Clinton responds to Navy vet who confronts her on handling classified info

Powell's advice for Clinton
Powell's advice for Clinton 02:56

A new email, released just as she Hillary Clinton took the stage at the “Commander-In-Chief Forum” Wednesday night, indicates that she and former Secretary of State Colin Powell shared similar motivations for using a private account.

When Clinton asked Powell in early 2009 for advice about her emails – before she used private servers for State Department business --  Powell told her he used a system that avoided government servers and warned: “…There is real danger, be very careful. I got around it all by not saying much and not using systems that captured the data.”

Questions about Clinton’s emails ended up consuming about a third of her time on stage at the forum that should’ve been more about national security, reports CBS News correspondent Nancy Cordes.

Clinton's email controversy 03:22

“Had I communicated this information, not following prescribed protocols, I would have been prosecuted and imprisoned,” said Navy veteran Lt. John Lester John Lester.

Clinton told the veteran that the material she sent and received on an unclassified private system was not sensitive enough to merit the punishment he described.

“There were no headers, there was no statement, top secret, secret, or confidential,” Clinton said. “I communicated about classified material on a wholly separate system. I took it very seriously.”

It came on the same day that House Democrats released a long 2009 email to Clinton from former Secretary of State Colin Powell, describing an approach to email Clinton would go on to emulate.

“What I did do was have a personal computer that was hooked up to a private phone line (sounds ancient.) So I could communicate with a wide range of friends directly without it going through the State Department servers,” Powell wrote.  

Clinton has always argued that she was following the lead set by her predecessors.

“Secretary Powell and close aides to former Secretary Rice used private email accounts,” she said in Durham, North Carolina in February.”

“My predecessors did the same thing and many other people in the government,” she said in Miami a month later.

Powell sought to distance himself from the controversy last month, telling People magazine, “Her people have been trying to pin it on me” and insisting Clinton was using her private server “for a year before I sent her a memo telling her what I did.”

But the newly released email was sent just days after Clinton started her new job.

In a statement, Maryland Democrat Elijah Cummings said, “If Republicans were truly concerned with transparency… they would be attempting to recover Secretary Powell’s emails from AOL.”

Powell has said he didn’t save those emails, but there are a few key differences between his actions and Clinton’s. The State Department was a technological backwater when he arrived in 2001, with a clunky email system. By the time Clinton arrived in 2009, the system had improved and the rules governing the preservation of emails were much more rigorous.