As Secretary of State, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton kept using the same email arrangements as her four predecessors despite “clear directives” from the State Department.
That is the very harshest conclusion that a new independent audit into the matter has drawn.
Although the final report is predictably being spun by Clinton’s enemies on both left and right as some sort of damning indictment, it’s actually the whimpering end of a story that has been hyped to death.
Even this part is just hype:
Twice in 2010, information management staff at the State Department raised concerns that Clinton’s email practices failed to meet federal records-keeping requirements. The staff’s director responded that Clinton’s personal email system had been reviewed and approved by legal staff, “and that the matter was not to be discussed any further.”
The audit found no evidence of a legal staff review or approval. It said any such request would have been denied by senior information officers because of security risks.
Remember, this was the accepted practice when Clinton took the job. New regulations only kicked in nearly a year later, so by 2010 these “concerns” would have upended the Secretary of State’s entire workflow, complicating future transparency efforts, in order to satisfy new technological standards imposed by a centralized bureaucracy.
Normally, that’s the very sort of thing that Republicans rail against.
In fact, those “federal records-keeping requirements” have failed to stop Russian hackers from breaking into the State Department’s email servers — the very system that State Department “information management staff” supposedly would have told Clinton to use instead, since we apparently can’t trust her with an email server of her own, right?
Though if we are to believe this report, her staff actually kept a pretty good eye on things, defeating more than one attempted intrusion.
The audit said a Clinton aide had to shut down the server on Jan. 9, 2011, because he believed “someone was trying to hack us.” Later that day, he said: “We were attacked again so I shut (the server) down for a few min.”
The next day, a senior official told two of Clinton’s top aides not to email their boss “anything sensitive,” saying she could “explain more in person.”
No one has ever presented any proof that hackers successfully breached Clinton’s email server, and this is probably why.
Clinton’s Blackberry somehow remains an issue in the report as well. She has cited her comfort with using that single device for all her communications — rather than carrying multiple devices for personal and official purposes — as her main reason for using a private email server in the first place.
Secretary Clinton asked the national Security Agency for a secure Blackberry, but was denied. As a result, Clinton chose to keep using her own Blackberry, which had the world’s best reputation for security at the time and is still being marketed to government leaders on that basis today.
Yet the audit criticizes Clinton for failing to demonstrate that her Blackberry “met minimum information security requirements.” This is exactly like whining that someone’s Lamborghini hasn’t been proven to meet an arbitrary new set of ‘minimum speed requirements.’
If we are to fault Clinton for anything, it’s that she didn’t fix the State Department’s woefully inadequate information technology.
The last five Secretaries of State have been “slow to recognize and to manage effectively the legal requirements and cybersecurity risks associated with electronic data communications, particularly as those risks pertain to its most senior leadership,” according the the audit.
There’s a perfectly good argument to be made for revitalizing and updating American diplomatic machinery, but that’s not what this email controversy is meant to do.
It’s just a nothingburger that Hillary Clinton’s political enemies hoped would weigh her down in the home stretch to November.
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