently compartmented and protected information in the entire U.S. government. When a program is completed, terminated or ended for whatever reason, or if a read on person leaves the program, all people who have been “read on”, must be “read off”. Like “read on’s” all “read off’s” also include signing of Non-Disclosure Statements that stipulates you take your knowledge and involvement in this program to the grave.
- Unlike Top Secret SCI which is maintained in highly secure Sensitive Compartmented Information Facilitates (SCIF’s) managed by specially trained Special Security Officers (SSO’s) at various levels of command, and within agencies of the intelligence community, every single SAP is managed by an individually designated Program Manager for each individual SAP covering an entire theater of operations. In other words, SAP Program Managers are far fewer in number than there is SSO’s. SSO’s are not cleared to even know about SAP’s or to maintain information about them in their already enormously secure SCIF’s. How SAP’s are secured cannot be discussed because of the sensitive beyond Top Secret nature in which it is done. I served in one high-level position, were I was one of two people who maintained the list of every SAP across the government. By that, meaning the name of the program, less than a one sentence description and the agency/organization and program manager. I was not read on to the any of the programs, but was designated to get in contact with those who could, should a very senior official need to be made aware in case of a crisis or contingency. Many senior national security officials, cabinet secretaries, diplomats generals, admirals who obviously have the highest security clearances still do not rate being indoctrinated into nearly all the SAPs within the US. national security community. In fact, most don’t even know the most SAPs exist.
- Unlike individuals with the highest Top Secret SCI access security clearances, who must undergo a special background information with periodic “bring-up” background investigation, those tiny few who have access to SAP’s must also endure periodic and regular polygraph tests in addition to the most comprehensive of special background investigations. During my career since 1985 or so, I underwent polygraphs on average every three years, in order to maintain access to the SAP programs I was involved with and, or was required to be knowledgeable of.
- Compromise of a SAP is the single most dangerous security violation that can ever happen to the USA. Even the enormously damaging revelations of the Edward Snowden’s TOP Secret SCI security compromise does not reach the level of a SAP compromise. I am aware of what Snowden revealed, but he deals were limited.
- To put SAP information in to an unsecure sever like Hillary Clinton’s unsecure server is a class one felony that could, in many cases, result in life in prison. That is because such a compromise is so dangerous that it could, and likely will result in the death of people protected by and within the scope of the specific SAP. The intelligence community will certainly know if that happens, but will never reveal it publically because that could likely validate the death and prevent U.S. deniability of other sources and methods. Most people truly do not understand and have absolutely no concept of how grave and dangerous and perilous a revelation and compromise would be.
As a former career senior intelligence officer and special operations special mission intelligence officer and National Security Council staff member, I believe it is inconceivable that if it is verified that Hillary Clinton’s server contained or had help SAP information on it that she could possibly escape indictment and criminal prosecution. As hard as it is to imagine, that would even be worse than electing to not prosecute a mass murdering serial killer because even they could not inflict as much damage on our country as the compromise of a SAP could or will do. Compromise of a SAP not only could — but without doubt would — cause serious damage to our national security.
If it is true that Hillary Clinton had SAP information on her unsecure server, whether it was marked or not, you can be sure that the FBI will strongly recommend that charges be brought against Hillary Clinton and continue in an exhaustive investigation to trace back to every single person that had even the tiniest role in this unbelievable security compromise. Likewise, there is a dual track investigation against time to find every person who has had access and seen any and all SAP related copies of those on Ms. Clintons server and were forward or copied, even if inadvertently. I also know from experience, there are foreign intelligence agents seeking to find who may have been in receipt of Clinton’s emails either forwarded or copied. The revelation that Hillary Clinton had such high level intelligence information on her personal server more than likely has upped the ante of foreign espionage efforts to try and find out if there are people or copies in their position and, or in other’s email accounts.
If the Attorney General, through “prosecutorial discretion,” elected not to prosecute this crime, I believe Congress would have no alternative but initiate the impeach process of her, and the FBI would then have no choice but to conduct a criminal investigation of her for a deliberate cover up –- so grave is this security violation.
If President Obama were to pardon Hillary Clinton for a compromise of this magnitude he would render himself in the historical record as an “enemy of the state,” and could himself face criminal prosecution –- so grave is such a security compromise. Nobody, not even the POTUS could get away with something like this in our system of government.
If anyone could escape persecution for compromising a SAP, we are deep trouble as a nation. No president who loves this country and is true to his oath would ever allow anyone, not even his or her closest and most loved relative, to get away with a SAP compromise. It is simply unimaginable that this could ever happen.
If the ongoing investigation finds that Hillary Clinton compromised a SAP, then we all should know with certainty, regardless of political persuasion, that she is entirely unfit to hold public office of any kind let alone President of the USA — and ALL Americans should never tolerate it. Compromising a SAP is absolute “disqualifier” for public office and access to our nation’s most sensitive information – period. Further, the precedent within the national security community for those indicted, charged and prosecuted for lesser violations, involving smaller less harmful secrets, for failing to safeguard and protect national security information and secrets, by virtue of policy, will also be devastating — especially those individuals whose violations were errors and accidental, vice deliberate and intentional and never resulted anywhere close to a compromise.
Again, this is my contention, based on many years of experience serving in numerous capacities across the intelligence and national security communities.
Jim Waurishuk, Colonel, USAF