It was heavily speculated that Hillary Clinton’s email system was set up to avoid public records laws. Even her so-called transparency on the issue (I’m kidding, or course) has been a disaster. There was a 5-month gap in her emails that she turned over to State last year. Moreover, a new email disclosure showed that Clinton’s email server racked with problems to the point where the State Department’s anti-hacking security measures had to be disabled to fix the issue. It also showed that the reason for her email setup was not due to personal convenience; she didn’t want her personal account to be accessible. USA Today’s Susan Page noted in June, why this email (which Clinton deleted) was a problem since it touched directly upon the issues of honesty, trust, and transparency that Hillary has failed miserably to address. Oh, and she originally didn’t turn over the email.
So, of course, with these developments, the State Department IG report that showed Clinton never sought approval for her server, the revelation that her email system was to prevent access, not convenience—one could make the argument that this all points to possible evasion from public records laws. Now, John Solomon,formerly of The Associated Press and The Washington Times, and Kellan Howell of Circa News have government sources coming forward saying that the efforts to shield Clinton from these laws was “systemic and intentional.”
The FBI "indirectly documented hundreds, and likely thousands, of violations of the Records Act," one source with direct knowledge of the FBI's investigation told Circa. Using forensics, the FBI recovered from computer drives and other witnesses about 15,000 emails from Mrs. Clinton's private account that dealt with government business, most that had not been turned over by her or her aides, the sources said.
Some of the emails recovered by agents were germane to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests from the public and congressional investigations and had not yet been produced, the sources said.
Accounts from witnesses suggested the efforts to keep Mrs. Clinton's government email communications on a device and server outside the reach of public records laws or congressional oversight were "systemic and intentional" and began as soon as Mrs. Clinton took office in 2009, one source told Circa.
For instance, the sources said agents secured testimony and documents suggesting that Mrs. Clinton's team:
-Was informed in 2009 that she had an obligation under the records law to forward any government-related records contained in private email to a new record preservation system known as SMART but chose not to do so because her office wanted to keep control over "sensitive" messages.
-Was specifically questioned by a technical worker who was involved with her private email server in the Clinton family home in New York whether the arrangement was appropriate for a government official under the federal records law. The worker was assured there were no problems.
-Wanted to keep her private Blackberry email service because of fears a government email address would be subject to public scrutiny under the Freedom of Information Act.
-Was aware that government officers complying with FOIA requests did not have access to search Mrs. Clinton's private email for responsive records.
-Persisted in allowing her to use private email to conduct State Department business even after a cable was sent under her name in 2011 to all diplomats worldwide urging them to stop using private email because of foreign hacking fears.
-Allowed Clinton to keep using the private email system after she personally received a 2011 presentation warning of dangers of the private email for government business.
-Failed to preserve private emails from Clinton that clearly involved significant government business, including discussions with Army Gen. David Petraeus, the Benghazi tragedy, meeting requests with foreign leaders and the State Department's quadrennial policy and performance review.
-Had prior reason from earlier legal cases involving their conduct to know that emails covering government business were legally required to be preserved and turned over to their agency and the National Archives.
Okay—so the first thing that you have to factor in is that the sources are unnamed. The New York Times got burned for using too many unnamed government sources as well. So, take this as more of a conversation starter for now. Yet, it does allow us to rehash the many issues at the Clinton State Department during the time this email system was being used for official business. One, there was no confirmed inspector general at State when Hillary was our top diplomat; someone who would’ve probably noted the glaring security and transparency issues. Along with the notion that this was a highly irregular setup that coupled with the security issues, could present problems regarding the safeguarding of possible state secrets. They had an acting inspector, Harold Geisel, who was accused of being “too cozy” with agency leadership, according to Bloomberg.
There were discussions about the 2009 regulation from the National Archives and Records administration concerning the capturing the preservation of all government communications, something that obviously didn’t happen with Clinton’s emails, or most went through the State Department. Moreover, there seems to have been a tacit acknowledgement in the regulation, despite Clintonites saying there’s no scandal here, when Clinton’s State Department fired an ambassador from Kenya for using…a private email system. The fact that she ignored this regulation to keep a tight lid on sensitive materials could explain why there’s no records of the former secretary taking IT security training.
In 2011, State suggested that Clinton get an official state.gov email address for “unexpected outages,” which top aide Huma Abedin said didn’t make a lot of sense…unless you were trying to keep your boss’s messages out of reach for FOIA requests. Oh, and this email shows that State knew about Clinton’s email arrangement.
What these sources have told Circa seem to possibly explain the serial trip ups the Clinton team has either tried to explain or outright ignore as the media learns more about this email arrangement that’s become so indefensible that the campaign is trying to throw Colin Powell under the bus. In that instance, the Clinton camp tried to say that Powell was the one who suggested she use a private email account. That’s another lie.
More newly discovered emails (about 15,000 of them), 30 more emails related to Benghazi, and reports that Clinton deleting 30,000 emails was a violation of the Federal Records Act. There are many issues with this email fiasco that Clinton could have avoided. This notion that this email arrangement was done to skirt FOIA has been made before, most emphatically by a liberal, MSNBC host Lawrence O’Donnell, who said, “Hillary Clinton’s [email] system was designed to defy Freedom of Information Act requests, which is designed to defy the law.”
From these accounts, it’s seem to be this way, though it would be nice if we had some names (yes, cue the Clinton body count references). We shall see what happens. Another interesting nugget from the FBI’s angle is that they might have had enough to indict her:
A retired federal prosecutor told Circa the FBI and DOJ could easily have brought a case if the evidence pointed toward intentional violations.
"If you get enough instances of people violating the Federal Records Act and if it's a group of folks then you could look at things like a conspiracy, or a criminal enterprise, that could bump it up to a felony," said Matt Whitaker, who served as U.S. Attorney for Iowa under President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama and now runs a conservative-leaning government ethics group.
"There are a lot of intentional acts including the setting up of the private email server that probably could go to a question of was this intentional and was this violation of both the records act and the handling of classified material."
Whitaker said he believes a special prosecutor should be appointed to review the Records Act questions because "in this political silly season it appears that the FBI and especially the Department of Justice doesn't have the stomach to pursue the potential charges that emanate from this behavior."
Ronald Hosko, who retired two years ago as the Assistant FBI Director in charge of the bureau's criminal division, agreed Mrs. Clinton's actions at the State Department showed a disregard for her obligation to preserve and protect sensitive government information.
To me, this was a systemic failure at State, top to bottom."
Debate among yourselves.