At the 2012 Democratic National Convention, ABC News' Brian Ross asks Rajiv Fernando about his 2011 appointment to the State Department's International Security Advisory Board. (Credit: ABC News)

At the 2012 Democratic National Convention, ABC News’ Brian Ross asks Rajiv Fernando about his 2011 appointment to the State Department’s International Security Advisory Board. (Credit: ABC News)

A major donor to the Clinton Foundation and Democratic Party fundraiser who was named to the membership rolls of a sensitive government advisory board left even fellow board members puzzled, primarily because they couldn’t figure out why someone of his non-intelligence background would have been named to the panel in the first place, newly released emails from the State Department revealed.

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The reason staffers seemed so puzzled, in part, was that the appointee, Rajiv Fernando, apparently had absolutely no experience in the field of government intelligence, ABC News reported, citing emails that showed how Hillary Clinton’s cronies, when questioned about his appointment, sought to “protect the name” of their boss by “stall[ing]” the reporter who sought answers.

Two days after the press inquiry from ABC came, Fernando resigned from the board.

Citizens United discovered the nugget of interest among its piles of documents, including emails, received from a Freedom of Information Act request, finally fulfilled after a two-year legal fight for access with the government.

As ABC News reported this week: “Fernando’s only known qualification for a seat on the International Security Advisory Board was his technological know-how. The Chicago securities trader, who specialized in electronic investing, sat alongside an august collection of nuclear scientists, former cabinet secretaries and members of Congress to advise Hillary Clinton on the use of tactical nuclear weapons and on other crucial arms control issues.”

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Fernando’s background also included travel with former president Bill Clinton to Africa, and frequent fundraising for Democratic candidates. He was also a contributor to the Clinton Foundation, the news organization reported.

But as far as intelligence savvy that qualified him for a seat on the board – on that, his colleagues expressed wonder.

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“We had no idea who he was,” one unnamed board member told ABC News.

Several others on the board, and in other positions of government who relied on the board’s findings for advice, expressed similar concerns over Fernando’s presence. But when State was originally contacted by ABC in 2011 to view Fernando’s resume, the response was to protect then-Secretary Clinton, rather than release the information.

Jamie Mannina, the press aide who took the ABC request for the resume in August, 2011, said then in an email: “I have spoken to [State Department official and ISAB Executive Director Richard Harman] privately, and it appears there is much more to this story that we’re unaware of. We must protect the Secretary’s and Under Secretary’s name, as well as the integrity of the Board. I think it’s important to get down to the bottom of this before there’s any response.”

She also admitted, while referencing an attachment that contained a run-down of the experience of board members on the committee, in the email: “As you can see from the attached, it’s natural to ask how [Fernando] got onto the board when compared to the rest of the esteemed list of members.”

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ABC did ask Fernando personally in 2012 about his appointment, during a run-in at the Democratic convention. But Fernando only said then he was “not at liberty” to speak about it.

Fernando raised more than $100,000 for Clinton’s run at the White House in 2008, which she lost to then-Sen. Barack Obama. He also gave between $100,000 and $250,000 to the Clinton Foundation, and another $30,000 to WomenCount, a group that supported Hillary Clinton for president in 2008.

Fernando, as part of the board, was qualified for one of the country’s highest levels of top-secret access.

Ambassador James Woolsey, who served on the panel between 2006 and 2009, said its basic mission was to gather intel on nuclear information.

“Most things that involve nuclear weapons and nuclear strategy are dealt with at a pretty sensitive basis – top secret,” he said, adding that for someone of Fernando’s limited knowledge to serve on it was extraordinary, ABC News reported. “It would depend on how smart and dedicated this person was … I would think you would have to devote some real time to getting up to speed.”

Fernando now serves on a board for American Security Project, a private entity that bills itself as a “nonpartisan organization created to educate the American public and the world about the changing nature of national security in the 21st Century.”

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