There Is No Way That Hillary Clinton Didn't Know She Was Supposed To Use A Government Email Account

from the this-makes-no-sense dept

As you may have heard, the latest political “scandal” involving a major Presidential contender comes via the NY Times reporting that when Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State, she refused to have a government email address, and conducted all her work via a personal email account.

Hillary Rodham Clinton exclusively used a personal email account to conduct government business as secretary of state, State Department officials said, and may have violated federal requirements that officials? correspondence be retained as part of the agency?s record.

Mrs. Clinton did not have a government email address during her four-year tenure at the State Department. Her aides took no actions to have her personal emails preserved on department servers at the time, as required by the Federal Records Act.

This is dumb on many, many levels and there appears to be no excuse for it happening. First off, using a personal email as Secretary of State seems like a massive privacy and security risk. While one hopes that there was at least some attempt to better secure her personal account by government security experts, it’s still almost certainly less secure. Given how much sensitive information the Secretary of State has to deal with, it seems inexcusable that she was allowed to conduct official business via her personal account. That to me seems like an even bigger deal than the part that everyone else is focused on: the failure to preserve her emails as required by law.

Of course, the failure to preserve the emails is a big deal as well. But here’s the really stunning thing: there is simply no way that Clinton and others in the administration didn’t know that she was supposed to be using a government email address and preserving those emails. That’s because both the previous administration and others in her own administration got in trouble for using personal email addresses. As Vox notes, towards the end of the Bush administration there was a similar scandal involving a variety of high level administration members using personal email to conduct government business and to avoid transparency requirements.

That scandal unfolded well into the final year of Bush’s presidency, then overlapped with another email secrecy scandal, over official emails that got improperly logged and then deleted, which itself dragged well into Obama’s first year in office. There is simply no way that, when Clinton decided to use her personal email address as Secretary of State, she was unaware of the national scandal that Bush officials had created by doing the same.

That she decided to use her personal address anyway showed a stunning disregard for governmental transparency requirements. Indeed, Clinton did not even bother with the empty gesture of using her official address for more formal business, as Bush officials did.

But that’s not all. What the Vox report doesn’t note is that the scandal actually carried over to the Obama administration also, as the White House’s first Deputy CTO was reprimanded for using his personal email address as well, early in 2010. So there was both a scandal about the similar use of private email accounts in the previous administration and in the Obama administration. It’s impossible to believe that Clinton or the other key people who worked for her in the State Department were unaware of one or both of these issues while she was using her personal email address.

While the White House’s email system may be clunky and annoying to use (as I’ve heard repeatedly), there’s simply no excuse for Clinton not to have used it at all — and for the emails she did send not to be preserved as required under the law. A few years ago, we mocked Homeland Security boss Janet Napolitano for refusing to use email entirely — though at least she was upfront about the reason. She didn’t want to be held accountable for what she said — though, the reality was she would still have staff members send emails for her. Clinton appears to have wanted to be free of that accountability as well, but to still have the benefits of direct electronic communication herself. In short, she purposely ignored the law for her own benefit.

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Comments on “There Is No Way That Hillary Clinton Didn't Know She Was Supposed To Use A Government Email Account”

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69 Comments
That One Guy (profile) says:

Have fun finding a new private email

Government officials, or other ‘public servants’ who use personal email for official business on anything more than an extremely rare occasion should be forced to turn over that email account, and have it treated as though it’s their ‘official’ email.

Try and use your personal email to dodge accountability? Congrats, that account is no longer considered a personal one, and is instead to be treated as an official one with regards to both archiving, and FOIA requests.

Designerfx (profile) says:

Re: There are easier and obvious solutions

Use a whitelist. Block any mail services that are not approved, and do that on devices as well.

It’s not that hard in 2014, and makes it even more obvious when people are skirting the laws and best practices.

Hell, it’s not even about skirting laws and is more about just how likely these people are to be targeted and get viruses/information compromised, etc. You’d think these people would be vaguely more interested in their own safety and self-preservation.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: There are easier and obvious solutions

It’s not that hard in 2014, and makes it even more obvious when people are skirting the laws and best practices.

It wouldn’t really help much. If Clinton were willing to use a private email address, she wouldn’t flinch at buying a private cell phone / laptop / internet service to get around whatever other roadblocks are in place. Whitelists and such would only deter or catch those who are not very determined to break the rules, or not very imaginative. I would think meaningful penalties for getting caught doing it would be more effective – if there were someone interested in enforcing such penalties, which there isn’t.

Anonymous Coward says:

This is a boring political story and we will all fall over in amazement if any consequences follow. In the meantime, while we wait for nothing to happen, I think the WP story about the DEA claiming that legalizing medical marijuana in Utah would result in too many stoned rabbits wandering the Utah landscape was a much more diverting read.

musterion (profile) says:

Why the "scare" quotes

Why the scare quotes around scandal? Afraid the the Clinton machine will get you, or just habit. Interesting that both NYT and WaPo have reported this. More evidence of how manifestly corrupt and unqualified Ms Clinton is. She should stick to overpriced contentless speaches at $200,000 a whack. But I suppose the brass ring of being the first womyn president is just to hard to resist.

Mason Wheeler (profile) says:

Re: Why the "scare" quotes

Agreed. How is it that people are thinking of having her run for President?!? She displays the characteristic Clinton pettiness and outright congempt for the law that those of us who lived through the 90s remember all too well.

Ask the average person today about Bill Clinton’s troubles as President, and they’ll talk about him getting impeached for getting a blowjob. They might know Monica Lewinsky’s name, or (depending on their political persuasion) remember that the actual reason he was impeached was lying under oath.

But how many remember the rest of his presidency? How many remember how it was one long string of scandals from beginning to end? How many remember Hillary being in the thick of most of it because they involved shady business deals the Clintons (both of them) were mixed up in?

How many remember how weary the American people were after 8 years of that, to the point where, when a moron with a criminal record came by and campaigned on a promise to “restore dignity to the White House,” we voted him in just for a change of scenery?

Yeah. And how did that work out for us? Anyone really want to go back to that? I know I don’t!

Are we ready for a woman President? Sure, but please, for the love of all that is good, not THAT woman!

Rich Kulawiec (profile) says:

Let me see if I have this straight

The Secretary of State of the United States of America used a personal email account for official government business for four years and during all that time, everyone in possession of that fact (which would necessarily include everyone she corresponded with) refrained from raising hell?

Didn’t any of them grasp that this necessarily meant that their messages were also traversing whichever service was hosting her account? And that they were thereby trusting that service’s system and network admins? (Even if the messages were encrypted, which I doubt, the mail system logs would yield useful data for traffic analysis.)

From an opsec standpoint (forget the records retention issue for a moment) this is insane.

Violynne (profile) says:

Disclaimer: not defending Clinton.

While the White House’s email system may be clunky and annoying to use (as I’ve heard repeatedly), there’s simply no excuse for Clinton not to have used it at all

I vehemently disagree.

Ever try to use tools which don’t work well enough to conduct your job? Consider yourself lucky.

Imagine, briefly, if every TD employee was forced to use IE6 as a must-use program.

How’s that for clunky and difficult to work with, and yes, the government’s email system is actually as bad as using IE6.

If you’ve never used it, it’s easy to criticize those who don’t use it, but I guarantee one week of trying to use it will have you using an alternative as well.

I also dislike the notion email systems like Gmail and Outlook.com aren’t as secured as a government’s system. I’ve yet to see any government system in use be reliable in this regard, even if such compromise came within from a consultant.

As long as HRC didn’t delete emails and archived them, there’s no reason why she couldn’t easily hand over the credentials to turn them over for proper categorization, which is most likely what she did when she left her post.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

As a Technology Manager who deals with staff and all the different systems involved, Why isn’t the Whitehouse tech staff doing something about making the email system better? Otherwise I completely agree with using different tools. I hate annoying tools. I will either fix it or change it unless there is no other option.

art guerrilla (profile) says:

Re: Re:

@ violynne-

1. boohoo, you don’t have software with YOUR preference of bells and whistles, gosh, aren’t public service jobs so-o-o hard… snort
2. i SERIOUSLY doubt that was the case, and SERIOUSLY doubt that was the reason she did so… NO, that was all about the lack of accountability…
3. she backed them up and archived and handed them ALL over to the USG ? ? ? how much you want to bet, viola ? ? ? i’d bet my whole savings account that she did not…
4. i don’t know about the USG, but just read not too long ago (here?) where florida’s open records laws say that IF you use private emails for state business they ARE subject to being included in public records requests and searches…
of course, that begs the question of HOW are we going to know who with dog knows how many different accounts slimeball, unaccountable ‘public servants’ (sic)…
5. lastly, you are prioritizing an INDIVIDUALS software/email preference OVER THE PUBLIC’S RIGHT TO KNOW… how you can feel good about that, i don’t know…

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

there’s no reason why she couldn’t easily hand over the credentials to turn them over for proper categorization, which is most likely what she did when she left her post.

Has anyone reported that she actually did so? Even in that case, if she only did it at the end of her tenure it means that there was no administrative control over her account up to that point. She’d have been free to retcon her email record with creative use of the Delete key.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

She was Secretary of State. She dealt with confidential information. Not like Wall Street confidential, like Executive branch of the USA government confidential. The existing system may have been cumbersome, but that is just the reality of the job. Naturally the new, separate system would need to be as equally secure, which is unlikely to be any more user friendly. So the question is why go to the trouble and how was this justified?

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re:

The underlying issue isn’t whether or not the white house email system sucks. If it does, then they need to fix that.

The real underlying issue is hypocrisy. Where I work, all emails are archived due, in large part, to governmental requirements. This means that only company email accounts can be used for company business. Using a non-company email account is grounds for immediate firing.

That governmental employees, including Clinton, can get away with skirting the same requirements is pure hypocrisy.

Roger Strong (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Media Matters for example: The New York Times’ Deceptive Suggestion That Hillary Clinton May Have Violated Federal Records Law

Law Signed “Two Years After Clinton Stepped Down.” Criticizing the Times article’s insinuation that Clinton violated the law, Daily Banter contributor Bob Cesca pointed out: “The article doesn’t say which federal regulation, though. Why? Perhaps because the federal regulations went into effect in late November, 2014 when President Obama signed H.R. 1233, modernizing the Federal Records Act of 1950 to include electronic communications. It was signed two years after Clinton stepped down.”
[…]
Rep. Cummings: Even The 2014 Bill “Would Continue To Allow Employees To Use Their Personal Email Account For Official Business.” Contrary to claims that Hillary Clinton violated the law by using personal email account while serving as Secretary of State, even a 2014 law that strengthened oversight of the use of personal email by government officials — passed after Hillary Clinton had left the State Department — still permitted government officials to use personal email.

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Re: Dealbreaker for me

“And there goes any possibility I will vote for her in 2016.”

THIS convinced you? Not the campaign of abuse against her husband’s accusers? Not the turtle head act she pulled during her husband’s scandal, setting back women’s rights singlehandedly? Not the shady money pouring into the Clinton Foundation from foreign governments?

The Clinton family is easily the worst political family of our time and there have been some real shitheads here….

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Dealbreaker for me

Not the turtle head act she pulled during her husband’s scandal, setting back women’s rights singlehandedly?

Really? How does him being a philanderer and her being OK with it set back women’s rights? It isn’t like she was financially dependent on the guy, she wasn’t coerced into anything.

I think you are concern trolling. The parameters of their relationship are theirs to decide. You dictating what is appropriate for her to freely decide about her life sounds a lot more like misogyny to me.

Pragmatic says:

Re: Re: Re: Dealbreaker for me

Try to imagine her political future if she had divorced the creep. It’s okay for men, but women have a tougher time of it and women on the right would have called on her to “Stand by your man.”

Politically, it makes more sense to stay with Bill, even though he is a catastrophic embarrassment with Elevator Pants Syndrome.

Cal (profile) says:

Re: Dealbreaker for me

Yeah, along with using Election Fraud to become a presidential candidate. Both actions say a lot about who she is, more importantly what she is, corrupt to the core.

But then so is Obama who is NOT lawfully the US President for two reasons, Election Fraud in all 50 states, and not meeting all three conditions all presidential candidates are REQUIRED to meet. She also would have been impersonating a US President while the country did not have a LEGITIMATE one as is happening now.

South Bend, Indiana JURY found that Election Fraud put BOTH Obama and Hillary Clinton on the presidential primary ballot in Indiana in the 2008 election.

Neither were legitimate candidates.

John85851 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Dealbreaker for me

I’ll see your Obama who is NOT lawfully the US President and raise you: Bush was NOT lawfully the US President because the popular vote went to Al Gore in 2000 and the Supreme Court decided the other way.

And, yes, let’s keep debating this issue even though the Bush v Gore issue was 15 years ago and the Obama issue will be over next November when someone else is voted in as President.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Dealbreaker for me

Bush was NOT lawfully the US President because the popular vote went to Al Gore in 2000 and the Supreme Court decided the other way.

There is no law that states the President must be the candidate who received the greatest share of the popular vote. There was nothing illegal about that. It seems very likely there was election fraud (and probably in every election since then and maybe some before), but that’s a different issue.

Anonymous Coward says:

There’s no doubt that Clinton & company made a calculated ‘risk vs. reward’ assessment and came to the conclusion that using an illegal external email account –even if getting caught– still had less downside than facing the other alternative: that if the rules were followed, revealing the contents of government property emails could get them in even deeper trouble.

Also, the Bush regime established a clear precedent, that government documents, from missing White House emails to Guantanamo torture videos, could be illegally destroyed and kept from the public without anyone getting so much as a slap on the wrist for breaking the law.

It’s also becoming clearer why Obama failed to press charges against the last administration’s crimes — he wanted to leave himself open the possibility of doing the same kind of skullduggery that he once railed against before he took office.

Anonymous Coward says:

Blown out of proportion.

“For government business, she emailed them on their Department accounts, with every expectation they would be retained. When the Department asked former Secretaries last year for help ensuring their emails were in fact retained, we immediately said yes.

“Both the letter and spirit of the rules permitted State Department officials to use non-government email, as long as appropriate records were preserved. As a result of State’s request for our help to make sure they in fact were, that is what happened here. As the Department stated, it is in the process of updating its record preservation policies to bring them in line with its retention responsibilities.”

Two months ago, amid a push by the State Department to comply with the record-keeping law, Clinton’s advisers reviewed tens of thousands of pages of emails and eventually turned over 55,000 pages of emails to the department.

The Times reported that “Clinton’s personal email account was discovered by a House committee investigating the attack on the American Consulate in Benghazi as it sought correspondence between Mrs Clinton and her aides”.

On Monday, Congressman Elijah Cummings, a ranking Democrat on the select committee on Benghazi, said of the controversy: “It has been public for several years that Secretary Clinton used her personal email account, apparently following the pattern of previous secretaries of state. Although Secretary Clinton has produced her emails to the State Department, it is unclear from press reports whether previous Secretaries have done the same.”

http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/mar/03/jeb-bush-hillary-clinton-publish-emails

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