James Comey has just discredited his entire agenda.
Updated developments Justice Dept. Strongly Discouraged Comey on Move in Clinton Email Case
Here is the statement by a senior Democratic congressional aide (emphasis in original):
Democratic Ranking Members on the relevant committees didn’t receive Comey’s letter until after the Republican Chairmen. In fact, the Democratic Ranking Members didn’t receive it until after the the Chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Jason Chaffetz, tweeted it out and made it public.
Assuming this is true, this would indicate that Comey helped Republicans by giving them a heads-up about his “non bombshell letter” while depriving Democrats in Congress of an equal opportunity to consider its contents. This would allow the GOP a free pass in framing the message. It took a while for the media to realize that they had been played -and many in the media don’t mind being played if they can produce a good headline that gets ratings.
People with in the FBI are horrified:
But we can now see more clearly what his modus operandi really is, or at least how it has lead to this affront. We all had our suspicions, especially in the context of the fact that this was always an overblown pseudo scandal, as will be explained below. Previously Comey had fed red meat to the Zombies, even though he knew he never had a case to prosecute. It could be argued that he had no legal choice but to act as he did with the not so new Weiner sexting non revelation, but I am sure he could have framed the communication better and not allowed the GOP to bastardize the message by implying that this was some type of earth shattering event. With each new piece of news, his actual supposed legal requirement to act as he argues he had to, grows more strained.
The timing was suspicious, to say the leas—so he was duty bound to be extraordinarily careful. He failed miserably. There is a great deal of DOJ and FBI guidance about having a very high bar for any announcements near elections when they touch on candidates. Comey had already put himself in a corner by making unnecessary personal criticisms of Hillary in order to assuage those who were pre-determined hang, draw and quarter her—people who were going to throw the kitchen sink at him (because that is all they have) during congressional testimony regardless of the facts.
Now those grandstanding personal opinions that Hillary had been reckless (not much evidence for that, especially when he was pressed the next day, where many of his assertions crumbled) mean that when confronted with an unforeseen (?) oddity, from an unrelated case, it puts Comey in a very difficult legal position, but a position of his own making. He is out of his depth and normally he should be fired. But in the short term that is not the smart play by Obam (unless we get even shocking revelations about Comey’s conduct) and in the longer term Hillary will surely recognize that the FBI needs to appoint a new FBI director. In the meantime, Comey needs to resign because few have any confidence in him anymore.
These new emails are from Anthony Weiner’s sexting scandal: Comey said the FBI “cannot yet assess” whether the material “may be significant” and that he “cannot predict how long it will take us to complete this additional work.” Now if you were an objective public servant—would you feed vacuous hearsay to a very partisan committee? He literally admits that he has no idea what these emails might mean, but of course he knows that Trump and his enablers will know exactly what to do with this vacuous nonsense.
And now the Clinton campaign fires back, as they dam well should—John Podesta demands:
Already, we have seen characterizations that the FBI is ‘reopening’ an investigation but Comey’s words do not match that characterization. Director Comey’s letter refers to emails that have come to light in an unrelated case, but we have no idea what those emails are and the Director himself notes they may not even be significant.
It is extraordinary that we would see something like this just 11 days out from a presidential election. “The Director owes it to the American people to immediately provide the full details of what he is now examining. We are confident this will not produce any conclusions different from the one the FBI reached in July.”
Hillary’s campaign will continue to go on the attack, and in doing so what they really need to achieve is to get people to recognize that the FBI director acted prejudicially throughout the process and that he can no longer use his inability to prosecute as his fig-leaf.
Now let us remind ourselves about the actual facts of this email non-scandal:
Summary: There is (still) no “scandal” here.
It turns out Hillary and her people were pretty careful. The focus has been on Clinton simply because she is a controversial figure running to be president, a focus which has distracted from the real issues of over-classification and how classified material is shared within the government.
The media generally has not presented proper context and has gone for more salacious ostensible low-hanging-fruit that confuses and misleads, but even the FBI seemed to miss the bigger picture. Here is my effort to rectify these deficiencies and present the bigger picture of what may be the least understood and most confusing “scandal” in modern American politics.
By Brian E. Frydenborg (LinkedIn)
AMMAN — Well, a lot has happened since my last update on this story in January.
Or has it?
More Much Ado About Nothing: Summer of Sadness
The conventional wisdom is that yes, it has. But as is so often with this story, what often seems to be a big deal or raises questions actually is more of the same or has answers that are more boring and mundane than anything else (Occam’s razor, anyone?).
After an FBI investigation, the Republican and well-regarded FBI Director, James Comey—known for his “independence” and “aggressive” upholding of the law—recommended to the Justice Department in early July that Hillary Clinton not face any prosecution for both her use of a private e-mail server and the fact that some classified material passed through this server, and publicly explained his decision to not recommend prosecution. The recommendation was followed on by the Justice Department and no prosecution of Clinton has been pursued.
Republicans (outraged that they did not get the result that they wanted) had Comey testify before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform soon after his announcement. Repeatedly throughout the hearing, Republican lawmakers seemed far more concerned about their feeling that Hillary Clinton should be prosecuted than with any proper understanding of the evidence or how that evidence would or would not merit prosecution under a proper understanding of the relevant statutes and broader history of their application.
Espionage Act: 18 USC 793(f) and Its History
The law under which Clinton could have been prosecuted was a statute dating back to WWI, the (problematic) Espionage Act of 1917, an anti-espionage law enacted during the height of war with Imperial Germany, and in nearly 100 years of its existence, no one has ever been convicted in civilian court of violating the statute without demonstrating clear intent to do material harm to the United States. Intent has been one of the major required components in determining in civilian court culpability within a formal understanding of the law that has existed ever since a ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court in a case dating back to 1941. This can be confusing based on the wording of the 18 USC’s relevant section 793(f) alone, but a key element of the overall law of which that section is a part is that the whole law was supposed to be based on prosecuting those intending harm to the United States in the form of espionage, sedition, or worse.
In fact, only once has anyone ever been charged by the Justice Department purely on gross negligence without intent—an FBI agent who was arrested in 2003 for having an affair with a Chinese mistress and who unknowingly gave her access to classified information by not locking or paying attention to his briefcase when spending time with her—and, in the end, this charge was dropped in 2004 when he settled and was thus not convicted of that charge but another, lesser crime. It is certainly within the realm of possibility that officials, aware of the law and its application history, may have regarded conviction of that charge as unlikely or even impossible, but may have included it in an array of charges thrown at the defendant in order to help intimidate him into accepting a plea bargain, which he did.
Military court-martials did twice charge and obtain two convictions without using the intent standard under section (f) of the statute—one stemming from an incident in 1979 and one from another incident in 1989, the only two court convictions unearthed thus far under this statute without the intent factor over a nearly 100-year history of this law’s existence (neither person found guilty served more even a full year of time)—but it is important to note a few things: 1.) military personnel are generally held to, and military courts generally use,
1.) Military personnel are generally held to, and military courts generally use, a stricter interpretation of the law and enforce stricter penalties than their civilian counterparts
2.) The cases were dramatically different than Clinton’s and each included clear, indisputable obstruction, which tends to make prosecutors go for harsher penalties3.) at least one of the cases
3.) At least one of the cases including overruling earlier precedent, an overruling on which the conviction likely depended, and
4.) The cases were not subject to civilian court appeal rulings, and, given the Supreme Court’s ruling and precedent established in 1941 and other civilian court rulings, it is quite possible these convictions under 18 USC 793 (f) could have been overturned should civilian courts have dealt with them.
The point is that as a civilian official operating in the civilian legal system, Director Comey was completely right when he stated that “No reasonable prosecutor would bring the second case in 100 years based on gross negligence” because the case history is clear and the only cases where charges were brought under such pretenses, including military cases, bear no resemblance to the circumstances of Clinton’s case; when myopically accused of by Republican congressmen of a double standard in not prosecuting Clinton, he noted that the “double standard” would be “If she were prosecuted for gross negligence,” and that such an act would amount to “celebrity hunting.”
Of course, none of this matters to the bulk of Republicans, who have been predetermined to find criminal wrongdoing with the Clintons for decades (again, only perjury relating to Monica Lewinsky has ever been proved). With Hillary, when the GOP was unable to prove any specific wrongdoing after nine Benghazi investigation, they were only too happy to discover this e-mail server and the classified contents that passed through it in the course of their ninth Benghazi investigation, which was such a sham that, by the end, it tended to focus more on Clinton’s e-mails than anything else, since everything else they threw at her on Benghazi either stood on incredibly flimsy ground or was demonstrably false, as I noted before. Basically, the whole e-mail situation looked bad and raised some questions, but now those questions have been vigorously pursued by professional investigators, and what may have looked bad turned out, upon closer inspection, to not contain anything criminally prosecutable, and no matter how much Republicans want it, the aura of something bad or questionable is not enough to warrant prosecution, certainly not in our American justice system.
About Those Classified E-mails…
The FBI’s “July” report (released in early September by a clearly-exasperated-with-the-brouhaha-and-political-criticism-Comey) and information provided by the State Department on July 6th detail how many e-mails had contained classified information at the time they were sent to or received by Clinton’s server: we know that there was information that was classified at the time of sending or receiving in just about 200 e-mails in 82 e-mail chains* that passed through Clinton’s server. All but 13 of these chains were turned over by Clinton as part of the roughly 30,000 emails Clinton’s team had determined were work-related (most can be read here), and none of those other 13 e-mail chains—which were found among some additional 17,000 unique work and personal e-mails recovered by the FBI—were the highest level of the three levels of classification,
TOP SECRET. Overall, of the 82 e-mail chains: 69 are still classified (16 of which has been downgraded in their classification level), and 13 have been declassified (suggesting that at least those 16 and 13 are not involving anything particularly serious or particularly sensitive, even at the time); 8 chains were classified as TOP SECRET (7 of those, consisting of 22 e-mails total, were regarding Special Access Programs [SAP, more on this below]), 37 were classified as SECRET (the middle level of classification), and 37 were classified as CONFIDENTIAL (the lowest classification level). The report only mentions others sending Clinton material that was classified to begin these exchanges, not the other way around, suggesting that she may not have started any of the e-mail chains with classified material, essentially meaning that people were sending this information to her, and none of the e-mails contained classified material warnings in the headers, as is standard practice (more on that in a bit), so it would have been reasonable for Clinton to assume that the people sending her this material knew what they were doing; in fact, it would be a terrible use of a Secretary of State’s time to parse through every e-mail and ask if material that was not labeled as classified was actually classified: that would be a recipe for endless inquiries and not getting anything else done. Out of the 82 chains, Clinton herself weighed in and responded in 4 chains that were CONFIDENTIAL, 3 that were SECRET, and 4 that were TOP SECRET (all 4 of these were SAP related, see below), and 67 times she passed on information from chains classified CONFIDENTIAL or SECRET (frustrating that the report inexplicably did not detail how many of each!).
So, out of over 47,000 e-mails under consideration, let’s remember that about 200, or about 0.425%, were deemed to have contained classified information at the time of sending and receiving and at least half or more were either the lowest level of classification or concerned publicly available information, and some of them were not considered not to be classified by Clinton’s own State Department.
*(Side note on above numbers: for the above numbers, I presumed the “July” report—almost inexplicably no specific date is given as to the completion of the report, just the month of July—was more recent/complete than Comey’s press conference on July 5th and testimony on July 7th, in which that information given at those times, combined with the information from State, provided a lower figure of 113 or 114 emails in about 53 or 54 e-mail chains that had classified information in them at the time they were sent/received; the FBI report also states that the number of e-mails and chains is subject to change as the FBI was still waiting on responses regarding some of the content in question from several relevant agencies; the lack of clarity,lack of a clear specific presentation, the inability of the whole of the government to just be able to produce a single, clear figure on this is somewhat remarkable; since the report had larger figures than the one Comey gave in the first week of July, it is reasonable assume to the number was higher because other agencies had provided subsequent updates, thus the assumption that the “July” report came some time after the 7th, when Comey gave lower numbers during his testimony to the House committee; if, somehow, the updates would have involved the less likely scenario of reductions in the number of e-mails and chains identified as classified, Comey’s lower numbers would be more current)
To delve into the topic of classification itself, contrary to almost all the reporting I’ve seen, there are the only three actual levels of classification; I myself erroneously reported that SAP (Special Access Program) was a separate level of classification, and many other major mainstream sources have reported that and that SAP is a level of classification above TOP SECRET, when actually it is just a special type of TOP SECRET or SECRET information, designed to give people who “need to know” that information access to it but not indicating a higher level of sensitivity than the classification level; these days SAP often has to do with the U.S. drone program, and the available reporting on the subject suggests that nearly all of the most sensitive TOP SECRET information (7 of 8 TOP SECRET chains) in the classified content that passed through Clinton’s server had to do with SAP-related, publicly available information on the drone program or other publicly available information about North Korea; in both cases, anything from an eyewitness account published by an NGO to a newspaper report about drones would be considered classified, pushing us to the issue of rampant & unnecessary overclassification in the government, often more about interagency turf wars than national security, to the extent that prolific national security officials of both major political parties have publicly testified that “between 50% and 90% of all classified material could even be disclosed without any detrimental effect on national security,” as I have discussed before; objectively, then, much and perhaps all of the information with the highest classification labels in Clinton’s e-mails were objectively not really sensitive or secret in nature.
And it should also be noted that CONFIDENTIAL generally describes information that is so mundane and harmless that America’s intelligence chief, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, is considering a move to do away with the CONFIDENTIAL classification level entirely, noting that this is something the UK did recently in 2014 “without [adverse] impact.”
How Would Clinton Know They Were Classified? (It’s All About the Labels!)
Another important thing to note is that something would still be considered classified even if the State Department did not feel it needed to be but another agency did, as happened with information in some of Clinton’s e-mails; to expect the head of one agency to be aware of other agencies’ classifications of information that that head’s agency did not feel the need to classify is, indeed, quite unreasonable.
But this next point is a crucial one: zero of these e-mails were properly marked as classified. See, all e-mails that are supposed to be classified are supposed to have clear, obvious headings and subject lines indicating that they contain classified information, but not one of the roughly 200 e-mails had anything indicating it contained classified information in any header or subject line. In fact, only one classified e-mail chain contained any classified markings whatsoever; this involved one or a few simple “portion mark” “(C)”s that preceded material that was specifically classified and appeared in the body of the emails within the chain (two other e-mail chains had the same markings but the information in question in those chains was improperly classified and should not have been marked in the body with “(C)”s at all). Some important things to note here:
1.) As Director Comey said as much during his testimony, the absence of the classification markings in all e-mail headers meant that it would be “a reasonable inference” to “immediately [conclude] that those three documents were not classified” even for an “expert at what’s classified and what’s not classified.” In fact, it seems it would be reasonable to assume, as Clinton did, that, in the absence of any other markings, such “(C)”s could at a glance seem to be a selection from an alphabetical list.
2.) Nobody ever reads every part of every work e-mail. Many people probably don’t fully read even a majority of their work e-mails, as so much content is sent and received and often people have to ignore much of the content and many e-mails entirely for the sake of time; still others will be ignored out of simple prioritizing or would even have been seen as a nuisance. The idea that Clinton was careless and irresponsible because she 1.) did not know that about 200 e-mails out of tens of thousands were classified but had no classified markings, 2.) that she did not know that classified material was in 1 e-mail chain (2 including the mislabeled ones) that had 1 or more little “(C)”s buried in e-mail bodies that any person skimming could easily miss is preposterous; in fact, it is possible she did not even read some of these e-mails or only read them in part, so considering this, holding her responsible for being aware of every detail of every e-mail sent to her has an added layer of ridiculousness.
3.) Taking into account that neither Clinton nor her people sent anything properly marked as classified on this e-mail system, this would actually mean that they were quite careful not to senda anything that was and that they knew was classified, contrary to the popular narrative and the conclusion of Director Comey. After all, he told Congress that there was no evidence to suggest that Clinton or her people were aware that any of the material passed through that server was classified.
About That Server…
Clinton Did Not Make the Decision to Have Private Server
The FBI report also helps shed light on some other details: while Clinton directed her people to set up a specialized personal e-mail account, the decision to set up a private server in her Chappaqua, NY, basement was not something she directed her staff to do, though she later did become aware that there was such a server after it was established; rather, it was a decision staff made agreed to with technical experts. One thing that is clear is that Clinton and her staff were scarred by such a tumultuous political past of being subjected to so many politically-motivated witch hunts, acting in a very secretive way that actually helped to foster some of the issues about which we have now heard altogether too much.
One of the most crucial examples of this is that Brian Pagliano, the IT expert from the Clinton 2008 campaign tasked with setting up the personal server, at first was not apparently not aware that then-soon-to-be-Secretary of State Clinton would even be using this server to host her e-mails, though the FBI was unable to specifically verify exactly what he knew at this time; still, this is an indication he very well may have had no idea Clinton would be conducting any official business using this server, let alone using it, at the time. It is ironic that Team Clinton’s penchant for privacy in this case may have possibly prevented Pagliano from having knowledge that may have made him set up the e-mail server differently for a sitting Secretary of State than for a retired president’s staff in ways might have shielded Clinton from some of the criticism levied against her since the e-mail server’s discovery and may have even led to some coordination with the State Department.
The Server Was Not Insecure When Clinton Used It (9/24 UPDATE)
One thing the report makes clear is that the email server was not up and running, or even physically installed, until March 2009, when Pagliano also set up the SSL security encryption. This invalidates a major line of criticism thrown at Clinton, that from when she took office in January and until March, when the SSL encryption was installed on the server, her e-mails were somehow totally unprotected, but we know that the server was not installed or in use before then and that Clinton’s e-mail domain was being used on the previous Apple Server, installed by Apple; though very little is known know about that server, it is inconceivable that Apple would not have included security protocols, such as SSL, in the process of installing a server for such high-profile clients (Occam’s razor, again, for all you conspiracy theorists that believe Apple would install a server without no security features to prevent hacking; and, frankly, Pagliano would not have gotten as far in his field of IT administration if he is someone who would have had set up a server with no safeguards). This means, contrary to previous suspicions, her server was not insecure for months as headline after headline has trumpeted and countless other articles assumed.
The FBI report notes that the Server was “operational” starting March 19th and that SSL security was installed by Pagliano on either the 29th or 30th, and Pagliano stated that he was not the one who set up an e-mail account on the new server for Clinton; it seems that another IT specialist working for the Clintons, Justin Cooper, did that, though Cooper could not recall the details but assumed he was the one who performed that task. An e-mail from Cooper to Clinton indicated that in April he was readying to move her Blackberry (and thus, her e-mail communication) over to the new system, meaning Clinton was not conducting work through the new server before April and before the SSL was set up and that the server was not insecure at all when she used it as Secretary of State.
Conversely, the State Department’s state.gov system has been hacked on a regular basis. Perhaps her private system was relatively more secure since nefarious actors would have been extremely unlikely to have known of its existence and, therefore, would have been unlikely to deliberately hack it knowing what and who they were hacking.
No Evidence She Deliberately Hid Anything Work-Related
Another point which has been shamefully and myopically not had appropriate emphasis given on the part of the media is that nearly all of the e-mails would have been backed up by State Department servers: only thirteen people were regularly in touch with Clinton through her private e-mail, and most of those were people using state.gov e-mails, thus, anything sent to her e-mail from a state.gov e-mail or from Clinton to a state.gov e-mail would have been automatically captured and preserved by State’s record-keeping system. So the idea that Clinton was trying to hide her work-related e-mails is ludicrous because it would be incredibly easy to expose her for doing that using State Department records, and, in any case, there is no evidence-based reason to think that she did, considering that the work-related e-mails that have been recovered after being deleted from her server contained absolutely nothing worth hiding or incriminating and many were already captured and publicly released by State.
Which brings us to this Judicial Watch nonsense, what would mercifully seem to be the near-final chapter, at least for some time, in this faux saga. Judicial Watch has long been a right-wing advocacy “investigative” group looking to smear Democrats with a long, partisan history of targeting anything and everything Clinton. The group’s efforts have led to court-ordered releases of more Clinton e-mails, and, so far, they have shown pretty normal operations in terms of deals and influence and arranging meetings despite attempts to scandalize their content. More e-mails will be coming out between now and the election, but, like the other tens of thousands which had no incriminating content, these will almost certainly be more of the same.
There was 1 new e-mail about Benghazi, though—congratulations from the U.S. Ambassador to Brazil on Clinton’s solid congressional testimony on Benghazi, while 29 other Benghazi e-mails that were part of the recent release were already part of State’s records. The right’s desperation to open any Clinton closet it can find in the desperate hope that something will reflect badly on the Clintons or that the very process of opening the closets will cast doubt on Bill or Hillary and damage their reputations, regardless of reality, is all too apparent (as usual).
Why, oh WHY?
It is also important to remember why there is so much scrutiny about these e-mails to begin with: when eight previous investigations had failed to unearth any wrongdoing on the part of Hillary Clinton or her close personal aides in regards to the Benghazi tragedy, the crusading, witch-hunting Republicans who drove the formation and/or ran the ninth Benghazi investigation and came across the existence of this server were ostensibly convinced that the e-mails contained on the server would confirm their wild conspiracy theories that they had had all along, that Clinton deliberately lied and covered up information about Benghazi and that she ordered rescuers who were ready to save the four fatal victims of the Benghazi attacks to stand down (the e-mails held no such information, in part because none of this ever happened, as I and many others have demonstrated in detail before).
I have no doubt that many fanatics within the GOP were convinced at the time they would find such non-existent evidence, but the then-#2 Republican in the House, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, foolishly publicly confirmed what everyone already knew: that this ninth Benghazi investigation’s main raison d’être was to damage Clinton politically to lower her chances of becoming president (this screw-up was largely thought to have cost McCarthy his chance at succeeding Boehner for the #1 GOP House spot as Speaker of the House); in this, it was undoubtedly a success, even as it failed to unearth any new dirt on her conduct regarding Benghazi. The Committee’s quest to find quest to find wrongdoing by Clintonvis–à–vis Benghazi had about the same odds of success as Frodo and Sam running around alone in Mordor without Aragorn marching on the Black Gate, and it is telling that the Republicans who ran the hearings were at least subconsciously (and at least some must have been consciously) aware that the the “Benghazi” hearings ended up spending just as much—maybe even more—time on Clinton’s e-mails, her use of a private e-mail and private server, that classified information had passed through the server, and that the server was a possible security risk as they did on anything related to their committee namesake of Benghazi. So much for justice for the victims of Benghazi…
Conclusion: This Is Ridiculous: 15 Takeaways
So, below, we can outline my findings/conclusions which, at the risk of sounding egotistical, are far fairer and sounder that what we’re getting from large swaths of the media and certainly many politicians.
1.) As Comey made clear, neither Clinton nor her staff or associates gave any indication they knew any material was classified when they were passing it around through the private server or ever had any intention of using this much maligned private e-mail system to disseminate classified information, and the FBI has no evidence to point towards a coverup or Clinton or her people lying to FBI investigators.
2.) Only 3 e-mail chains had any indications whatsoever that they contained classified material (only one actually did), and the markings were themselves not clear, were not accompanied by required classified markings in headers and subject lines, and only referred to the lowest level of classification.
3.) None of the people involved were expert specialists on classification, and they and secretary Clinton relied, as most non-classification-specialists would rely, on proper and clear headings to warn that classified information was at hand and that people sending them knew they were following proper procedure.
4.) The only indications we have in terms of the content of the most sensitive material of higher classification levels is that it was publicly available information.
5.) Over 99.5% of all e-mails in question had no issues as far as classification was concerned; no official in the history of the modern United States has ever has so much of her communications material examined (or released so much to the public) so thoroughly and so soon after her time in office, and she used e-mail more than any of her predecessors because of the increasingly technological times we live in; if most other senior government officials had an audit like Clinton’s it is safe to say that she would hardly stand alone in having less than 0.5% of her content containing some sort of classified information; some would very likely have more, given the problems with overclassification.
6.) No evidence exists that any sensitive information was given to the wrong people or enemies of America or that America’s national security was compromised in any way by Clinton’s use of a private server or the fact that some classified material passed through it (remember, the server was not insecure early in her tenure at State while she was using it as had been previously speculated/assumed in many a report).
7.) Even if Clinton had used state.gov servers for her e-mail and never set up a private server, the information would still have been sent improperly through non-classified channels (her successor, John Kerry, was the first Secretary of State to ever use a state.gov account; why so little interest in Rice or Powell? Oh, yeah, they’re both Republicans and they aren’t running for president).
8.) Yes, there were issues with having a private server (not initially her decision, which was just to have a private e-mail address) and it was not the best judgment call, but was hardly among the worst decisions made by a cabinet-level-or-higher official in modern history or even recent memory (the Benghazi investigation lasted longer than the Watergate investigation), yet Clinton has been investigated more thoroughly than any other official in the modern era for something that is at best a moderate mistake, not one that caused grave damage to anything other than her reputation and her poll numbers and not one that seemed to put any serious state secrets at risk, because, for all the talk of her “lack of judgement” in this case, we have no information yet that any of the information in question was of major consequence, the release of which could have had serious ramifications for the U.S. In other words, her staff and she were careful not to use the system for anything clearly sensitive, overclassification notwithstanding, at least based on what we know up to this point.
9.) Basically, Clinton dove into a gray area with the personal e-mail/server that walked a line when it came following the exact letter and spirit of preferred policy, but from my earlier research, it was clear there was no outright prohibition on what she did. In an era of extreme partisanship, she should have known, just like Bill Clinton when he engaged in sexual relations with an intern, that such behavior would open her to serious attacks from her political enemies. It was an error in judgement, but hardly one that would be a tipping point in evaluating her performance as Secretary of State or her record as a public servant overall.
10.) We can easily see that Clinton’s understandable main motivations were in seeking a convenient way to communicate both professionally and personally using the same device and to shield her private affairs from the public and her political enemies after years of witch hunts conducted by her rivals and the media. Nothing in the Constitution or the law states that senior government officials have no right to private communication for personal business.
11.) So Clinton is not perfect, but if this is the worst thing or one of the worst things we can come up with about her and her judgement and career, well, that’s a historically strong candidate, folks, no matter how you slice or dice it, at least if you slice or dice it in a reasonable way. Which Republicans and the media are not. But more on the media another time…
12.) In fact, I expected the investigation by the FBI would explain in considerable detail whose job it was to have labeled the material as classified and at what stage and when this should have occurred, because by the time any of that info reaches senior official that process should already have been completed; this to me seems a bigger issue than Clinton’s use of a personal e-mail server, because if people had properly labeled this information it would not have passed through Clinton’s server to begin with. There is no attempt to blame any specific officials for not labeling classified information as classified, and the illogical burden of blame has been put on Clinton and her people for receiving information they accepted in good faith mostly from within their own State Department (certainly the blame cannot be on them for that!). Strange that the focus for blame has been on the use of a server and not that the e-mails were improperly marked, which, again, is the only reason they ended up on said server. Also frustrating, if understandable, that major parts of the FBI report dealing with these issues were redacted. Still, contrary to what many have said, including Comey, it does not appear that Clinton herself or her senior staff were careless in the handling of classified information, as, again, they were careful not to use the private server for anything properly labeled as classified. Such conduct does not seem to fit Comey’s words of “extreme carelessness.”
13.) The information we do have from the investigation shows that much of the material that was classified and passed on through unclassified e-mail channels was information that senior leaders needed to have to address pressing, time-sensitive issues, where using standard secure terminals was impractical, impossible, or both— and that this was common practice.
14.) The last point, in particular, makes it clear that official procedures for the dissemination of classified information to senior officials when that information is needed in a timely manner are grossly inadequate and impractical to the extent that they are not followed so that important business may be done when it needs to be done. Comey would have to basically call the entire State Department extremely careless, for the classified content being improperly sent and improperly labeled was the product of unofficial but standard practice, and though he did note that the State Department was “generally lacking in the kind of care for classified information found elsewhere in the government;” that seems to be decidedly less harsh language than Comey used to describe Clinton’s similar (the same?) behavior, even though State overall was just as big a factor in creating the situation as Clinton, if not more so.
15.) The above may be the most important controversy of all, but the fact that this all arose from investigations born out of efforts to politically damage Hillary Clinton always meant that she, not these other important issues, would be the focus. It would have been useful to task the FBI investigators with recommendations for reform, but this was not done. If anything, Clinton herself has been a distraction from the real problem at hand: reform of a system that few seem to have confidence in or respect for under certain important conditions, a system that is outdated and not taking into account more rapid forms of information dissemination that are common in the twenty-first century. But that has been lost in the conversation. And that itself is a true scandal.
I’m almost 35, and this is easily the most overblown, blown-out-of-proportion thing I’ve ever seen in politics, and may also be the most poorly-reported-on “scandal” I’ve ever encountered, as well, but more on that another time…