Yesterday on Fox News Sunday, Senator Tom Cotton made an extraordinary revelation: Hillary Clinton’s staff discussed an Iranian nuclear scientist who was recently executed in emails found on Clinton’s private email server.
The nuclear scientist, Shahram Amiri, was an expert in radioactive isotopes at Tehran’s Malek Ashtar University and reportedly gave information to the United States on Iran’s nuclear program. According to Gholam-Hossein Mohseni-Eje’I, a former Iranian intelligence chief, “This person had obtained top secret information and established contacts with our number one sworn enemy, America, and passed on our country’s most crucial intelligence to the enemy.”
According to the Washington Post, “Amiri appeared to be mentioned in emails released last year by Clinton as part of investigations into her use of a private server while she was secretary of state. An email forwarded to Clinton on July 5, 2010 — nine days before Amiri returned to Tehran — apparently refers to Amiri’s case.”
The execution of Amiri highlights why Clinton’s private email server and her cavalier disregard for information security rules are such a big deal.
A sensitive U.S. source in Iran should never, ever have been discussed by U.S. government officials in unclassified email. Making this worse is that these emails were on a private server in Clinton’s home with little security to protect them from hackers.
Moreover, not only was this server not subject to security monitoring by the Department of State, we know from a May 2016 State Department Inspector General report that Clinton’s staff and an aide to former President Clinton discovered evidence of cyber attacks against the server but the State IG found no evidence these incidents were reported to the Department’s Diplomatic Security staff even though State Department regulations require this.
Iran, China and Russia also could have acquired sensitive U.S. national security information by exploiting Clinton’s sloppy information security practices when she traveled abroad. According to a July 5 statement by FBI Director James Comey, Clinton accessed her private email server using unsecure communications devices (probably an iPhone) “on the territory of sophisticated adversaries.”
Clinton and her staff were aware that the use of iPhones and iPads by a Secretary of State for official business – even in the United States – was a violation of the Department’s information security rules because these devices are too vulnerable to hackers. Judicial Watch reported in March 2015 that the State Department’s Office of Technology Security refused several requests by Clinton’s staff to lift these rules so Clinton could use her personal iPhone and iPad for official unclassified email. Despite these refusals, Clinton used these devices anyway, including when traveling outside the United States.
This is why Comey described the email practices of Mrs. Clinton and her staff as “extremely careless.” It also is why Comey concluded “we assess it is possible that hostile actors gained access to Secretary Clinton’s personal email account.” Comey noted that although investigators found no “direct evidence” that foreign state hackers gained access to Clinton’s email server, “given the nature of the system and of the actors potentially involved, we assess that we would be unlikely to see such direct evidence.”
Clinton and her campaign have made the absurd argument that Comey concluded Clinton’s email server was not hacked because the FBI found no evidence of this. Former CIA director Michael Hayden had a more honest reaction to Comey’s remarks when he told the Washington Free Beacon: “I would lose respect for any serious intelligence agency on this planet if they had not accessed the emails on the server.”
It is unknown whether Iran learned about Amiri by hacking Clinton’s email. It is known that emails concerning Amiri were just a handful among thousands of classified emails found on Clinton’s server.
How many of the 33,000 deleted emails contained classified information? Were the lives of other U.S. intelligence sources put at risk due to hacking of Clinton’s server? We may never know the answers to these questions.
The execution of Amiri crystalizes why the Clinton email scandal is so serious: U.S. government regulations on information security exist to protect sensitive U.S. national security information. The illegal disclosure of this information could put the security of our nation and the lives of U.S. intelligence sources at risk.
Clinton’s failure to abide by information security regulations was not a “mistake” as she has claimed but a consistent pattern of treating these rules as an inconvenience that did not apply to her. Shouldn’t the news media be discussing whether Clinton’s extremely careless email practices that may have cost the life of a U.S. source in Iran should disqualify her from becoming our next commander-in-chief?