Republican Sen. Ben Sasse is initiating an inquiry into the intelligence community's refusal to conduct a routine damage assessment of the classified information exposed by Hillary Clinton's unsecured email system.
"As a member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, I take these unauthorized disclosures of sensitive and classified material very seriously and I am concerned about our nation's ability to secure its interests and its secrets," Nebraska's junior senator wrote in a Thursday letter to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
"I also am alarmed by the ODNI's apparent unwillingness to abide by its own policies," Sasse added. "Even if information has been previously exposed, is it not prudent to understand the implications of this specific disclosure in terms of who gained access to the information and how they might leverage these insights?"
Under a provision known as Intelligence Community Directive 732, the ODNI is required to perform a damage assessment "when there is an actual or suspected unauthorized disclosure or compromise of classified national intelligence" in order to understand the impact on national security.
This year, it was widely believed intelligence officials would conduct that review of Clinton's emails, some of which were so classified that most members of Congress are still having difficulty reading them.
That's especially true of several dozen messages that the intelligence community's inspector general classified as being at the "Top Secret/SAP" level, which could be above the classification level of congressional intelligence committee members.
The only members with guaranteed access are those with clearances covering both the intelligence community and the Department of Defense. "I expect to review all of the emails that have been transmitted to the Congress in full, in part because I sit on both the Intelligence and the Armed Services committees," Republican Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton told the Washington Examiner in an interview. "Therefore I have access across both the military and intelligence agencies' most sensitive, compartmented programs."
That notably precludes most of Congress, including members of the House Oversight Committee who have been trying to probe the issue, from reading the emails, making ODNI the only agency capable of conducting an assessment.
"It seems prudent to have an assessment of how Mrs. Clinton's disclosures might be understood as confirming previous disclosures and how such confirmations might impact our national security," Sasse wrote.
"In short, the lack of a formal assessment of these matters risks tarring your organization, and possibly the broader IC, with accusations of partisanship or incompetence. I believe of these critiques are wrong; but, I request your timely answers to these questions to maintain this view," he said.