The Most Damning Parts of The Clinton Email Report

On Wednesday, national news outlets including The New York Times obtained the Office of the Inspector General's report detailing former secretary of state Hillary Clinton's email practices during her tenure. While that part is obviously what the media and public is focused on, the report actually covered not just Clinton's email policies, but those of secretaries of state from 1997 to the present, meaning Madeleine Albright, Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice, Clinton, and John Kerry. The most damning excerpts detail Clinton's staff being cautioned to never speak of her emails, in a very or else kind of tone.

The lengthy report is about as dense and dry as you'd expect, though there's some humor to be found here and there (charmingly, OIG found it necessary to note that Secretary Albright used neither a department nor a personal account during her tenure, since, you know, email wasn't really a thing yet).

Clinton does not make a strong start. Early in the report, OIG notes that it "interviewed dozens of former and current Department employees, including ... Secretary Kerry and former Secretaries Albright, Powell, and Rice. Through her counsel, Secretary Clinton declined OIG's request for an interview."

It goes on to say that eight other employees — chiefs of staff for former secretaries, etc. — also declined to be interviewed. Again, though, they're not the one running for president. Some tidbits...

OIG identified one email exchange occurring shortly before Secretary Clinton joined the Department that demonstrated a reluctance to communicate the requirement to incoming staff. In the exchange, records officials within the Bureau of Administration wondered whether there was an electronic method that could be used to capture the Secretary’s emails because they were "not comfortable" advising the new administration to print and file email records.

However, there's no penalty for this — nor has the Department ever proposed any.

...In a June 3, 2011, email message to Secretary Clinton with the subject line "Google email hacking and woeful state of civilian technology," a former Director of Policy Planning wrote: "State's technology is so antiquated that NO ONE uses a State-issued laptop and even high officials routinely end up using their home email accounts to be able to get their work done quickly and effectively."

It should be noted here that secretaries of state autoforwarding work emails to their personal accounts has been prohibited since 2002.

This next one is my personal favorite...

In March 2009, after unsuccessful efforts to supply Secretary Clinton with a secure government smartphone, DS was informed that Secretary Clinton's staff had been asking to use BlackBerry devices inside classified areas. The Assistant Secretary of DS then sent a classified memorandum to Secretary Clinton's Chief of Staff that described the vulnerabilities associated with the use of BlackBerry devices and also noted the prohibition on the use of Blackberry devices in sensitive areas. According to a DS official, shortly after the memorandum was delivered, Secretary Clinton approached the Assistant Secretary and told him she "gets it."

Here, the report goes on to say that emails containing SBU (Sensitive But Unclassified) information should have resulted in Clinton contacting the Bureau of Information Resource Management (IRM) for a "solution," which she repeatedly failed to do. She also failed to provide the necessary burdens of proof that her system was secure.

There's more.

In late-January 2009, in response to Secretary Clinton’s desire to take her BlackBerry device into secure areas, her Chief of Staff discussed with senior officials in S/ES and with the Under Secretary for Management alternative solutions, such as setting up a separate stand-alone computer connected to the Internet for Secretary Clinton "to enable her to check her emails from her desk." The Under Secretary’s response was ‘the stand-alone separate network PC is [a] great idea" and that it is "the best solution." According to the Department, no such computer was ever set up.

In December 2014, Clinton produced about 55,000 pages in hard copy comprising 30,000 or so work-related emails. Later on, though, the report explains that these papers didn't include emails from the first months of her term (January 21 – March 17 2009 for received; January 21 – April 12 2009 for sent), including communications between herself and General David Petraeus. The Under Secretary for Management explained this as being due to Clinton's recent transition to a new address, saying she didn't have custody of those emails and that they were so far unobtainable.

In November 2010, Secretary Clinton and her Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations discussed the fact that Secretary Clinton's emails to Department employees were not being received. The Deputy Chief of Staff emailed the Secretary that "we should talk about putting you on state email or releasing your email address to the department so you are not going to spam." In response, the Secretary wrote, "Let's get separate address or device but I don't want any risk of the personal being accessible."

The report also says that two staff members in the Office of the Secretary, Executive Secretariat (S/ES) and the IRM had expressed concern over Clinton's email practices, and that someone asked whether the information on her personal account contained Federal records that needed to be preserved. This staff member was told that everything was in line and that "the matter was not to be discussed any further." The staff was apparently then instructed to "never to speak of the Secretary's personal email system again."

In August 2011, the Executive Secretary, the Under Secretary for Management, and Secretary Clinton's Chief of Staff and Deputy Chief of Staff, in response to the Secretary's request, discussed via email providing her with a Department BlackBerry to replace her personal BlackBerry, which was malfunctioning, possibly because "her personal email server is down." The then-Executive Secretary informed staff of his intent to provide two devices for the Secretary to use: "one with an operating State Department email account (which would mask her identity, but which would also be subject to FOIA requests), and another which would just have phone and internet capability." In another email exchange, the Director of S/ES-IRM noted that an email account and address had already been set up for the Secretary and also stated that "you should be aware that any email would go through the Department's infrastructure and subject to FOIA searches." However, the Secretary's Deputy Chief of Staff rejected the proposal to use two devices, stating that it "doesn't make a whole lot of sense." OIG found no evidence that the Secretary obtained a Department address or device after this discussion.

The gist of the report is that both Clinton and Powell — who have not publicly responded to the report as of this writing — consistently used their personal accounts for official business. (Plus, a former U.S. Ambassador to Kenya, Jonathan Scott Gration, but understandably people are more focused on the Clinton part. Gration is not running for president).

Basically, lots of and lots of people used their personal email when they should have been using their work one, but only those three (of the individuals investigated) did it "on an exclusive basis for day-to-day operations." She used a personal email system, usually her mobile phone, through her entire term as Secretary, via a private server at her home in New York, despite being cautioned repeatedly that this was inappropriate and potentially insecure.

For what it's worth, while Clinton clearly fell short in her duty to conduct and record her emails appropriately, in addition to surrendering them before she left office as she should have done, officials told The Washington Post that "their investigation so far has found little evidence that Clinton maliciously flouted classification rules."