With the new pages in the FBI file on Hillary Clinton, I and many other journalists began to pour through them. We were all horrified when it came to one particular paragraph that said there was an attempt by Patrick Kennedy, Under Secretary of Management, who had been in charge of reviewing the Benghazi emails, among other Clinton matters, to classify one of Hillary Clinton’s email as “B9” in order to allow the document to be hidden “in the basement of [the Department of State] never to be seen again.”
For some journalists and regular FOIA users, this was horrifying because of an additional element to the obvious one (the attempted suppression of an email). The suggestion that B9 was “a reference to a FOIA exemption” was problematic for anyone really familiar with FOIA. There is a B9 exemption and well, it’s for wells.
— JPat Brown (@resentfultweet) October 17, 2016
Since the next page clarifies that the email was about the Benghazi attack, there is no way they could attempt to apply Exemption 9 which specifically covers “geological and geophysical information and data, including maps, concerning wells.”
In this context, the attempt to exempt it was complete nonsense and nothing more than an attempt to bury documents and circumvent the FOIA process. It’s quite possible that the reference was actually to B5, though that implies incompetence on the parts of the investigators in their inability to properly identify it or follow up on the matter.
Far more alarming than that, both to citizens and journalists and FOIA activists, was the paragraph describing the “Shadow Government” that met to discuss everything related to Clinton FOIA requests and Congressional inquiries. This “Shadow Government,” also called the “7th Floor Elite,” including John Kerry, Jonathon Finer, Jennifer Stout, Heather Higginbottom, Patrick Kennedy, Julia Frifield and several other names that were withheld entirely.
The FBI file did not go into details about this group’s activities beyond noting that they apparently argued for the emails to be released all at once, but the decision was ultimately made to release them on a rolling basis, over several months. There is no doubt that these activities and this process will the subject of a number of FOIA requests, and likely an eventual lawsuit to be brought by Jason Leopold.