Tech experts from the company that managed Hillary Clinton's email server said that the lost messages the former Secretary of State wiped earlier this year may still be recoverable, The Washington Post reported on Saturday. Platte River Networks, based in Denver, Colorado, told The Post that while Clinton may have deleted the 31,000 private emails from her tenure at the State Department, she and her staffers never actually took the adequate steps which would have otherwise wiped the messages from the server completely, leaving Clinton's history open once more to escalated investigation by a House Select Committee. It's huge news for Clinton critics, but another frustrating development for the former Secretary, whose initial reign over the 2016 election polls has been steadily shrinking for the past few weeks.
"Platte River has no knowledge of the server being wiped," company spokesman Andy Boian told The Post. "All the information we have is that the server wasn’t wiped."
According to the outlet, in order to fully wipe a message from a server, the underlying code must be altered and written over with "gibberish" in such a way that it can no longer be read. It was more than likely, Boian explained, that no such steps had been taken, especially given Clinton's own admittance at a recent campaign event in Las Vegas that she didn't "know how" the process "work[ed] digitally at all."
"Erasing files from a hard drive is usually done by erasing the pointer to the data on the disk — [the] pointer is gone, [but the] data's still there," Seattle-based software professional Joel Telling explained to Bustle on Saturday. "It's like erasing your entry from a phone book: Your house still stands, but the phone book entry doesn't." He added that the process to wipe a server completely was much more complicated than simply hitting the delete button and crossing your fingers.
"To make [a piece of information] REALLY go away, you have to overwrite the spot on disk where the data is located with binary," added Telling. "If I'm wiping a disk, and want it to be clean, I'll overwrite it with zeroes, then ones, then zeroes, etc."
In response to Saturday's news, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wisconsin) of the Homeland Security Committee and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) of the Senate Judiciary Committee told The Washington Post that they would be pushing for a further review of the deleted messages in order to ascertain whether or not they might actually be recovered.
According to a report by The New York Times earlier on Saturday, both men also stated that they would be willing to give immunity to Bryan Pagliano, the State Department employee charged with setting up the server back in 2009, in exchange for testimony against Clinton, who paid him to independently maintain the server until her exit from the Department seat in 2013.
"[We] will certainly respect and defer to any legitimate assertion of an individual’s constitutional rights," Johnson and Grassley wrote in a letter to Pagliano's lawyer this week. "With that being said, the committees also need the unique information you likely have in order to exercise their oversight functions under the Constitution, which are unrelated to any potential prosecution or criminal inquiry."
For her part, Clinton has never actually claimed that the 31,000 deleted emails were ever wiped prior to turning the server over to State Department officials. Instead, she claimed that she had simply trashed them due to their personal nature.
"I chose not to keep my private personal emails — emails about planning Chelsea’s wedding or my mother’s funeral arrangements, condolence notes to friends as well as yoga routines, family vacations, the other things you typically find in inboxes," Clinton told reporters in a press conference back in March. "No one wants their personal emails made public and I think most people understand that and respect that privacy."
Regardless of whether experts will be able to unearth the deleted documents or not, for now, Clinton seems to have skirted any harmful legal backlash: On Friday, Justice Department officials stated that Clinton was well within her rights to delete her personal messages, regardless of how it may have looked.
"There is no question that former Secretary Clinton had authority to delete personal emails without agency supervision — she appropriately could have done so even if she were working on a government server," they wrote in a federal court filing.
In an exhausted review of the news on Saturday, Mother Jones political columnist Kevin Drum pointed out that Clinton was likely "well aware of what happens when a Republican Congress starts investigating a prominent Democrat", and had simply been hoping to avoid personal embarrassment by getting rid of the emails.
"That's why she deleted her personal emails in the first place," Drum wrote. "The 2015 version of the GOP is apparently bent on proving that nothing has changed since the 90s."
Clinton's camp did not return calls from The Post for comment, although it's likely the beleaguered Democratic candidate was still in damage control-mode. On Tuesday, in an interview with ABC News’ David Muir, Clinton apologized for the so-called "Emailgate" debacle, saying,
I do think I could have and should have done a better job answering questions earlier. I really didn’t perhaps appreciate the need to do that. What I had done was allowed, it was above board. But in retrospect, as I look back at it now, even though it was allowed, I should have used two accounts. One for personal, one for work-related emails. That was a mistake. I’m sorry about that. I take responsibility.