In the past, information such as this is actually classified Top Secret / Special Intelligence / Talent Keyhole because he was killed by a drone strike inside Pakistan, which until now, the U.S. has never publicly acknowledged doing. It is just such information that represents, most, if not all, of HRC's emails that are now retroactively classified Top Secret.
Today's announcement was made by the Dept. of Defense.
The intelligence community's inspector general declared that about 20 of the emails should be retroactively classified as top secret, SI,, TK. The State Dept inspector general disagreed, but for the moment the intelligence community IG's position holds.
Those with knowledge have said that nearly all / all of these email involve drone strikes by the CIA in Pakistan. It is even said that one / several emails merely recites media reporting on the drone strikes. (The intelligence community IG let the cat out out of the bag by applying the Talent Keyhole stamp.)
For example, one of the emails apparently lists talking points likely to be raised with HRC by the prime minister of Pakistan in a meeting with her, and one of the points is 'drone strikes'. Pakistan, at least publicly, complained loudly and often about such strikes on its sovereign territory.
To me, it was interesting that this most recent strike was cone by the Department of Defense (supposedly).
The previous division of labor was that drone strikes within Afghanistan were done by the military, those in Pakistan done by the CIA. In part, that's because Pakistan and the U.S. have a status of forces agreement relative to military activities and actions on each other's territory, as we are not at war with Pakistan.
That the U.S. undertook drone strikes in Pakistan was known to everybody who had an interest in the matter, but the CIA would not publicly acknowledge such, so these were classified.
To my thinking, Obama has just removed that figleaf, and, for all practical purposes, removed the rationale for the retroactive classification of these particular HRC emails.
From the Daily Beast:
• TOP SECRET, as the name implies, is the highest official classification level in the U.S. government, defined as information whose unauthorized release “could cause exceptionally grave damage to national security or foreign relations.”
• SI refers to Special Intelligence, meaning it is information derived from intercepted communications, which is the business of the National Security Agency, America’s single biggest source of intelligence. They’re the guys who eavesdrop on phone calls, map who’s calling whom, and comb through emails. SI is a subset of what the intelligence community calls Sensitive Compartmented Information, or SCI. And these materials always require special handling and protection. They are to be kept in a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility, or SCIF, which is a special hardened room that is safe from both physical and electronic intrusion.
• TK refers to Talent Keyhole, which is an intelligence community caveat indicating that the classified material was obtained via satellite.
I can 95 percent guarantee that, given the description of the circumstances, and given Obama's specific authorization, that the drone strike against the Taliban leader was a TS / SI / TK operation. The 5 percent chance is for an operative on the ground.