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US State Department withholds Clinton emails containing top secret information

Three days before the Iowa caucuses for presidential nominees, Hillary Clinton's private emails while she was Secretary of State have again become an issue. Seven chains of emails contain secret information.

The US State Department announced on Friday that seven, private email chains of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would be withheld from the public as they contained top secret information.

The 37 printed pages contained information which US intelligence agencies said was classified as top secret. State Department spokesman John Kirby said "These documents were not marked classified at the time that they were sent." His department is to investigate whether the information in the mails was classified at the time.

It is the first time that public release of chains of mails have been blocked. Some information in other mails had been censored. Clinton's spokesman Brian Fallon issued a strong statement against the decision: "We firmly oppose the complete blocking of the release of these emails."

Clinton has been investigated for her use of a private email server in her New York home while working as Secretary of State from 2009 to 2013. A further 1,000 pages of emails sent and received by Clinton during that period were released by the State Department on Friday.

The long-running investigation into the emails has been an issue throughout Clinton's campaign for the Democrat presidential nomination:

Clinton's critics claim US secrets were put at risk as a result of the use of a private server. About 55,000 pages from Clinton's email archive are the subject of multiple lawsuits. The FBI is investigating Clinton's server to see if classified information was mishandled. A number of newspapers and media organizations and Republicans in Congress want to examine the mails.

"Housing top-secret emails on an unsecure, personal server put our national security at grave risk," Senator Tom Cotton, a Republican from Arkansas who serves on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said in a statement. "Did our enemies hack these emails? And were lives put at risk as a result?"

Court orders

One court had told the State Department to release 82 percent of Clinton's emails by the end of 2015 but granted an extension until February 29. "Producing these approximately 55,000 pages is a major undertaking, and our staff is working extremely hard to get this done in a manner that both protects sensitive information and reflects our commitment to transparency and disclosure," Kirby said.

Clinton's successor as Secretary of State, John Kerry said he could not comment on the emails: "I can't speak to the specifics of anything with respect to the technicalities, the contents ... because that's not our job," Kerry told a news conference in Canada on Friday.

jm/bw (Reuters, dpa)

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