Thousands of e-mails from Hillary Clinton’s private, unsecured server, created while she served as Secretary of State, are reportedly in the possession of Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR). The SVR is said to have gained access to the e-mails, of which it made copies, through its monitoring of a Romanian computer hacker named Marcel Lazăr Lehel (aka Guccifer). Guccifer had learned about the existence of Hillary Clinton’s private e-mail account after accessing the e-mails of her close confidante and informal adviser, Sidney Blumenthal, with whom Hillary had extensive correspondence during her term as Secretary of State.
A report attributed to Russia’s Security Council indicates that an internal battle has broken out over whether to publicly release the e-mails between the Director of the FSB, Alexander Bortnikov, and Chairwoman of the Council of Federation, Valentina Matviyenko. The latter had authorized a release of some of the e-mails to Russia Today (RT) back on March 20, 2013. Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service director expressed alarm at the release, primarily because of concerns that the release would reveal to U.S. intelligence services how Russia used its monitoring of Guccifer to obtain Clinton’s e-mails. He had good reason to be concerned. U.S. authorities worked with their Romanian counterparts to follow the trail that led to Guccifer’s arrest in Romania.
In March 2016, Chairwoman Matviyenko is said to have called for a total release of the e-mails, in part to influence the U.S. presidential election. Ms. Matvivenko reportedly cited Russian President Vladimir Putin’s positive statements about Donald Trump and claimed that Hillary Clinton was not liked by the Russian people.
Perhaps it was just a coincidence, but Guccifer was quickly extradited to the United States from Romania at the end of March. He is facing a nine-count federal indictment on various charges, including wire fraud, cyberstalking, identify theft, unauthorized access to computers and obstruction of justice.
The FBI requested the extradition, according to the Romanian government. Thus, it would be logical to assume that the FBI has been speaking with Guccifer regarding the server, although the agency has not officially confirmed such discussions.
“Because of the proximity to Sidney Blumenthal and the activity involving Hillary’s emails, [the timing] seems to be something beyond curious,” said Ron Hosko, former assistant director of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division from 2012-2014, as quoted by Fox News. “Here is an individual in a relatively poor Eastern European country who was able to intrude on sensitive emails about activities in Benghazi.”
The mainstream media had sought to protect Hillary Clinton from revelations about Guccifer’s role in the hacking of her private e-mail server as long as it could. For example, NBC News reporter Cynthia McFadden had interviewed Guccifer from a Bucharest prison and elicited Guccifer’s first-hand account that Hillary’s server was “not safe at all.” NBC sat on this interview for more than a month. Only after Guccifer was extradited to the U.S. and appeared to be of interest to the FBI did NBC have to acknowledge the potential importance of what Guccifer had to say regarding Hillary’s unsafe server.
On May 4th, NBC finally issued a press release about the interview that it planned to run several days later. Even then, NBC played defense for Hillary’s campaign, emphasizing in the press release that “Guccifer could provide no documentation to back up his claims, nor did he ever release anything on-line supporting his allegation, as he’d done frequently in prior hacks.” Of course, the best proof would be the released e-mails themselves, which RT had reported were obtained from Guccifer, complete with excerpts, in its March 20, 2013 article.
The New York Times has also played defense for the Clinton team. In an article appearing on May 11th entitled “Use of Unclassified Email Systems Not Limited to Clinton,” New York Times reporter Steven Lee Myers claimed it was regular government practice to send e-mails that may contain classified information over unclassified government computer networks used for more routine business. These unclassified government computer networks even had a nickname – “low side.”
“A review of the 30,322 emails from Mrs. Clinton’s private server that the State Department has made public under the Freedom of Information Act provides an extensive record of how such sensitive information often looped throughout President Obama’s foreign policy apparatus on unclassified systems, from embassies to the United Nations to the White House,” Mr. Myers wrote. “Many of the emails were sent over the State Department’s unclassified system, state.gov, which is considered secure but not at the level of the State Department’s system for emailing classified information.”
While acknowledging that Hillary Clinton’s private server “was assumed to be even less secure than the State Department’s ‘low side,’” the New York Times reporter made sure to add that “the unclassified servers at some government agencies have been hacked in recent years.”
Undoubtedly, the government’s own computer network systems need to be better secured. However, that is beside the point. For her own selfish reasons, Hillary Clinton set up a rogue private e-mail system that was not subject to any government oversight. Unlike with respect to its own systems, the government was not able to monitor the use of Hillary’s private system. It was not in a position to periodically inspect and make decisions on whether to upgrade security. And there was no automatic archiving of e-mails passing through the private system for document retention purposes.
The bottom line is that Hillary Clinton, while Secretary of State, recklessly caused an evasion of whatever safeguards existed in the standard government handling of e-mails pertaining to government business. She recklessly created a non-accountable private system, with knowledge that classified information could pass through the system and be hacked without detection from government information technology security experts. Some of the e-mails reportedly involved national defense, including one determined to be “secret” sent by her aide Huma Abedin, which dealt with North Korea’s ballistic missile launch. Another e-mail dealt with drone activities, particularly in Pakistan.
At minimum, therefore, it is highly likely that Hillary Clinton violated 18 U.S. Code § 793 (f):
Whoever, being entrusted with or having lawful possession or control of any document, writing, code book, signal book, sketch, photograph, photographic negative, blueprint, plan, map, model, instrument, appliance, note, or information, relating to the national defense, (1) through gross negligence permits the same to be removed from its proper place of custody or delivered to anyone in violation of his trust, or to be lost, stolen, abstracted, or destroyed, or (2) having knowledge that the same has been illegally removed from its proper place of custody or delivered to anyone in violation of its trust, or lost, or stolen, abstracted, or destroyed, and fails to make prompt report of such loss, theft, abstraction, or destruction to his superior officer— Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both. [Emphasis added.]
Whether any of the e-mails were marked classified at the time they were sent or received through her server is irrelevant. Whether Hillary only received e-mails containing sensitive secret information, and did not produce or send any of her own, is also irrelevant. Moreover, her intent is irrelevant. By using the private system in the first place and causing her aides to communicate to her over that system, with knowledge of the potential harm to national security if adversaries gained access to her non-secure system, Hillary engaged in a pattern of reckless conduct over four years. She was grossly negligent in permitting information relating to the national defense to be removed from its “proper place of custody” and communicated via e-mail over her unsafe server. Russia appears to have copies of at least some of these e-mails, after tracking the hacker Guccifer who gained access to Hillary’s server.
Hillary Clinton’s gross negligence in putting herself before national security, which she was entrusted to help protect, merits criminal prosecution.