Jay Fleitman: The question of Hillary Clinton’s emails

Published: 7/8/2016 9:07:34 PM


The clouds of obscuration thrown up by Hillary Clinton and her political organization around her improper use of a private email system for official communications while she served as Secretary of State began to scatter more than a month ago with the release of findings by the Office of the Inspector General of the State Department.

Until that moment, Ms. Clinton had insisted that her use of private emails conformed to the standards of the State Department and were approved by State Department experts.

The report was damning. Through the investigation, the Inspector General determined that Secretary Clinton's email system was an abuse of process, was not approved by the State Department, that she never sought permission or approval for her use of private email, and that if she had sought approval it would have been denied.

It found that she did not preserve her communications as is demanded by official process and that she did not therefore surrender her work product as is required at the end of her tenure. This investigation also found that questions were raised to the secretary about this matter by State Department workers who were then told to remain silent, and that there was the strong suggestion her private server was likely hacked.

This report was contrary to Clinton's public statements on this matter, which most generously can be called spin and more appropriately should be characterized as deception.

The public statement by FBI Director James Comey this week about the findings of his agency’s investigation was even more damning in revealing Clinton’s attempt to obstruct revelations about her use of a private unsecured email system.

She had all along insisted publicly that no classified material went through her system, but over 2,000 emails that went through her personal email system were in fact classified, including hundreds that were classified at the time they were sent, with eight email chains being Top Secret and seven email chains being classified as Top Secret Special Access.

Comey said "any reasonable person in Sen. Clinton's position should have known these emails had no place in an unsecured server." Her system had no full-time security, despite her insistence that the server was housed under the protection of the Secret Service, and director Comey opined that even Gmail would have provided greater security.

Clinton has publicly asserted that she had turned over all of the emails she had that were applicable to her tenure in the State Department. But the FBI identified "several thousand" emails that had not been turned over to the State Department, and there were untold more that had been deleted and were not recoverable.

Clinton has also maintained that her lawyers read each one of her emails and only deleted those with personal content, whereas the FBI determined that her lawyers did not really read those emails but scanned their titles, and after deleting Clinton's emails her lawyers "cleaned their devices" so that those emails were not recoverable.

Though the FBI could not definitely determine that the Clinton email system had been hacked, it did identify that "hostile actors gained access to the private email accounts of people with whom Clinton was in direct contact through her personal email system." Clinton also used her unsecured devices in the territories of “sophisticated adversaries.”

Clinton always asserted that she implemented this system for the convenience of using a single device for both personal and professional matters. The FBI report documented her use of multiple servers and multiple devices.

Though the director of the FBI chose not to recommend a criminal prosecution, the FBI found Clinton was “extremely careless” in protecting classified material.

The FBI and OIG reports make it irrefutably clear that Secretary Clinton had absolutely no hesitation over many months to look into the television camera and frankly lie to the American public.

An unasked question in both of these investigative reports: “Why?” Clinton is a sophisticated political actor. She had to know that setting up a private email server for her use as Secretary of State could be discovered and cause significant political damage and perhaps legal risk. It certainly is possible she has the arrogance to believe that if this email system were discovered that she, along with her friends in government, could obscure and obstruct her way out of trouble.

On the other hand, exactly what kind of material was she anticipating the need to hide in order to risk constructing a personal system that could deleted by her choice and thereby hidden from investigation or requests via the Freedom of Information Act? Certainly, if it were to hide poor decision-making as Secretary of State, this would make no sense, as those decisions and actions would be revealed through the course of our foreign affairs.

You can only speculate as to what might have been important enough to Clinton to take these tremendous risks both to herself and to the national security in creating and using an unprotected system. If I were guessing, it might have to do with the potential abuse of her position in soliciting contributions for the Clinton Foundation and payments in kind for huge speaking fees for her husband from foreign agencies and businesses with whom her State Department was dealing.

One thing has become crystal-clear to me by the revelations of these two investigative reports: Hillary Clinton cannot be allowed to come anywhere near the White House. It is frightening to consider the possibility of abuse of power by an emboldened Clinton elected to the White House with her hands on the levers of potentially punitive agencies like the FBI, Department of Justice, and the IRS.

The evidence is clear as to who she is. I will never vote for Hillary Clinton, as I could in no way take even the smallest responsibility for giving this person access to such broad power and risking those consequences to our nation and body politic.

Jay Fleitman, M.D., lives in Northampton. His column appears the first Tuesday of the month. He can be reached at opinion@gazettenet.com.


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