Hillary Clinton’s email problems began in her first days as secretary of state. She insisted on using her personal BlackBerry for all her email communications, but she wasn’t allowed to take the device into her seventh-floor suite of offices, a secure space known as Mahogany Row.
For Clinton, this was frustrating. As a political heavyweight and chief of the nation’s diplomatic corps, she needed to manage a torrent of email to stay connected to colleagues, friends and supporters. She hated having to put her BlackBerry into a lockbox before going into her own office.
Her aides and senior officials pushed to find a way to enable her to use the device in the secure area. But their efforts unsettled the diplomatic security bureau, which was worried that foreign intelligence services could hack her BlackBerry and transform it into a listening device.
On Feb. 17, 2009, less than a month into Clinton’s tenure, the issue came to a head. Department security, intelligence and technology specialists, along with five officials from the National Security Agency, gathered in a Mahogany Row conference room. They explained the risks to Cheryl Mills, Clinton’s chief of staff, while also seeking “mitigation options” that would accommodate Clinton’s wishes.
“The issue here is one of personal comfort,” one of the participants in that meeting, Donald Reid, the department’s senior coordinator for security infrastructure, wrote afterward in an email that described Clinton’s inner circle of advisers as “dedicated [BlackBerry] addicts.”
Clinton used her BlackBerry as the group continued looking for a solution. But unknown to diplomatic security and technology officials at the department, there was another looming communications vulnerability: Clinton’s BlackBerry was digitally tethered to a private email server in the basement of her family home, some 260 miles to the north in Chappaqua, N.Y., documents and interviews show.
Those officials took no steps to protect the server against intruders and spies, because they apparently were not told about it.
The vulnerability of Clinton’s basement server is one of the key unanswered questions at the heart of a scandal that has dogged her campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination.
Since Clinton’s private email account was brought to light a year ago in a New York Times report — followed by an Associated Press report revealing the existence of the server — the matter has been a source of nonstop national news. Private groups have filed lawsuits under the Freedom of Information Act. Investigations were begun by congressional committees and inspector general’s offices in the State Department and the U.S. Intelligence Community, which referred the case to the FBI in July for “counterintelligence purposes” after determining that the server carried classified material.
The FBI is now trying to determine whether a crime was committed in the handling of that classified material. It is also examining whether the server was hacked.
One hundred forty-seven FBI agents have been deployed to run down leads, according to a lawmaker briefed by FBI Director James B. Comey. The FBI has accelerated the investigation because officials want to avoid the possibility of announcing any action too close to the election.
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Jason R. Baron, a former director of litigation at the National Archives and Records Administration, told the Senate Judiciary Committee last year he believed that Clinton’s server ran afoul of the rules. In a memo to the committee, Baron wrote that “the setting up of and maintaining a private email network as the sole means to conduct official business by email, coupled with the failure to timely return email records into government custody, amounts to actions plainly inconsistent with the federal recordkeeping laws.”
On May 19, 2015, in response to a FOIA lawsuit from the media organization Vice News, U.S. District Judge Rudolph Contreras ordered all the email to be released in stages, with redactions.
One notable email was sent in August 2011. Stephen Mull, then serving as the department’s executive secretary, emailed Abedin, Mills and Kennedy about getting a government-issued BlackBerry linked to a government server for Clinton.
“We are working to provide the Secretary per her request a Department issued Blackberry to replace personal unit, which is malfunctioning (possibly because of her personal email server is down.) We will prepare two version for her to use — one with an operating State Department email account (which would mask her identity, but which would also be subject to FOIA requests).”
Abedin responded decisively.
“Steve — let’s discuss the state blackberry. doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.”
Fallon said the email showed that the secretary’s staff “opposed the idea of her identity being masked.”
Last month, in a hearing about a Judicial Watch lawsuit, U.S. District Judge Sullivan cited that email as part of the reason he ordered the State Department produce records related to its initial failures in the FOIA searches for Clinton’s records.
Speaking in open court, Sullivan said legitimate questions have been raised about whether Clinton’s staff was trying to help her to sidestep FOIA.
“We’re talking about a Cabinet-level official who was accommodated by the government for reasons unknown to the public. And I think that’s a fair statement: For reasons heretofore unknown to the public. And all the public can do is speculate,” he said, adding: “This is all about the public’s right to know.”
******* “We cannot continue to allow ourselves to be influenced and molded by the political class and by the media. That is going to destroy us," he said, remarking that it's "kind of sad" that the press is the only business protected by the Constitution "because they were supposed to be the allies of the people." Dr. Ben Carson