Where Did ’60 Minutes’ Get a Classified State Department Cable?

Last night on 60 Minutes, correspondent Lara Logan read part of what she described as a “diplomatic cable” to Hadi al-Amiri, the leader of “the largest Shiite force” in Iraq fighting against the false caliphate that we are now encouraged to refer to as “Daesh.”*

Admitting that it pains me to do this,** here’s a screenshot of the video on the CBS News page:


(Screenshot of “60 Minutes” segment entitled “A Common Enemy,” produced by Max McClellan.)

The banner line — the overall classification marking at the top of the document — isn’t visible, but do you notice anything about the paragraph markings on that page on top? It’s hard to see at this resolution, but there’s a parenthetical (C) after the number of paragraph 2. If you served in the military or some other national security posts, you will recognize that portion marking: it means that paragraph contains CONFIDENTIAL information, the lowest level of classified information.

Here’s a close-up:


(Screenshot close-up of “60 Minutes” segment entitled “A Common Enemy,” produced by Max McClellan. It’s evident that the image is not of a properly declassified document, because in that case the classification markings would have been crossed out.)

Paragraph 3 is even more interesting, as it is portion-marked (S/NF). (It is of minor interest that the classification marking appears to be formatted incorrectly; did the producers create their own facsimile of another document?) The S indicates that the paragraph contains SECRET information, and the NF is the release marking shorthand for NOFORN, which means information that is “not releasable to foreign nationals.”

It is at least possible that CBS News obtained a declassified document and then re-worked it to something like its original condition, but as presented it appears that they used a still-classified memo. If so, then the question is how did CBS obtain the document? Why did they feel obliged to display it so prominently? And, perhaps more to the point, did Lara Logan know when she read part of paragraph 3 that she was releasing information that the Government had deemed should not be released to any foreign national?

If that document was indeed classified, as it appeared to be, I hope the appropriate parties at the State Department and within the Intelligence Community are investigating how this information was passed to the producer and correspondent.

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*”Daesh” is equivalent to the Arabic acronym for ISIL, but according to this article it “is nearly identical to the Arabic word ‘dais,’ meaning something that crushes or tramples. That’s an ominous definition on its own, but not the one this self-aggrandizing group wants in its quest for Islamic rule.”

**It goes against my training and long-ingrained experience for me to post screenshots that may contain classified information, but the images were already broadcast as part of a national news program. As the Operative said in Serenity, “Damage done.” However, if a US Government representative asks me to remove the images, I will gladly do so.

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