James Comey To Congress: About Those Hillary Clinton Emails I Mentioned Last Week? Meh, Forget About It, Nothing To See

from the wtf,-comey? dept

James Comey continues to be playing by his own ridiculous rules. He was playing by his own rules when he publicly announced that no charges would be sought against Hillary Clinton over her emails back in July. He was playing by his own rules a week ago when he revealed in a letter to Congress that new information had come to light, man. And, he continued to play by his own rules in sending a new letter to Congress saying, “Ooops, turns out there was nothing.”

Specifically, the letter — sent to the same heads of various Congressional committees — said:

I write to supplement my October 28, 2016 letter that notified you the FBI would be taking additional investigative steps with respect to former Secretary of State Clinton’s use of a personal email server. Since my letter, the FBI investigative team has been working around the clock to process and review a large volume of emails from a device obtained in connection with an unrelated criminal investigation. During that process, we reviewed all of the communications that were to or from Hillary Clinton while she was Secretary of State.

Based on our review, we have not changed our conclusions that we expressed in July with respect to Secretary Clinton.

I am very grateful to the professionals at the FBI for doing an extraordinary amount of high-quality work in a short period of time.

Of course, because we’re a day out from the election, and everyone wants to see this whole thing through stupid partisan eyes, you have Trump supporters who freaked out over the July announcement, but were thrilled by the October announcement, suddenly pissed off at this latest announcement. A key claim repeated a bunch of times is: “it’s not possible the FBI could have gone through 650,000 emails in a week.” This ridiculous line of thinking was kicked off by former NYPD Police Commissioner (and convicted felon) Bernard Kerik in a now deleted tweet:

Which, of course, is laughably clueless. First of all, there are at least some questions as to whether or not there were actually 650,000 Clinton emails in the bunch, but to do a basic analysis of even that large a group of emails isn’t that hard. As some dude named Ed Snowden explained:

The key thing here: the crux of the investigation is if any of the emails found via Anthony Weiner/Huma Abedin’s devices were different from the ones that the FBI already had from Clinton’s server. Doing a basic diff isn’t that difficult, as Snowden noted. So, as for Kerik’s ridiculous claim, Americans may not be stupid, but it certainly appears that the former NYPD police commissioner is kinda ignorant of how computers work.

That said, going back to the original point: James Comey is and has been ridiculous throughout this process. I know that supporters of both Clinton and Trump have done their flip-flops on whether or not Comey was good or bad based on the July and October announcements, but it should be pretty clear that he was ridiculous throughout this entire process and handled nearly every aspect of it poorly. Even some diehard Trump supporters found the latest move to be dumbfounding. Here’s former Congressional Rep. Joe Walsh — who just a few weeks ago talked about taking up arms if Trump lost — admitting that Comey’s actions are head scratching:

So, perhaps — in the heat of this crazy election that has people screaming at each other — this is finally an issue that everyone can come together and agree on: James Comey is a terrible FBI director.

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Comments on “James Comey To Congress: About Those Hillary Clinton Emails I Mentioned Last Week? Meh, Forget About It, Nothing To See”

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85 Comments
That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re:

The key thing here: the crux of the investigation is if any of the emails found via Anthony Weiner/Huma Abedin’s devices were different from the ones that the FBI already had from Clinton’s server. Doing a basic diff isn’t that difficult, as Snowden noted. So, as for Kerik’s ridiculous claim, Americans may not be stupid, but it certainly appears that the former NYPD police commissioner is kinda ignorant of how computers work.

When all you’re looking for is what is different between the two sets and checking any that don’t match rather than going through them piecemeal, yeah that would drastically speed things up.

timmaguire42 says:

Re: Re: Re:

Sure, that’s a fine way to eliminate most of these emails, but it’s not much help in going through the rest. There is a roughly 0.0% chance that there aren’t a few thousand that require actual eyes on them.

This is a species of the media excuse that “most were personal or from Weiner.” Yeah, so? That tells you nothing about the ones that aren’t. If I go two days without emptying my spam folder, then most of my emails are about erectile dysfunction or penis enlargement. It’s like going through a thousand emails of someone suspected of planning a bank robbery and closing the case because 990 didn’t discuss bank robbery.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

First off, eliminate all emails not having Clinton on the recievnig end. I think they were mentioning about 5000-10000 mails with Clinton on the recieving end. It is trivial to hack something together for a programmer if they don’t already have a program for it (which they do).

Afterwards, compare the mails to the already known mails and exclude dupes. That is easily doable for most basic programmers to make up in hours, assuming they don’t already have it.

The remaining emails will be comed through systematically. Honestly, with enough manpower on the job, coming through 5000 mails in a week is fairly doable. This is likely far less…

timmaguire42 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

“First off, eliminate all emails not having Clinton on the recievnig end.”

Why? What possible reason could there be to focus on emails sent to Clinton? If Clinton had to be involved, it should be as sender. But there’s no reason for that limiter either. It should be all emails from or to Huma where the other party is in any way associated with the Clinton campaign. Anyone who gave a number is making it up out of whole cloth.

Thad (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Why? What possible reason could there be to focus on emails sent to Clinton?

Because the investigation is not of the Clinton Campaign in general, it’s of Clinton’s handling of e-mails sent to a private e-mail server.

If the e-mails were not (1) sent to Hillary Clinton’s private e-mail server and (2) handled by Hillary Clinton, then they are irrelevant to an investigation of Hillary Clinton’s handling of e-mails sent to her private e-mail server.

timmaguire42 (profile) says:

Two thigns ot come out of this

1. Early voting is a dumb way to run an election.

2. You know Comey’s getting a lot of pressure from above to bury this and he’s getting a lot of pressure from below to bring down the hammer. It’s no easy task he’s been assigned, but he has come up with an elegant solution that infuriates everyone equally.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Two thigns ot come out of this

So it’s ok to get screwed out of voting if you find out you won’t be able to show up and vote in person, and it’s too late to get an absentee ballot then?

Plus some legislatures insist on suppressing the votes of the ‘wrong’ voters by cutting down on their polling locations and giving them far too few voting machines, resulting in people waiting in lines for hours. Early voting is a way to help combat that disgracefulness.

Roger Strong (profile) says:

Re: So the last sandbag is laid.

It’s just like how – in response to accusations from your crowd – Obama released his birth certificate in summer 2008. And it was authenticated by Vital Statistics at the same time.

We heard the same cries of “Divert, delay, wait for executive privilege to invalidate the law” from the same people.

That One Guy (profile) says:

'Loose cannons', generally only a good thing in buddy-cop movies

For Comey’s sake I certainly hope he already has another job lined up, because with these last-minute shenanigans I don’t imagine either candidate will want him to keep his current job post-election, and will likely bring significant pressure for him to ‘look for other employment opportunities’ if they can’t just fire him outright.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: 'Loose cannons', generally only a good thing in buddy-cop movies

“the director reports to the Director of National Intelligence, who in turn reports to the President.[3] The Director is also supervised by the Attorney General, as the FBI is an agency of the Department of Justice.[4]”

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Director_of_the_Federal_Bureau_of_Investigation

ie: chain of command – he does not report to congress

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I’d assume that they’d be considering the fact that such headers could have been removed by anyone intentionally misusing classified information (definitely a guess on my part, not having first hand knowledge of how these systems work). If you’re looking for illegal activity, you have to assume that people will be trying to cover their tracks.

But as mentioned a few times above, the real investigation of the emails would only be looking at emails not duplicated elsewhere, so a manual investigation won’t take as long as some are assuming.

Anonymous Coward says:

Wow – the desperation is thick on this guy… Comparing de-duplication with per-item examination? Mad? Again, if anyone is “mad” about anything, it’s about your continual deliberate misinterpretation of anything out of Comey’s mouth. You keep equating, falsely, that lack of evidence is evidence of lack. And this from someone who should absolutely know better – someone who would bitch non-stop about anyone else who did the same (Eric Holder’s attempts at revisionist-history and rewording definitions of laws/statutes to encompass his legal chicanery for example).

PigPaws (profile) says:

The logistics aren't right

people – you’ve got to throw the bullshit flag on this. NOTHING happens in DC in A WEEK.
1 day to get the subpoena.
1 day to get the disk/media/data to the bureaucrats responsible – MAYBE even to the analysts. (i.e. physically from NYC to DC, as it was a ‘forensic’ investigation, right?)
1 day to write the code to dedupe 650k emails.
– all this ASSUMING the schmucks were working the weekend. another day to actually dedupe the data – and what they kill off 90% of the emails as BS or previously known?
that still leaves 65,000 emails to proof read! in 3 or 4 days? GTFOH.
That’s also assuming you already have enough people on-staff that are CLEARED TO THE LEVEL that the emails are thought to be at (i.e. S/TS/SCI, etc…)
The logistics behind this is incredibly stupid and DO NOT HAPPEN IN A WEEK!
Seriously – think about the numbers involved. This is all political bread and circuses.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: The logistics aren't right

Do you really expect you making shit up to be convincing to anyone?
-They had the subpoena to begin with, before the letter to congress.
-1 whole day for the FBI to transfer maybe 60gb of files? Bullshit. A couple hours, tops.
-They already had their filters from the last batch of emails, and even if they didn’t, a whole day to write the code? Are you the shittiest coder ever, or do you just know nothing about coding at all? I would be fired if it took me more than a half hour to write something like that.
-A day to actually dedupe the data? On FBI computers? Try 10 minutes. So now we’re at about noon on day one, if we started at 9:00.
-Probably 95%+ percent were completely unrelated personal emails (it’s Weiner’s computer, remember), and of the ones that had to do with Hillary, probably most were duplicates. 5,000 new emails is probably a crazy generous guess.
-You think the FBI has no agents cleared to even check this stuff? You are an idiot. I’m sure they could put 20 agents on it, minimum.
-How long does it take to check an email on average, if it turns out there’s nothing there? Probably a minute. So even if they work no overtime, 8 hours with a half-hour lunch break, that’s 9000 emails checked in a single day. They could even manage your stupid 65,000 number in a week, or in your even stupider 3-4 days if they work double shifts.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: The logistics aren't right

“1 day to get the disk/media/data to the bureaucrats responsible”

Why would bureaucrats be involved in the investigation rather than investigators? Why would the investigation have to happen in DC rather than a local NY office? Even if it does, why would it take a day to send a standard small parcel that distance, especially one of such importance? If the FBI can’t trust a civilian courier service, it would take a lot less time than a day for an agent to drive it there.

“1 day to write the code to dedupe 650k emails.”

Why are you writing a program from scratch to perform standard searches that software that’s been around for decades can handle quite perfectly? Proprietary, off the shelf or open source, people have done that work many times before you.

“another day to actually dedupe the data”

Why would that take a day? Is the FBI running their shop from some old 386s someone found in a cupboard?

It’s covered already to some extent, but it has to be stressed – if your timescale has to pad out 2 days for ridiculous activities prior to searching then a day for the slowest text comparison in history, maybe your premise is faulty.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Comey's job

Bill Clinton asked the FBI director to resign. The FBI director cannot be dismissed by the president at will. They are semi-autonomous just like the US Attorneys. While they usually resign when a new president comes into office, they don’t have to. And the president can’t just dismiss them.

Roger Strong (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Comey's job

Incorrect.

Wikipedia: William S. Sessions: FBI career

Although Sessions denied that he had acted improperly, he was pressured to resign in early July, with some suggesting that President Clinton was giving Sessions the chance to step down in a dignified manner. Sessions refused, saying that he had done nothing wrong, and insisted on staying in office until his successor was confirmed. As a result, President Clinton dismissed Sessions on July 19, 1993. Sessions was five and a half years into a ten-year term as FBI director; however, the holder of this post serves at the pleasure of the President.

ana cow says:

The technical side, and the policy side.

As an old computer guy, coding since 1972, grepping and diffing the emails is not that hard or time consuming. Since the tools had already been crafted for the July assay, tossing another batch of email thru that ruleset would be much quicker than the original composition of the filters, so the time frame seems entirely sane to me.

What happens next is likely to be as or more painful than the election has been. Living in rural Eastern Kentucky, I am sure that many of my neighbors will drink the kool-aid, and believe that they have been unfairly disenfranchised. They will hear this from the elected, the pulpit and the mutual assurance of their friends. As a poster child for a region that reliably votes against their own interests, I can only hope that my elected officials see the light and works to find common ground. I very much doubt the the McConnels of the world will do that. I, instead, expect years of faith based factless trouble. That problem will be manifest across this country. It won’t be easy to repair the nation, but the price of failure is too great to not gird loins and work to bridge the chasms wedged open by this divisive campaign.

Talk to your neighbors, regardless of their affiliation-you and they will find things you have in common and can work on together.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: The technical side, and the policy side.

I guess the Democratic kool-aid must be very powerful for you to see problems only on 1 side of the aisle. A quick look through Wikipedia will open your eyes to the corruption of the Clinton machine. From rigging the primary, which all Dems should be furious about, to selling influence while head of the State Dept, to enriching themselves with an illegal foundation.

The Dems remind me of the movie “The Matrix”. They are like the traitor on the first movie who just wants to be plugged back in because as he said, “ignorance is bliss”.

Roger Strong (profile) says:

Re: Re: The technical side, and the policy side.

Forget "The Matrix." Let’s go with "Babylon 5." I used to follow Usenet posts from J. Michael Straczynski (JMS). He was the creator, showrunner and main writer for the show. It was always interesting hearing about what was going on behind the scenes.

One of the Babylon 5 actors was Jerry Doyle, who was later a conservative talk radio host and political commentator. Before acting he was a corporate jet pilot and spent a decade as a stockbroker. In the 2000 election he ran for the House of Representatives in California’s 24th Congressional district as the Republican Nominee. As JMS noted

But most troubling…he was given what was essentially a loyalty oath, stipulating that he would support George W. Bush in the forthcoming primaries exclusively, and not McCain, and if he didn’t agree, the Party would withhold its financing from his election bid.

It seems you also missed where Republican officials were doing their best to prevent the nomination of Donald Trump.

This is yet another case where the most damning accusations by Republicans are that Democrats are acting like Republicans.

TripMN says:

Re: Re: Re: The technical side, and the policy side.

As an independent, this is why I’m sick of the two party system and the first-past-the-post election style we have that empowers it so greatly. It is not a race for being better as a nation, its a red team vs blue team race to the bottom.

This takes me back a few stories to the Republicans saying they won’t use the dirt from the leaked emails against Hillary or the Democrats since it could be them next. Some people kept quoting Mark Twain (I think in that story’s comments), but this reminds me of a different quote about a cat and a hot stove and taking away the wrong lesson. The lesson the Republicans should gain from the emails is that their dirty laundry will be found out in this day and age and they should clean up their act, but instead they take away the lesson of not leveraging their enemies with skeletons in the closet because maybe their skeletons will not be called out when it is their turn.

It just isn’t going to get better, is it…

Alphonse Tomato (profile) says:

Re: Re: The technical side, and the policy side.

A quick look through Wikipedia will open your eyes to the corruption of the Clinton machine. From rigging the primary, which all Dems should be furious about

Yeah, and I am, but that’s par for the course with both major parties. Ask Ron Paul supporters about what the Republican apparatchiks did to them. The only reason they didn’t do it to Trump was nobody thought Trump had a chance, until it was too late.

So we have two less-than-desirable candidates. One is a sociopath bigot bully with Mussolini tendencies. Corrupt? He’s never had a govt job, but he cheats on his taxes and screws his workers out of their pay, and loves undocumented workers so long as he can pay them less, so that’s a promising start. The other is a center-right apparatchik who is careful, plodding and methodical. Corruption level for her seems to be average, more the arrogance of power ("those rules don’t apply to me") not much different from her compatriots of the other party. I know which one scares me more.

anan cow says:

Re: Re: The technical side, and the policy side.

Gosh, I really don’t see this as a one sided problem. The Kentucky Democratic Machine is as broken as the Republican, with one Huge Difference: the Democratic Party of Kentucky isn’t suggesting anyone take up arms when they lose an election.

I’d also note that anyone who as ever taken the initiative to lobby their elected in their state or federal capitol will soon learn that no-one that has succeeded to gain elected office is very “nice”, and to be effective, they need to be as mean and aggressive as their opposition. Why, knowing that, one would want anything but an experienced street-fighting politician with decades of learning the ropes escapes me.

To manage on the world stage, I want an 800 pound gorilla, but one that will in fact represent the will of the majority that elected it.

If it makes you feel any better, one of the highlights of my citizen lobbying life came when I, as I was leaving the office of Democrat Don Blanford after he pocket vetoed a bill we’d worked to provide for local oversight in waste incinerator permitting, passed two close cropped shiny shoe guys entering the office: the FBI was arresting the Speaker of the House for taking bribes (see wikipedia for Operation_Boptrot).

Your notion that I am a partisan Democrat is simply a bad jump to conclusions. Making assertions that you haven’t validated undercuts your own credibility.

Thad (user link) says:

Re: Re: The technical side, and the policy side.

I guess the Democratic kool-aid must be very powerful for you to see problems only on 1 side of the aisle. A quick look through Wikipedia will open your eyes to the corruption of the Clinton machine. From rigging the primary, which all Dems should be furious about, to selling influence while head of the State Dept, to enriching themselves with an illegal foundation.

Perhaps the reason the poster chose not to bring up any of these things is that the article we are currently commenting on is about Comey’s investigation of Hillary Clinton’s e-mail server.

Rich Kulawiec (profile) says:

A technical note on email software tools

I frequently have occasion to deal with large numbers of email messages — much larger than this — and I’d like to point out that there are some enormously powerful software tools — free, open-source tools that run on any Unix or Linux system — that make this task considerably easier than it may appear to non-specialists in the field.

Three examples:

1) Mutt, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mutt_(email_client) is a powerful, fast email client with built-in message sorting and filtering and searching. I use it constantly, particularly because I handle lots of messages known to contain spam, spyware, malware, etc., and it’s nearly impervious to those. It’s a trivial task with mutt to open up an mbox with 10,000+ messages (takes a few seconds on this 8-year-old laptop) and search them to find all the ones from a particular sender (nearly instantaneous).

2) grepmail, https://sourceforge.net/projects/grepmail/ is a command-line tool that can search mboxes for messages matching criteria. For example, I could search for “all messages from Joe between May 1 2014 and June 15 2014” or “all messages from Joe to Fred” or “all messages containing the phrase ‘left shark'” or combinations of these.

3) formail, http://www.linuxcommand.org/man_pages/formail1.html is a mail reformatter that’s useful for combining messages, splitting messages, etc. It’s like a Swiss army knife for doing structural things to mboxes.

There are MANY more. Everyone/anyone who works in this area should be aware of these tools, should have them, and should be reasonably fluent in their use.

Also note that all email messages carry a putatively unique header called “Message-ID”. The Message-ID is put there by the first email server to get its hands on a message and is intended to uniquely identify it across ALL messages. It’s usually of the form timestamp + unique key @ domain, e.g., something like 201611040320.AA1893367@example.com. All three tools above and many others can be used to search for it and manipulate it…which means that if you gave me two email archives in mbox format, one from Joe and one from Fred, and asked me to identify the messages in the second that don’t appear in the first, I could produce that list for you in about a minute. No custom software needed, just basic literacy with ordinary Unix/Linux tools that every email system admin should possess. (And if the archive wasn’t in mbox format? I’d use formail or another tool to make it so, since mbox format is the lingua franca of email storage.)

Therefore: fundamental questions such as “how many of these 650,000 messages were not already known?” or “how many of these messages are from Joe?” or “how many of these messages are to Fred?” or “which of these messages were copied to Joe and/or Fred?” should have been easily answered in minutes.

slarabee (profile) says:

It's Obama's Fault

And I mean that, I am not just being a dick. It is customary when a new President takes office to clean house at the DOJ and put in new attorney generals etc… Never would that have made more sense to do than after we finally were rid of Bush/Cheney but for whatever reason, Obama kept the majority of Bush lawyers around and then in a sparkling bit of convoluted bullshit logic appointed Comey as head of the FBI. Boggles the fuckin mind. What did he expect to happen, that Comey would suddenly become of reasonable democratic human being? After working so closely with Cheney I am surprised Comey is not a reptile himself. Hell, who knows, he may be, might just have a better disguise… reptile 2.0 if you will.

slarabee (profile) says:

Also...

As to the amount of emails…

Even if there were 650,000 emails on Wiener’s laptop (which I doubt very highly), the FBI would need to narrow the scope of their search for Hillary emails to the years during which she was Secretary of State. A warrant for Wiener’s emails due to a sex crime investigation, does not then automatically extrapolate to a infinitely deep and wide search for Clinton’s emails. They would need to find something in Wiener’s data (related to the sex search) that laid the foundation for a deeper search of emails related to Clinton as she is not implicated in any way in the sex crime(s) wiener is being investigated for. Think of it like a plain sight search of your home, once they are in your home (for whatever reason), if they see something illegal or suspicious in plain sight (not in a drawer or in a closet) that would justify further search, but barring that plain sight evidence, they are done.

But even if we narrow the scope to the full four years of Clinton’s term as SOC they are asking me to believe that Wiener received 445 emails per day (650,000/1460) that directly related to Clinton. Bullshit.

But even if the numbers were accurate, I could sift through those emails with full text search and subject line and 30 other ways in a work week, without breaking a sweat.

End of the day, until someone shows me an email, even 1, that shows clear violation of the law on Clinton’s part they can all suck my dick because I have been listening to their bullshit for 30 years, as they throw anything and everything at her just praying something will stick.

I remember when they investigated her for her investments in Cattle Futures. Their evidence for believing she engaged in nefarious trading? She made money. That was it. They never showed a single shred of evidence she did anything illegal, but to this day those assholes contend she did something illegal, because god forbid someone invest in cattle futures and make some money.

This scorched earth bullshit that started with Gingrich et al has to stop. Sooner or later we need to demand they stop wasting tax payer dollars on their politically driven witch hunt bullshit.

IMHO

TRX (profile) says:

> James Comey is a terrible FBI director.

…aaand… can you name one that *wasn’t?*

That office seems to alternate between the malicious and the incompetent.

The FBI withdrew from most bank robbery and kidnapping investigations years ago. It doesn’t even do much in the way of the fraud and stocks work any more. And now its vaunted “forensic science” has turned out to be partially faked.

De-fund them and save the money. They’re doing nothing useful any more.

Oninoshiko (profile) says:

I've heard a explanation of Comey that makes sense

*adjusts tin-foil hat*

It goes that investigators at the FBI have shown a propensity for revealing these types of things. Comey revealed the emails to give HRC a chance to rebuke them, and his own office enough time to plausibly say “they’re nothing” before the election, preventing those in his office from getting the opportunity to use them to do real damage.

Is that what really happened? I don’t know, but it’s the only theory I’ve heard that makes any sense.

Crazy Canuck says:

Sure, that may be almost an email per second working 24/7 by 1 person but I’m sure the FBI could spare more than one person to work on this.

Assuming the FBI works 8 hour days, that they also worked the weekend, and it took half a minute on average to review each email. That would only take 85 people to scan through them all.

Make it 10 hour days and you could reduce it to 68 people.
If they worked 24/7 we could get it down to 29 people.

In reality it’d probably be even less, as I’m sure you could filter out a large chunk of the emails as duplicate, spam, etc.

But this is the FBI, maybe they can’t grasp the concept of parallel processing.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Podesta emails contain cryptic dominos on pizza lines. No software will flag it as pedophile keywords. This can be analyzed by hand and eye only together with investigating people involved in chain and their activity. Impossible to do by 100 independent agents reading at the same time different batches. Apparently , mr masnick never did research in his life. Kerik is convicted felon, but that makes no difference to assess apparent impossibility of analyzing that number of email in such a short time. They could have only glanced. Remember, comey closed the case again, implying they did full research second time around.

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