Unsealed Clinton Email Warrant Asks Court To Maintain Secrecy Of Investigation James Comey Publicly Announced To Congress

from the in-all-things,-boilerplate dept

The FBI’s search warrant for Anthony Weiner’s laptop was unsealed and released yesterday. This isn’t the warrant the FBI originally used to seize and search the laptop. That one was looking for evidence related to allegations Weiner sexted an underage girl.

This warrant is the second search warrant for the same laptop, related to the discovery of emails to and from Hillary Clinton on it. This discovery during an unrelated search prompted Comey to write a letter to Congress informing it that he was going to be diving back into the Clinton email investigation.

The second dive into emails stored on the laptop by former Clinton aide (and estranged spouse of Anthony Weiner) Huma Abedin resulted in the discovery of nothing the FBI hadn’t already seen. Comey apologized for getting everyone hot and bothered by his shouting of “CLASSIFIED!” in a crowded electoral season, but believed his actions were justified because he feared this information would likely leak anyway.

Leaks did abound, but the emails found on the laptop were ones that had already been seen by the FBI during its earlier investigation. Since no charges are being brought against Clinton (or Abedin) for mishandling of classified information, there’s likely going to be no Fourth Amendment challenges raised in regards to the evidence the FBI didn’t find.

If for some reason there was, I’m sure the FBI would feel the “plain view” exception (or perhaps “inevitable discovery,” although plain view is a more accurate description…) would apply to its discovery of possible evidence completely unrelated to the Weiner sexting investigation at hand. As the affidavit explains, the normal process of going through emails for the Weiner investigation resulted in the viewing of email header info pointing to Hillary Clinton’s private email server.

Having “segregated” those emails, the FBI applied for a second warrant [PDF] to search the content of those communications for classified material. As we know now, nothing of interest was found. Still, there was only the minimum of probable cause to search the content of these stored emails: that Hillary Clinton’s email address appeared in the header info. This small possibility the seized emails may have contained classified information was used to justify a second forensic imaging of the seized laptop.

What’s completely ridiculous about the affidavit is the agent’s request that the affidavit and warrant be sealed because of the “confidential nature” of the investigation. Never mind the fact that James Comey himself blew past other FBI officials’ recommendations and outed the results of the first investigation in a public press conference. Then he did it again with his letter to Congress on October 28 — two days BEFORE this FBI agent asked for the sealing of documents because the investigation was apparently too “sensitive” to be made public.

It could be the agent prepared this affidavit before Comey decided to go public with his announcement, but the signature and date of October 30th appear directly below this paragraph claiming this information needed to be withheld from the public. And the judge granted it, which is just as much of an absurdity. It’s not as though no one was aware of Comey’s announcement. It was literally in all the papers. But, hey, law enforcement loves boilerplate and, apparently, magistrates’ eyes start glossing over by the time they get to affidavit signature pages, because no one thought this request might sound ridiculous given the circumstances surrounding it.

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Comments on “Unsealed Clinton Email Warrant Asks Court To Maintain Secrecy Of Investigation James Comey Publicly Announced To Congress”

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Michael (profile) says:

So not only do you want the law enforcement agencies in this country to have to apply for search warrants, but you want them based on something, would like them to be accurate and make sense, AND you want the judges that sign the warrants to READ them?

Why is it that you want child molesters and rapists to go free by making the jobs of law enforcement so difficult?

Anonymous Coward says:

Minimal effort all around

It’s probably less work for the magistrate to approve the secrecy (absurd though that secrecy is) than to approve the warrant and deny the secrecy, or send the agent back to rewrite it without the secrecy clause. Since approving the secrecy was not illegal, and probably not even against policy, there was no procedural basis to encourage the magistrate to send it back for improvement, so why not take the path of least effort?

AC says:


Earlier investigations into the 4000 Hillary Clinton/Huma Abedin emails had found 27 email chains containing classified information, six of which were classified as secret, which is a higher designation.

There has been no confirmation whether or not these emails were also present on Weiner’s lap top (that just sounds dirty, doesn’t it?) but the possibility of them being on this unauthorized device is likely the reason behind the importance placed on inspection and verification. Keeping an eye on a repeat offender, as it were.*

True, it’s extremely unlikely that anyone would be punished if they were, given the complete lack of prosecution for all the other transgressions against classified data handling, but I’m guessing that some people actually wanted to put forward the appearance of following the rule of law in case classified information did actually exist on Weiner’s lap top. (*still* sounds naughty)

I think we could all probably agree that not applying the law equally to everyone is the basis of a lot of the problems with society today – both from the police side and from the privileged elite side.

*Question: Why can’t we the public see the contents of these emails? If they aren’t important, they shouldn’t be classified. If they ARE important, then mishandling them is a crime, isn’t it?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Umm...

Nope, understand it just fine. This has nothing to do with presumption of innocence. It has to do with the rich and powerful being above the law. When the Director of the FBI details the laws that were broken and then goes on to say he wouldn’t charge her, it is quite telling. Add to it that the AG, whose actual job it is to press charges said she would go with the Dir. of the FBI’s decision. Add to it as well that she held a meeting with Bill Clinton on her plane the day before.

But sure, you support her so you don’t mind that she broke the law and got away with it. All this talk here about not playing team politics yet the blue team keeps playing it.

pegr (profile) says:

Re: Umm...

But it really just displays the utter incompetence of the investigation to begin with! Since Huma is Hill’s right-hand man, so to speak, if you’re investigating the leaking of secrets via email, why wouldn’t you identify ALL devices that might contain that email?

Or did Huma lie to the FBI? That got Martha Stewart a stint in the pokey. Why is Huma protected?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Umm...

the possibility of them being on this unauthorized device is likely the reason behind the importance placed on inspection and verification.

Except that was not the point of the investigation, at least not anymore. As you noted it was already established the classified information was exchanged between clinton and abedin. The question that remains is whether it was intentional (and thus criminal).

So the only reason to inspect the laptop was to search for incriminating evidence – like a message from a abedin telling clinton “hey that’s classified, cut it out” and clinton responding with “neaner, neaner, I’m hillary effing clinton! I am above the law!”

But there was no reason to think such messages would be on the laptop. Basically the justification for the warrant was “anything clinton might have said in email could be incriminating.” But that’s so absurdly broad it could be used to justify any search, ever. For example we should be constantly wiretapping her calls in case she admits something even today.

There is more than a bit of witch-hunt logic to the handling (and especially to the public perception of) this case. People have decided Clinton is guilty of something, so no amount of intrusion is too much since eventually we are going to find the proof we just know is there. Because she’s obviously guilty to begin with.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Umm...

I’m interested in the rabid Trump Supporter reaction(s) to his double crossing flip flop waffle back stabbings.


I can see the foaming at the mouth nuts running through the streets yelling about bow Trump has lied to them …..
Oh wait, I’m being told that they don’t give a shit. wth?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Umm...

We will be just fine. Obama broke half his promises along with most every other politician. I voted for him for many reasons, but knew he would not keep some of the promises. Do I wish politicians would keep their promises? Sure, but it has never happened and doesn’t appear it will anytime soon. Or do you believe HRC would have kept all of her promises? Wait, you do don’t you? Quite the naive voter aren’t you.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Umm...

Yes, but those who voted for Obama and were later disappointed are not insane.

The typical broken campaign promises in the past have not been about doing obviously stupid things that would never work nor could actually be accomplished and then later seeming to be surprised that anyone actually believed the promise was genuine. No – this is not something I’ve seen in the past four decades.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Umm...

Trumpgrets: https://trumpgrets.tumblr.com/
That site is pretty tame, the owner was doing it more to comfort themselves than to beat up on idiots.

If you would prefer to see someone taking pleasure in the pain of trumpkins realizing their god emperror lied to them, check the twitter account of @freeyourmindkid That guy is really getting his gloat on.

And to the guy who says “all presidents break some promises” — (a) they don’t usually break them before they get into office and (b) they don’t usually break the ones that are a centerpiece of their campaigns.

At this point somebody usually mentions closing gitmo which was a centerpiece of Obama’s campaign for which he received the full weight of congressional pushback for all 8 years. That’s not even remotely like any of Trump’s 100% voluntary 180s (no prosecution of clinton, no wall, flooding the swamp, acting presidential, etc).

AC says:

I think...

…that maybe the point was there shouldn’t have been any Hillary Clinton/Huma Abedin emails on an unauthorized device *AT ALL*. Especially one that wasn’t disclosed to the FBI during their investigation (hiding evidence) into thousands of undisclosed emails (perjury) some of which had confidential information contained in them (felony).

So, the FBI finds an undisclosed, unauthorized lap top containing emails pertinent to an investigation into Hillary’s potentially felonious handling of classified information. Seems like it would be worth a search warrant to me.

By the way, has it been confirmed that there wasn’t any classified info on Weiner’s lap top? I’ve heard “we didn’t find anything we didn’t already have” – but since they had found classified emails this statement isn’t anywhere near transparent.

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