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.