Herridge: Internal Gov't Emails Show 'Genuine Panic' During Yemen Evacuation
Internal State Department emails appear to show "genuine panic" during last week's evacuation of the U.S. Embassy in Yemen, Fox News chief intelligence correspondent Catherine Herridge reported exclusively this morning.
After reviewing internal State Department emails, Herridge said that standard procedures to protect sensitive information were not followed during the hasty evacuation from Sana'a.
She described panicked emails circulating at the highest levels of the State Department despite spokeswoman Jen Psaki downplaying the situation at her Feb. 11 briefing.
"We re-evaluated, or evaluated, our security posture based on the uncertain security situation in Sana'a. That's something that has been discussed for some time. As you know, we recently pulled down some staff, so this was a next step in that effort," said Psaki.
Herridge said that eight days before the evacuation, U.S. Ambassador Matthew Tueller, with the approval of Under Secretary of State Patrick Kennedy, ordered embassy staff to leave in place a main communication link with Washington in case they could not get out of the country.
"When an embassy evacuates, or does a bug-out, all classified information is wiped and communications are disabled or removed and that did not happen in this case," Herridge reported.
She added that, according to diplomatic sources, officials were not confident that the evacuation would succeed and felt they needed the communication link to Washington as a "kind of lifeline" in a last-ditch effort to leave.
Herridge highlighted the following email as showing "genuine panic" among State Department officials after the evacuation was completed.
Herridge said officials were concerned that the communication link was still open and that all classified data had not been wiped from computers.
The data includes day-to-day operations at the embassy, a list of staff, security procedures and unclassified email traffic.
Herridge said, according to another email, that the State Department in Washington needed to remotely access the system to delete files that were still in Yemen.
She added, however, that six servers were left intact, including financial management records, passport information and visa applications.
"This is the kind of personally identifiable information that could easily be exploited by terrorists," said Herridge.
Watch Catherine's full report above.
UPDATE: Former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton reacted to Herridge's report on "Happening Now," saying he is "stunned" at what took place in Sana'a.
"Yemen has been a very risky post for over a decade and the fact that they were still making it up as they went, that the plans were so haphazard at the last minute, I find inexplicable. We should be thankful that this didn't turn into a tragedy," said Bolton.
He blamed the apparent chaos on a mixture of incompetence and denial about the situation on the ground.
"We've seen this before. After Gaddafi fell in 2011, Americans had to be withdrawn from Tripoli. Did we have the Navy do it? No, we had to rent a Greek ferry boat to come to Tripoli and take the Americans out. How many times do we have to have these near-misses on evacuations in non-permissive environments before we wake up that that this is very dangerous to the personnel involved?"
Watch his analysis below.