Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s email woes continue to plague her campaign and Republican presidential candidates pulled no punches in attacking her on the issue during last night’s GOP Debate in Des Moines, Iowa.
We now know that the personal “clintonemail.com” server in Chappaqua, New York that she chose to use contained information above TOP SECRET.
In addition, the FBI continues to investigate new revelations that Clinton aides “cut and pasted” classified information into personal emails on the unsecure network.
“It takes a very conscious effort to move a classified email or cable from the classified systems over to the unsecured open system and then send it to Hillary Clinton’s personal email account,” said Raymond Fournier, a veteran Diplomatic Security Service special agent. “That’s no less than a two-conscious-step process.”
He says it’s clear from some of the classified emails made public that someone on Clinton’s staff essentially “cut and pasted” content from classified cables into the messages sent to her. The classified markings are gone, but the content is classified at the highest levels — and so sensitive in nature that “it would have been obvious to Clinton.”
Secretary Clinton reinforced this message during her Sunday, January 24, 2016 appearance on NBC’s Meet the Press:
CHUCK TODD: Are you concerned this investigation’s taking too long? That it’s putting an extra cloud over your candidacy, and until it gets behind you, you’re sort of going to have these issues? And Michael Bloomberg even cited it as a reason why he’s thinking about running.
HILLARY CLINTON: No. I’m not concerned, because I know what the facts are. I never sent or received any material marked “classified.”
There are two major problems here.
- As the facts have been uncovered, it is becoming increasingly clear that the claim simply isn’t true.
- It doesn’t matter whether the messages are marked classified or not. The absence of markings (generated on secure networks, by the way), doesn’t change the fact that information is still classified!
Attempts to parse or twist words to fit a false narrative is deceitful at best, illegal at worst. Then again, I guess it depends upon what your meaning of the word “is” is.
As I heard this, I recalled that this exact issue was addressed as a condition of employment when I served at the White House between 2005-2007. I went back into my files and found a copy of the EOP Computer Access Agreement that I signed in March 2005. To view the document in full size, click on the image or the link below.
Specifically, I found the first item the most striking:
- Classified Information (whether marked or unmarked) will never be entered on any computer that is connected to the unclassified EOP network or onto any unclassified system. Classified material may only be created, edited or viewed on a classified system. Classified diskettes may never be inserted into an unclassified computer. There are no exceptions to this policy.
A few other points in the document are relevant to Clinton’s situation but #1 is very clear. In addition, these policies were in place long before the Obama Administration as indicated in #4 which states that White House employees were expected to limit “non-government use of the Internet, e-mail and other utilities in accordance with the Executive Office of the President’s Policy on Limited use of Government Office Equipment, September 27, 2000.”
Basically, this stipulates that it is acceptable to use work resources for personal use as long as it is limited, reasonable and compliant with long established ethical guidelines.
All of these guidelines for federal employees are designed to protect the country and themselves from harm and there are various penalties for violations of this agreement including those outlined in Title 18 United States Code § 1030: Fraud and related activity in connection with computers per the Government Printing Office website GPO.gov.
Several questions still remain. Why did she do it? Did she really turn over all the emails? What happened to those she deleted? Is she hiding something or was it truly a lack of judgment? What about conflicts with the Clinton Global Initiative?
As Secretary of State, she was the preeminent U.S. ambassador to the world and certainly had the power to influence policy or financial interests which could benefit her husband, the former president.
We may never get answers but at the CNN Democratic town hall in Des Moines, Iowa on Monday, January 25, 2016, this is how she responded to moderator Chris Cuomo when asked if it was an error in judgement:
CLINTON: You know I had no intention of doing anything other than having a convenient way of communicating, and it turned out not to be so convenient. So again, we’ve answered every question and we will continue to do so. But you know maybe being faster, trying to scramble around to find out what all of this means, I probably should have done that quicker.
CUOMO: You’re willing to say it was an error in judgment, you should’ve apologized…
CLINTON: No. I’m not willing to say it was an error in judgment because what – nothing that I did was wrong. It was not – it was not in any way prohibited.
Not only did she not apologize, she didn’t seem to take it seriously. She claimed that this was a partisan issue fabricated by Republicans looking to score political points. Then came the jokes about her affinity for Snapchat because messages deleted all by themselves and her response to Fox News reporter Ed Henry about wiping her servers clean “with a cloth.”
I don’t think anyone is laughing now.
And, of course, all of this could have been avoided if Secretary Clinton and her staff had just used the official State.gov email address that is issued to every federal employee and other eligible personnel at the U.S. Department of State.
Few would have faulted her for using personal email from time to time for communications unrelated to her professional duties. However, the exact opposite occurred. She chose to move all her emails to a private server which is clearly a violation of policy.
Further, it appears that Clinton aides rebuffed State Department officials who suggested that she use an official State.gov email address.
Bombshell emails from the State Department show that a top official at the agency suggested to Hillary Clinton’s aide, Huma Abedin, in August 2011 that the then-secretary of state begin using a government email account to protect against unexpected outages of her private email server.
But as the emails show, Abedin pushed back on the suggestion, telling the official, Stephen D. Mull, then the executive secretary of the State Department, that a State-issued Blackberry equipped with a state.gov email address “doesn’t make a lot of sense.”
So, the EOP had policies in place that clearly applied to all federal employees in the Executive Branch to satisfy both national security and Presidential Records Act requirements. Did the State Department in the Obama Administration have similar stipulations? The answer seems somewhat murky but the spirit of the policy remains. Classified material is not to be sent or received on unsecure networks outside of U.S. government systems. Period.
Plus, given the fact that the Obama campaign openly embraced digital tools, I would be surprised to learn that they didn’t create or revise policies to prevent security vulnerabilities and protect sensitive information once in office.
Speaking of which, did President Obama know that Secretary Clinton was using a private email address? He initially stated that he learned about it via news reports but later admitted that in March 2015 he had emailed with her and noticed the personal account.
When asked about the implications of her actions, President Obama downplayed it:
“I don’t think it posed a national security problem,” Mr. Obama said Sunday on CBS’s “60 Minutes.” He said it had been a mistake for Mrs. Clinton to use a private email account when she was secretary of state, but his conclusion was unmistakable: “This is not a situation in which America’s national security was endangered.”
Interesting that the president would come to such a conclusion given the fact that the investigation had yet to be completed.
So, we know that the president exchanged emails with Secretary Clinton on her personal account. That means that her email address had to be added to the short list of those eligible to communicate with him directly. Presumably, others on the list would include Vice President Biden, White House chief of staff, cabinet members, press secretary, national security staff, senior advisors, family and possibly close friends. Even if others had the president’s email address, messages from those not on this approved list would bounce back.
Therefore, someone in the White House IT department in the Office of Administration or the CIO office would have approved Clinton’s personal email address in the process of adding it to the president’s list. Who is responsible for that? Why was it not flagged at the time? She used the address for four years — and her staff had accounts on the private ClintonEmail.com server, as well.
Shouldn’t private messages between the President of the United States and the Secretary of State be protected — whether marked classified or not? That’s a no-brainer.
The FBI continues to investigate and just today, the U.S. intelligence community refused to release 22 emails in the State Department’s latest batch of Clinton messages claiming that the information contained within was deemed TOP SECRET and too sensitive to make public. If so, each one of those instances is a criminal violation. In response, the Clinton campaign released a statement calling for a release of all the emails.
Definitely not good news days before the Iowa Caucus. Moreover, if the FBI determines that she has committed a felony, it still remains to be seen whether the U.S. Department of Justice will bring indictment charges as a result of her actions.
The point is not whether you like Hillary Clinton or even if you plan to vote for her. This is about trust. She chose to place herself above the law and deliberately subverted classified information protocols in favor of personal convenience over potential national security implications.
Based on her behavior, do you trust her? Is this the kind of leader we want in the White House? If voters elect her, what does it say about our country if a person of such character is rewarded with the responsibility of occupying the highest office in the land?
I think it says a lot more about us than it does about her. That’s what troubles me most.
According to a U.S. government source, 22 emails that were discovered on Secretary Clinton’s personal server contained classified information that put lives and American interests at risk.
Highly classified Hillary Clinton emails that the intelligence community and State Department recently deemed too damaging to national security to release contain “operational intelligence” – and their presence on the unsecure, personal email system jeopardized “sources, methods and lives,” a U.S. government official who has reviewed the documents told Fox News.
UPDATE 5/25/16 (via POLITICO Playbook)
DRIP, DRIP — “Why Clinton’s email problems are here to stay: A new audit doesn’t land a knockout punch but leaves lingering questions that could dog the Democratic front-runner,” by Josh Gerstein: “[D]etails in the [State Department inspector general] report stoke some lingering mysteries about the email imbroglio. The decision by Clinton and many of her senior aides not to cooperate with the inspector general investigation seems certain to compound those concerns and may have made it more difficult for investigators to get to the bottom of some of the unresolved issues, including whether concerns about Clinton’s system were bottled up by top officials.” http://politi.co/1NP3mSV
HOW IT’S PLAYING: N.Y. Times 2-col. lead, “STATE DEPT. REPORT FAULTS CLINTON ON EMAIL SERVER: Inspector General Says Her Use Violated ‘Detailed and Sophisticated’ Rules.” See the page. http://nyti.ms/1WVs72V … USA Today banner, “CLINTON BROKE EMAIL SECURITY RULES server” …WashPost 2-col. lead, “State Department watchdog rebukes Clinton over email” … WashPost lead editorial, “Ms. Clinton’s willful misjudgments” (online: “Clinton’s inexcusable, willful disregard for the rules”) http://wapo.st/1TBtvRU … Financial Times p. 1 (U.S. and U.K.), “Email findings threaten to hound Clinton through presidential race.”
The Secretary of State came up almost as much as Donald Trump
Hillary Clinton Emails Held Info Beyond Top Secret: IG (NBC News, 1/19/16)
Hillary’s team copied intel off top-secret server to email (New York Post, 1/24/16)
Updated: The Facts About Hillary Clinton’s Emails (HillaryClinton.com)
Meet the Press – January 24, 2016 (NBC News, 1/24/16)
Title 18 United States Code § 1030: Fraud and related activity in connection with computers (Government Printing Office, GPO.gov)
CNN Democratic town hall (CNN, 1/25/16)
Clinton Aides Resisted State Department Suggestion That Clinton Use State.gov Account (Daily Caller, 1/18/16)
Obama emailed Hillary Clinton at private address, didn’t know ‘details’ of account (Washington Times, 3/9/15)
Obama’s Comments About Clinton’s Emails Rankle Some in the F.B.I. (New York Times, 10/16/15)
US declares 22 Clinton emails ‘top secret’ (Associated Press, 1/29/16)
Hillary for America Statement Calling for Release of Secretary Clinton’s Emails (HillaryClinton.com, 1/29/16)
‘This was all planned’: Former IG says Hillary, State Dept. are lying (New York Post, 1/31/16)
POLITICO Playbook (POLITICO, 5/25/16)