The revelation that Hillary Clinton used a private email address for most if not all of her official internal correspondence is raising all sorts of questions. According to widespread reporting, Mrs. Clinton turned over some 55,000 pages of emails to the State Department two months ago, long after she stepped down from her post in early 2013, and only after they were vetted by her loyalists.
One key issue getting a lot of ink is whether she violated the requirements of the Federal Records Act, which requires that official correspondence be retained as part of the agency’s record. But another far larger issue might loom.
One reason that officials at the State Department are required to use official email addresses is security. State Department servers are hardened against hacking by foreign spies. Not long ago, Chinese hackers breached Google servers to obtain a database about U.S. surveillance targets. If they were skilled enough to unearth such intelligence information, they would no doubt find other private email servers a similarly vulnerable target.
According to the Associated Press, Mrs. Clinton’s servers were housed in her Chappaqua house, which of course is guarded by the Secret Service. The servers therefore, according to the AP, were “well protected from theft or a physical hacking.” But, of course, theft and physical hacking are not the only way into a privately-run server.
The danger of electronic hacking is precisely why the best encryption technology of our government is in use to secure the communications of our diplomats. State Department rules are clear. According to the department’s information management manual:
Users must not load classified information or Sensitive But Unclassified (SBU) information onto unclassified systems, and any information exchange between classified and unclassified or SBU systems may only occur following established Department guidelines, developed by the Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DS), or with a recommended waiver by DS and approved by the Chief Information Security Officer (CISO).
Did Hillary ignore this rule? Did she use any encryption, and if so was it government sanctioned? These are urgent questions. The correspondence of our Secretary of State ranks among the most sensitive of government secrets.
If Hillary Clinton was indeed communicating about classified matters using unsecured servers, she would have been engaging in a massive security breach and quite possibly violated the law. The Espionage Act of 1917 has a provision that criminalizes “gross negligence” when it permits national defense information to “to be removed from its proper place of custody.” On his last day in office, President Bill Clinton pardoned CIA director John Deutch for having merely put classified material on unsecured laptops. Hillary Clinton’s transgression appears to be on a far larger scale. Will Hillary now need a pardon from Barack Obama? This story doesn't have legs, it has wings.