Democratic front-runner for the White House, Hillary Clinton, sent at least four "secret" emails from her personal account, that contained classified information, while she was in office as the US secretary of state.
The inspector general for the intelligence community which found the mails said they should have been considered “secret”, the second highest level of classification.
The inspector general, an American institution roughly the equivalent of vigilance officers of the Indian government, has referred them to the justice department.
An official with the Department of Justice told The Wall Street Journal that it had received a referral to open a investigation into the potential mishandling of classified information.
Earlier reports had indicated that the investigation could be criminal in nature, but the justice department clarified later that it was not a “criminal referral”.
The journal also reported that the inspector general found these four mails in a small selection of 40 emails it had reviewed. There could be potentially more classified information in the remaining mails.
According to an earlier report by The New York Times, two inspector general — one of the state department and the other for the intelligence community — had sought a probe into the issue.
Clinton has repeatedly denied that confidential information was communicated in mails she had sent using her personal account, as opposed to government account.
The Clinton campaign responded by stating that “any released emails deemed classified by the administration have been done so after the fact, and not at the time they were transmitted”.
A spokesperson for the inspector general for the intelligence community told the Journal that the four emails in question “were classified when they were sent and are classified now”.