Clinton Email Case Gets Nutty: Clinton Offers Faux Support For Faster Release… That She Could Have Done Herself
from the let's-try-this-again dept
The whole saga over Hillary Clinton’s emails is getting more and more bizarre. Last night, FOIA ninja (it beats the “FOIA terrorist” label some have given him), Jason Leopold revealed that in his FOIA lawsuit over the release of the emails, the State Department was claiming that it would take at least until January of 2016 to release the piles and piles of emails that Clinton gave them… in printed form. (In case you were living under a rock, Clinton used her own personal email server while Secretary of State, and only just recently handed over copies of the emails to the State Department — after her own staff vetted them — and then nuked the entire server).
The State Department went into great detail [pdf] explaining why it’s going to take so damn long. In large part, it’s because Clinton handed them all over in printed form, rather than digital form, and the State Department had to staff up just to go through all the emails.
As noted above, the Department received the 55,000 pages in paper form. The documents were provided in twelve bankers? boxes (approximately 24? x 15? x 10 ?? in size) with labels placed on the outside of the boxes that corresponded approximately to the timeframe of the documents within a given box. The Department initially performed tasks necessary to organize the records. This included foldering, boxing, and creating a box level inventory of the records. In consultation with the National Archives and Records Administration, the Department also conducted a page-by-page review of the documents to identify, designate, mark, and inventory entirely personal correspondence, i.e., those documents that are not federal records, included within the 55,000 pages.
Given the breadth and importance of the many foreign policy issues on which the Secretary of State and the Department work, the review of these materials will likely require consultation with a broad range of subject matter experts within the Department and other agencies, as well as potentially with foreign governments. These records are comprised of communications to or from the former Secretary of State, who was responsible for the overall direction and supervision of the full range of activities of the Department, which operates in approximately 285 locations around the globe. The Department is committed to processing the 55,000 pages as expeditiously as possible, while taking into consideration the Department?s other legal obligations.
The Department has taken multiple steps to facilitate its review of the 55,000 pages. It has developed an approach for addressing the review, upgraded the capabilities of the Department?s processing software, and dedicated staff. Currently, this project is staffed fulltime by a project manager and two case analysts, as well as nine FOIA reviewers who devote the entirety of their time at the State Department to this effort, plus other analysts and information technology specialists who provide collateral assistance to this review in addition to their regular duties. The team managing this project has met daily since early April to implement and oversee this large undertaking.
Each page of the 55,000 must be individually hand-processed in order to ensure that all information is being captured in the scanning process. The scanning process itself involves five steps that are time-consuming and labor-intensive. These are: (1) scanning (inserting barcode separator sheets between each document and its associated attachments and then scanning the documents, which includes converting them for optical character recognition [?OCR?], and then inputting the resulting OCR-ed files into the system in batches based on search segments); (2) scanning quality control (the scanned material is checked to ensure that each document is scanned properly and to flag documents that need to be re-scanned); (3) indexing (indexers review each scanned document to manually input bibliographic coding, such as the ?To,? ?From,? ?CC,? ?BCC,? ?Date Sent,? and ?Subject? fields associated with that document into the system); (4) indexing quality control (a senior indexer reviews the indexed documents to ensure that the bibliographic coding has been properly input into the system); and, (5) duplicate detection resolution (the computer analyzes the indexed documents to identify possible duplicates between the document being ingested and those documents that already exist in the system). Any possible duplicates that cannot be resolved (identified as an exact duplicate, near duplicate, not a duplicate) by automated means are pushed forward for individual review for manual adjudication. This process was made even more complicated by the fact that some, but not all, of the paper records that the Department received were double-sided. It took the Department five weeks to perform the scanning process, which was completed recently in May. There will be further work required to load these into a searchable database, which will be completed by mid-June.
When asked about it by reporters this morning, Clinton gave a really ridiculous answer, urging the State Department to speed up the work of releasing the emails, saying that she wanted them released:
?I have said repeatedly: I want those emails out. Nobody has a bigger interest in getting them released than I do,? she told reporters at a campaign stop in Iowa in a rare question-and-answer session. ?…[A]nything that [the State Department] might do to expedite that process, I heartily support.?
You know what would have expedited the release? First, using the State Department’s own email system while you were Secretary of State, so this wouldn’t have even been an issue. And, second, when all of this became an issue handing over the emails in electronic form, rather than in printed form in a bunch of boxes.
Meanwhile, the judge in the case, Judge Rudolph Contreras, is not impressed. This morning he issued a minute order telling the State Department that waiting until January of next year was unacceptable, and ordering the State Department to set a renewed schedule with rolling releases every 60 days:
As stated on the record at today’s status conference, Defendant shall file a notice to the Court on or before May 26, 2015, that includes the following: (1) a new production schedule for the Secretary Clinton e-mails that accounts for rolling production and updates from counsel every 60 days, (2) a proposed deadline for production of the Secretary Clinton e-mails relating to Benghazi, and (3) a proposed order that encapsulates the parties’ agreement on the narrowing of Plaintiff’s request concerning searches for records beyond the Secretary Clinton e-mails. SO ORDERED. Signed by Judge Rudolph Contreras
In the end, there may turn out to be nothing much of interest in all of those emails (though, of course, the fact that Clinton’s own staff went through them and got rid of a bunch first will keep conspiracy theorists in business for ages), but the way that Clinton has handled this whole thing is really ridiculous. Who the hell thinks it’s a good idea to print out 55,000 pages of records that were original electronic unless you’re trying to hide stuff and make life difficult for those going through it?