(NationalSecurity.news) The effects of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s emails, if they were indeed hacked as now appears likely, will have far-reaching ill effects on U.S. intelligence-gathering efforts, according to experts.
As reported by the Washington Examiner, emails discussing the case of an Iranian nuclear scientist who was allegedly working with the United States and who was recently executed by Iranian officials for treason lead many to believe that it will be difficult for the intelligence community to gain the trust of sources in the future.
The scientist, Shahram Amiri, was believed to have provided U.S. intelligence information about Iran’s progressing nuclear weapons program. He entered the Pakistan embassy in Washington in 2010, declaring that he wanted to return home to Iran.
Amiri appears two times in Clinton’s emails, which had been sent over personal, unclassified and under-protected email servers she used while serving as secretary of state, though he was never referenced by name, the Washington Examiner noted:
The first on July 5, 2010, states that “our friend” needs to be given a way to leave the U.S. The second, a week later, says that the “gentleman” was still trying to get home and could “lead to problematic news stories.”
Amiri’s relationship had been reported publicly before the release of the emails. A 2010 New York Times story quoted U.S. officials who said Amiri was paid $5 million for giving information about the country’s nuclear program to the CIA.
That said, Matthew McInnis, a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, told the news site that he believes the revelation will have at least some impact on the U.S. intelligence community’s ability to recruit HUMINT – sources to provide human intelligence, which can be extremely valuable but hard to get. McInnis said that it is already tough and risky to develop such sources because electronic communications are increasingly vulnerable.
“I think if people know that senior U.S. officials are frequently talking about certain sensitive issues like this in unclassified emails, I think that would send a signal of how risky it is,” he told the news site.
Elizabeth Trudeau, a State Department spokeswoman, did not directly answer questions Monday about whether the emails discussing Amiri played a role in his execution at the hands of the Iranian judiciary.
“We’re not going to comment on what may have led to this event,” Trudeau said.
Often, high-ranking U.S. officials must respond to intelligence immediately, forcing them to use less-than-secure communications where they sort of “talk around” issues without mentioning details and names. And though Clinton may have done that in her emails, the fact that she went to such lengths to hide her communications by using private servers was “way beyond” the norm, McInnis said.
“Obviously, how Secretary Clinton was using and securing her emails, as we all know, was really inappropriate and quite dangerous. But I think almost anyone in the government recognizes there’s a certain level of this challenge to be able to do your job,” he said.
“Failure to adequately safeguard current information makes it less likely that U.S. personnel or allies will put themselves at risk when U.S. leaders fail to safeguard potentially life threatening information,” he added.
Other experts have noted that most U.S. intelligence today comes from the National Security Agency and allies, not human sources. But they say when sources can be cultivated, they can have a major impact on intelligence operations.
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