Of Course: Safe For Hillary Email Storage Wasn't Secure Enough For Highly Sensitive Messages

Matt Vespa
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Posted: Sep 29, 2015 1:35 PM
Of Course: Safe For Hillary Email Storage Wasn't Secure Enough For Highly Sensitive Messages

Editor's Note: Headline has been tweaked for clarity

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Another chapter has been added to Hillary Clinton’s ongoing email fiasco; the State Department has admitted to investigators that the method in which Clinton’s lawyer could review the emails was not secure enough. Why? They didn’t think highly classified information that was sent through the server would be, indeed, that sensitive (via Associated Press):

The State Department has told Senate investigators that it didn't provide Hillary Rodham Clinton's lawyer with a secure-enough method to read now-highly classified material from her homebrew email server because it didn't anticipate that the messages would be deemed so secret.

In July, State Department officials installed a safe at the office of attorney David Kendall after the government determined some of Clinton's emails may have contained classified information. But it said last week the safe wasn't suitable for so-called top secret, sensitive compartmented information, known as TS/SCI, which the government has said was found in some messages.

Assistant Secretary of State Julia Frifield wrote to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley on Sept. 22 that "while the safe was suitable for up to (top secret) information, it was not approved for TS/SCI material" because the material wasn't held in a facility set up for discussing highly secret information, known as a SCIF, or sensitive compartmented information facility.

Those questions were not an issue at the time the safe was installed because "there was no indication that the emails might contain TS or TS/SCI material," Frifield wrote in the letter obtained by The Associated Press. Kendall has a top secret security clearance.

The State Department's letter underscores how even the nation's diplomatic apparatus didn't anticipate Clinton, a Democratic presidential candidate, would have sent or received such highly sensitive information on her private email server while secretary of state.

Steven Aftergood, a government secrecy expert with the Federation of American Scientists, is quoted in the AP story saying how this whole debacle shows how the “wires were crossed” between State and the national security community–one not foreseeing highly sensitive information being sent through the server, while the other resoundingly declaring those communications top secret.

The security of Clinton’s server has fallen somewhat by the wayside. It was earlier reported that Clinton’s vulnerable server was almost certainly hacked by foreign sources. In fact, the Chinese were reading the emails of top U.S. officials since April of 2010, which coincides with Hillary’s use of her private email system.

Hillary is being investigated for possibly violating portions of the Espionage Act, her inner-circle might have removed some of the classification markers–a felony–and the number of flagged emails that contained sensitive information has swelled to over 300.

Clinton turned over her server to the Department of Justice, where they discovered at least one attempt to wipe the server clean. Emails from five different U.S. intelligence services were also discovered, communications deemed “classified from the get-go.” We could know more about how this whole email arrangement was set up, given that a State Department staffer was paid to set up the system and maintain it. This staffer was paid with Clinton’s own money. He also said he would plead the Fifth if asked to testify.

Clinton apologized for the confusion this story has caused, though she hasn’t explicitly said she’s sorry for purposefully setting up a private email server that was meant to circumvent transparency laws, and in direct violation of the 2009 National Archives and Records Administration that stated all electronic communications between government employees must be “preserved in the appropriate agency recordkeeping system." Even the left-wing Mother Jones acknowledged that Hillary didn’t fully comply with the regulation.

It’s not going away, but Team Clinton seems to feel that the story is a big deal because the media and the Republicans think so. Actually, most of the media thinks this is a big deal, though many of them undoubtedly still like Clinton herself. It is a big deal, it reinforces everything people dislike about the Clintons, and ignoring them only reinforces some of the most unfavorable aspects people think about them; they’re secretive and they don’t play by the rules.

As of now, the Clinton email story is starting to define the prohibitive Democratic favorite for the 2016 nomination as a liar, dishonest, and untrustworthy. Sort of hard to paint yourself as a strong leader with those words.