Only three days before Iowa voters caucus to express their preference for the candidates campaigning in their states on Monday, the State Department has announced its refusal to release key emails Hillary Clinton kept on her unsecured server relating to highly sensitive information contained in them.

The department revealed that 22 emails the former Secretary of State kept on an unsecured server when she served as the top diplomat in the Obama administration from January 2009 through January 2013 contained such highly sensitive information, that the release of them in compliance with an ongoing federal court order, could expose some of the U.S. government’s most closely guarded secrets.

Former U.S. Attorney Andrew C. McCarthy told Radio America that, although the discovery doesn’t alter the ongoing FBI investigation into Clinton’s server because more than 1,300 emails containing classified information have already been released with sensitive information redacted, or blacked out, it does draw attention to the seriousness of Clinton’s actions while serving as Secretary of State.

“With respect to these 22 (emails), there is actually a blanket prohibition on disclosure and the reason is that they fear there are other copies of these emails out there,” McCarthy said. “If they release any part of them, whoever may have those emails will have it confirmed to them that you’re dealing with a Special Access Program national security intelligence matter.”

At the root of the issue is Clinton’s decision to maintain a separate email account housed on a private server on which to conduct both personal and official business during her tenure at the State Department, which exposed government secrets to hackers and spies working for foreign governments, as well as terror groups such as ISIS.

The intelligence community classifies information at various levels to indicate the nature of the contents and the care that must be taken in sharing it via electronic transmission, such as phone, email or fax.

Clinton has defended her decision saying it was based strictly on convenience, whereas evidence has suggested that the arrangement ran contrary to government regulations about the handling of documents and exposed sensitive, classified, and top-secret information to discovery, including information about the identity of human sources.

McCarthy said revelations about the identity of operatives could have “horrific consequences,” adding, “when that kind of stuff gets revealed and people work backward or go to school on the information that’s out there, that can result not only in the compromise of important sources of intelligence but also potentially in the killing of people who are spies or covert informants.”

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