The New York Times has dropped a bombshell that may have grave ramifications for Hillary Clinton – both personally and politically. It turns out that two emails that were received and stored on her personal, private server were classified as “Top Secret”, the highest classification of government intelligence.  These emails were received during her tenure as Secretary of State. If so, Clinton may have been responsible for a serious and inexcusable breach of national security.

As reported by the New York Times:

A special intelligence review of two emails that Hillary Rodham Clinton received as secretary of state on her personal account — including one about North Korea’s nuclear weapons program — has endorsed a finding by the inspector general for the intelligence agencies that the emails contained highly classified information when Mrs. Clinton received them, senior intelligence officials said.

This information comes from a report by Inspector General I. Charles McCullough III from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. When confronted, Clinton initially denied that the emails contained any classified information at all. When that was proven to be untrue, she changed her story, stating that the information had been retroactively classified as Top Secret after they had been received.

The latest audit of Clinton’s emails tells a different story: the information contained in those messages have always been rated a Top Secret classification. Next, Clinton claims the classification is relative;  what one agency considers to be “Top Secret” may not rate as high a classification to another – and such classifications are arbitrary in any event. She also claims that the emails were not marked, and that an aide stripped the emails of such flags (which itself is an offense subject to imprisonment).

That’s not flying with Inspector General McCullough, either. Currently, Hillary Clinton is resorting to simply registering her “disagreement” with the report. Out of seeming desperation, Clinton insists that the materials were not classified at the time they were received. Furthermore, she says that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and its sister organization, the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency (NGA) have inconsistent standards of what constitutes “Top Secret.” To Clinton, the whole issue is little more than a petty squabble between rival intelligence agencies.

It isn’t. The fact is that such intelligence is considered “classified” from the outset, no matter what its source. Those holding the highest security clearances have been trained in how to identify such information and what to do with it. As Secretary of State, Clinton should have known exactly what those protocols were. Additionally, an executive order from President Obama himself makes it quite clear that determination of security classification is the sole province of the agency from which the information originates.

One of the emails in question involves North Korea’s nuclear capabilities and deployments. It was only one of forty that were examined by the Inspector General – and they represent a tiny fraction of the more than 60,000 emails alleged to have been on Clinton’s private server. Half of those have been deleted by her legal counsel. She claims those emails to have been “personal in nature,” dealing with everyday activities involving herself and her family. However, there are serious questions about this as well.

Of course, this affects not only Clinton and her campaign. It reflects poorly upon the intelligence community. Why was such sensitive information allowed to be sent to a private server that could have been easily hacked by a foreign government – or even a high school “computer nerd” (which in all probability has happened)?

All of the information printed in the New York Times comes from unidentified “anonymous sources” in the intelligence community. The latest leaks are unlikely to be the last, and they will continue to keep intelligence agencies busy doing damage control. Meanwhile, Ms. Clinton continues to insist that her private email account contained nothing in the way of sensitive, classified information. If they had been, it would constitute a gross violation of federal law.

According to the New York Times, Clinton is cooperating with the FBI’s attempts to track the emails in question as they traveled from the State Department to her private email account. Hillary Clinton is not currently a target in the ongoing investigation, but she is nonetheless skating on thin ice. She also needs to question her aides, particularly the one who allegedly removed the security flags from the emails. At present, the State Department is attempting to provide cover for Clinton with delaying tactics – and even these actions are highly questionable. Current Secretary of State John Kerry recently appointed former diplomat Janice Jacobs as “transparency coordinator.” Jacobs recently donated $2,700 to Hillary Clinton’s Presidential campaign.

At best, the fallout from all of this will derail Clinton’s candidacy. If that is the case she should count herself fortunate. At worst, she may find herself living the remainder of her days in an 8 by 10 cell, wearing an orange jumpsuit.

In any event, Hillary Rodham Clinton will find that even she is not above the law.

Watch Ed Schultz discuss the situation:

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K.J. McElrath is a former history and social studies teacher who has long maintained a keen interest in legal and social issues.