Little is known about hacking attempts on Clinton’s email accounts around this time, or how many accounts she has. But a June 2016 Forbes article about hacking attempts on Clinton’s campaign staffers mentions in passing: “Earlier this year, Clinton’s personal email accounts, found to have been used without the right permissions for official business, were also allegedly targeted by hackers in separate attacks.” (Forbes, 6/16/2016)
Sid Blumenthal is a Clinton confidant, reporter, and Clinton Foundation employee in the years Clinton is secretary of state. The interview will remain secret until it’s mentioned in a September 2016 FBI report.
The FBI identified at least 179 out of the over 800 emails that Blumenthal sent to Clinton containing information in an intelligence memo format. The State Department determined that 24 Blumenthal memos that contained information currently classified as “confidential,” as well as one classified as “secret” both currently and when it was sent.
Blumenthal tells the FBI that the content of the memos was provided to him from a number of different sources, including former US government officials and contacts, as well as contacts within foreign governments.
(In one email to Clinton, Blumenthal mentioned intelligence that he said came from an active US official, but apparently the FBI doesn’t ask him about this. The FBI report also will not mention emails in which Clinton sent Blumenthal classified information, despite him having no security clearance.)
Blumenthal’s memos contained a notation of “CONFIDENTIAL” in all capital letters. He claims this meant the memos were personal in nature and didn’t refer to the US government category of classified information at the “confidential” level.
Blumenthal claims he was not tasked to provide this information to Clinton, but he sent the emails because he thought they could be helpful. (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/2/2016)
The State Department’s inspector general Steve Linick issues a report claiming that the department “repeatedly provided inadequate and inaccurate responses to Freedom of Information Act [FOIA] requests involving top agency officials, including a misleading answer to a request three years ago seeking information on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s email use.”
Politico states the new report also points to “a series of failures in the procedures the office of the secretary used to respond to public records requests, including a lack of written policies and training, as well as inconsistent oversight by senior personnel.”
According to the report, “These procedural weaknesses, coupled with the lack of oversight by leadership and failure to routinely search emails, appear to contribute to inaccurate and incomplete responses.”
One important flawed department response was a letter sent to the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) in May 2013 after the organization asked for details on email accounts used by Clinton. State’s response to CREW was, “no records responsive to your request were located.” The report says the inspector general’s office “found evidence that [Clinton’s chief of staff Cheryl Mills] was informed of the request at the time it was received and subsequently tasked staff to follow up.” However, according to the report, none of those officials appear to have reviewed the results of the search done in the department’s files, and there was “no evidence” that those staffers who did the search and responded to CREW knew about Clinton’s private email setup. CREW followed up last year by saying it never received any final response to its FOIA request.
Other flaws pointed out by the inspector general’s report include extreme delays in other cases, such as an Associated Press FOIA request for Clinton’s schedules that was pending without substantive response for five years.
Politico also filed a FOIA request for legal and ethics reviews of former President Bill Clinton’s paid speeches. That request was pending for four years before the department began producing records.
Another failed response involved a Gawker request for emails that former Clinton adviser Philippe Reines exchanged with 34 news organizations. Politico reports “that request initially received a “no records” response from [the] State [Department], even though State has now found 81,000 potentially responsive emails in its official files. At a court hearing last month, a government lawyer would not concede that the no-records response was inadequate.” (Politico, 1/7/2016)
“Look, here is Hillary Clinton, somebody who worked on the staff of the Nixon impeachment committee, and what was the lesson, one of the lessons from that? Never write anything down. She did years of Whitewater investigations where she was the target, and here, many years later, she’s saying, ‘Oh, let’s subvert the rules,’ and writing it out herself? You know, whether that’s some sort of crime, I think, is not the issue. The issue is, it shows she kind of feels immune, that she lives in a bubble, and no one is ever going to find this out. Well, now we have.” Woodward, along with Carl Bernstein, is best known for breaking the Watergate scandal that led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon. (Mother Jones, 2/15/2016)
The State Department agrees to begin publicly releasing nearly all of Abedin’s emails to or from a private email account that she used while she was Clinton’s deputy chief of staff. The department has determined it has 29,000 pages of emails from Abedin, using an account from the same clintonemail.com server that Clinton used. (The number of emails in those pages is unclear.)
The department will process these in batches of 400 pages a month, with the processing starting on March 1, 2016. Most of the emails in each batch will released except for a few exceptions, such as forwards of news articles. The last batch is due to be released in April 2017.
This release is because of a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) brought by Judicial Watch. Tom Fitton, the head of Judicial Watch, says, “Obviously, [Abedin] was as close an aide as you could have had to Mrs. Clinton. If Mrs. Clinton didn’t keep records she should have or destroyed or deleted them, maybe we can find them through Ms. Abedin. And Ms. Abedin’s activities are also controversial.” (Politico, 1/11/2016) (The Hill, 1/12/2016)
Fox News reports, “The FBI investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of private email as secretary of state has expanded to look at whether the possible ‘intersection’ of Clinton Foundation work and State Department business may have violated public corruption laws,” according to three unnamed “intelligence sources.”
One source says, “The agents are investigating the possible intersection of Clinton Foundation donations, the dispensation of State Department contracts, and whether regular processes were followed.”
Clinton denies this, saying, “No, there’s nothing like that that is happening.”
However, Fox News points out, “Experts including a former senior FBI agent said the Bureau does not have to notify the subject of an investigation.” (Fox News, 1/11/2016)
One month later, the Washington Post will report that the State Department issued a subpoena to the Clinton Foundation in late 2015. (The Washington Post, 2/11/2016)
In October 2016, the Wall Street Journal will confirm the existence of an FBI Clinton Foundation investigation, which has been on-going since 2015.
The Clinton campaign and MSNBC‘s Chris Hayes show All In set up a phone in interview between Hayes and Clinton, with a plan to carry out a “tax hit” on Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign. Emails released by Wikileaks in October 2016 shows the discussion of this plan among Clinton staffers, with the apparent compliance of reporter Chris Hayes to help set the stage.
Clinton campaign speechwriter Dan Schwerin writes the script Clinton will use during the interview, but first runs it by several other campaign staffers, asking for their opinions and suggestions before the final draft is given to Clinton.
Schwerin writes, “[Clinton] is going to call into Chris Hayes’ show this afternoon to do her tax hit. How does this look to you guys?” He includes Clinton’s plan to add “a new ‘fair share surcharge’ on multi-millionaires and closing loopholes to make it harder to game the system.”
When the live interview begins, Chris Hayes poses the question, “Hillary Clinton is expanding her efforts to challenge Bernie Sanders on his signature issue, the economic inequality, and I got a chance to speak earlier with Secretary Clinton and joining me by phone, from Iowa, we discussed everything from the electability question to what Bernie Sanders said today about her campaign. But I start by asking about her proposed tax hikes for the highest earners.” (Wikileaks, 10/11/2016)
Clinton responds to Hayes’ question by reading Schwerin’s written script, almost word for word. A video is also provided that highlights the event.
Hayes will then follow up with an interview of Sanders campaign manager, Jeff Weaver, and allows a response to Clinton’s new “fair share surcharge” plan. (MSNBC Transcript, 01/11/2016)
He asserts in a letter to Congress that an unnamed intelligence agency has made a sworn declaration that “several dozen emails [had been] determined by the [Intelligence Community] element to be at the CONFIDENTIAL, SECRET, and TOP SECRET/SAP levels.” “SAP” stands for “special access program,” and the New York Times says that they are “often intelligence-gathering programs and other secret programs run by the Pentagon and the CIA that are among the government’s most closely guarded secrets.”
Other intelligence officials say that the several dozen emails do not include two emails classified top secret taken from a random sample of 40 of Clinton’s emails. (The New York Times, 1/19/2016) (NBC News, 1/19/2016)
It will later be reported that 22 of Clinton’s emails were deemed “top secret,” including one from the random sample of 40 emails, with many more classified “secret” or “confidential.”
In the wake of media reports that Intelligence Community Inspector General Charles McCullough discovered some of Clinton’s emails contained above top secret (or “top secret / special access program”) intelligence, an unnamed US intelligence official tells NBC News “that the special access program in question was so sensitive that McCullough and some of his aides had to receive clearance to be read in on it…” (NBC News, 1/19/2016)
On January 19, 2016, it was reported that some of Clinton’s emails contained “top secret” and even above “top secret” information. One day later, Clinton says “the best we can determine” is that the emails were a forward of a New York Times article on a classified drone program and that they probably were classified retroactively. “How a New York Times public article that goes around the world could be in any way viewed as classified, or the fact that it would be sent to other people off of the New York Times site, I think, is one of the difficulties that people have in understanding what this is about.” (NPR, 1/20/2016)
For months afterwards, very little is known about these emails, so it is difficult to challenge her claim. But in June 2016, the Wall Street Journal will report that in 2011, the State Department was allowed to approve or disapprove planned drone strikes, and most of Clinton’s 22 “top secret” or above “top secret” emails related to those discussions. (The Wall Street Journal, 6/9/2016)
In a Fox News interview, former CIA operations officer Charles Faddis explains how ‘top secret” and especially SAP or “special access program” intelligence is kept separate from all other intelligence: “There is zero ambiguity here. None. Hard copy, electronic, it is clearly marked. If it’s electronic, you’re probably accessing it in a completely separate channel. So not all one stream where everything is mixed together.”
He adds that “the reason this stuff is in this channel is because it’s going to do incredible damage to US national security if it gets out in the open.”
Asked if a leak of the top secret intelligence sent to Clinton’s private email would cost lives, he replies, “Absolutely, without question.”
And when asked what would have happened if he had sent such information to an unsecure email account, he replies, “My career’s over, I lose my clearance, I lose my job, and then I go to prison, probably for a very long time.” (Fox News, 1/20/2016)
In the wake of a new revelation that some of Clinton’s private emails discussed top secret “special access programs,” Clinton spokesperson Brian Fallon suggests that Intelligence Community Inspector General Charles McCullough and Congressional Republicans have coordinated against Clinton. This claim comes after the contents of a letter McCullough sent to Congress were leaked to the media.
Fallon says, “I think that Republicans are continuing to try to trumpet up and resurface these allegations for the purposes of hurting her campaign.” After a reporter points out that McCullough isn’t a Republican, Fallon replies, “Actually, I think this was a very coordinated leak yesterday. Because two months ago, there was a political report that directly challenged the finding of this inspector general, and I don’t think he liked that very much. So I think that he put two Republican senators up to sending him a letter so that he would have an excuse to resurface the same allegations he made back in the summer that have been discredited.” (Politico, 1/20/2016)
Fallon backtracks two days later, admitting he doesn’t know whether McCullough leaked the letter, but suggests he still bears responsibility for the fact it was leaked. McCullough was appointed by President Obama in 2011 and unanimously approved by the Senate. (CNN, 1/22/2016)
He says in an interview, “Given the fact that the Pentagon acknowledges that they get attacked about 100,000 times a day, I think the odds are pretty high.” Russia, China, and Iran are suggested as countries that would have targeted her server. Gates was defense secretary from 2006 to 2011, under Presidents Bush and Obama. In 2015, Gates praised Clinton, saying, “She was a good secretary of state.” (The Hill, 1/21/2016)
While greeting potential voters on the campaign trail in Iowa, Clinton is asked by a private citizen about her email scandal: “How do you plan to sidestep the reality that you are sending secure, SAP [special access program] emails on your private, unsecured server?”
Clinton replies, “You know what, it’s not true. It’s not true. I never sent or received—”
The citizen interrupts to ask, “You never received top secret information on your private server?”
Clinton responds, “No, no—I did not.” (Politico, 1/21/2016)
Recent news reports said that Clinton had received emails containing “top secret” information, including information about above top secret/special access programs. (The New York Times, 1/19/2016)
Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Mukasey argues that “intelligence community investigators believe it is nearly certain that Mrs. Clinton’s server was hacked, possibly by the Chinese or the Russians… [F]rom her direction that classification rules be disregarded, to the presence on her personal email server of information at the highest level of classification, to her repeated falsehoods of a sort that juries are told every day may be treated as evidence of guilty knowledge—it is nearly impossible to draw any conclusion other than that she knew enough to support a conviction at the least for mishandling classified information.” (The Wall Street Journal, 1/21/2016)
An internal review of Clinton’s private paid speeches is conducted by campaign aides, in an effort to survey the political damage her remarks could cause if they ever became public. The review is conducted by Clinton’s research director Tony Carrk. On this day, Carrk sends the results of the review to Clinton campaign chair John Podesta and other Clinton aides. His email consists of dozens of pages of potentially politically damaging quotes from Clinton’s speeches. It will get released on October 7, 2016 when WikiLeaks starts publishing emails from Podesta’s private email account. Clinton will confirm the authenticity of the email two days later.
Below are some notable revelations from Carrk’s email:
- Clinton said that with everybody watching “all of the back room discussions and the deals… you need both a public and a private position.”
- Clinton said she had to leave her phone and computer in a special box when traveling to China and Russia, but there is evidence she sent at least one email from Russia.
- Clinton admitted it was against the rules for some State Department officials to use BlackBerrys at the same time she used one.
- Clinton said when she got to State Department, employees “were not mostly permitted to have handheld devices.”
- Clinton asked why the computers of a fugitive whistleblower were not exploited by foreign countries “when my cell phone was going to be exploited.”
- Clinton said that her department officials “were not even allowed to use mobile devices because of security issues.” (Wikileaks, 10/7/2016)
Addressing her email scandal again, she says that it’s “fair criticism” to say she handled the scandal poorly. However, she adds, “I’m not willing to say it was an error in judgment because nothing I did was wrong.” (The Washington Post, 1/25/2016)
In September 2015, she said she made a “mistake” and took responsibility for it. (ABC News, 9/8/2015)
He adds, “And they also say that if the attorney general does not indict, they’re going public. So one way or another, either she’s gonna be indicted, and that process begins, or we try her in the public eye with her campaign.”
DeLay is a Republican and was the former House Majority Leader. He was convicted of money laundering and conspiracy in 2010, but that conviction was later overturned. (The New York Daily News, 1/26/2016)
Former FBI officials say the length of the FBI’s investigation into Clinton’s email and server is not unusual. Ron Hosko, the FBI’s former assistant director of the criminal investigative division, says, “I don’t know that there’s any magical cutoff date.” However, he adds, “I think the clock ticks louder every day. I’m sure they’re all incredibly sensitive to it.”
Political science professor Andrew Smith says, “It does give pause to Democrats who are concerned that there may be another shoe to drop down the road.” (The Hill, 1/28/2016)
John Schindler, a former National Security Agency (NSA) analyst and counterintelligence officer, writes, “Why Ms. Clinton and her staff refused to use State Department email for official business is an open and important question. Suspicion inevitably falls on widespread allegations of pay-for-play, a corrupt scheme whereby foreign entities gave cash to the Clinton Global Initiative in exchange for Ms. Clinton’s favors at Foggy Bottom [State Department headquarters]. […] Regardless of whether Ms. Clinton was engaged in political corruption, she unquestionably cast aside security as secretary of state.” The Clinton Global Initiative is one of the Clinton Foundation’s major projects. (The New York Observer, 1/28/2016)
Bradley Moss, a lawyer who specializes in national security and protection of classified information, speculates about who will be targeted by the FBI’s investigation into Clinton’s emails and server.
He suggests Clinton is less in danger that her aides, since most of the retroactively classified emails were written by her aides. “It’d be a lot harder to make a criminal charge for having received [classified] information. If I’m in Clinton’s campaign, I’m more worried if am Cheryl Mills, Huma Abedin, or Jake Sullivan than if I’m Hillary Clinton. […] The sloppiness and the complete fundamental failure to comply with any aspect of operational and informational security is what puts them at risk. You just can’t do that that many times and not expect to find yourself in trouble.” (The Hill, 1/28/2016)
This is according to an unnamed former high-ranking Russian intelligence officer. This officer says, “Of course the SVR got it all.” (The SVR, Sluzhba Vneshney Razvedki, is the successor intelligence agency to the KGB.) He adds, “I don’t know if we’re as good as we were in my time, but even half-drunk, the SVR could get those emails. They probably couldn’t believe how easy Hillary made it for them.” (The New York Observer, 1/28/2016)
Joe Scarborough, host of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” comments, “[T]he Hillary Clinton investigation of the FBI is far more progressed and [my co-host] Mika [Brzezinski] and I have been hearing it from the top officials in the Obama administration for actually several months now. And we can’t go to a meeting in Washington where we don’t hear that. […] All of our sources high up are telling us the same thing: that this investigation is far more advanced than we the public knows. What are you hearing?”
Mark Halperin, a political analyst at Bloomberg News, comments, “There’s a lot of chatter amongst FBI agents, many of whom have never been big fans of the Clintons, but a lot of FBI agents seem to be saying something is happening here. … [And] there are some people in the White House are starting to talk about this. It’s not clear whether they know what’s happening or it’s just their intuition but the body language among some Obama administration officials is, this is more serious and something is going to happen.” (MSNBC, 1/29/2016)
This is revealed by the State Department. However, the department will not make public any part of the 22 emails, not even the years they were sent or who sent them, because they contain such highly classified information. It is believed the 22 emails occurred in seven different email chains. (The New York Times, 1/29/2016) The US government defines “top secret” as “information, the unauthorized disclosure of which reasonably could be expected to cause exceptionally grave damage to the national security.” (The New York Observer, 2/1/2016)
A Clinton spokesperson claims that none of those emails originated with Clinton. (The Washington Post, 3/27/2016)
It will look into whether information on Clinton’s private server was classified at the time it was sent or received. The Wall Street Journal calls this a “dramatic reversal,” since the State Department has consistently downplayed the issue. This investigation is in addition to the FBI investigation and other inquiries. It is also separate from the investigation being conducted by the State Department’s inspector general office. (The Wall Street Journal, 1/29/2016)
“I think he’s in a position where he’s being forced to triple-time make a case of what would otherwise be, what they call, a slam dunk.” Issa is a Republican and he chaired the House Oversight Committee from 2011 to 2015. (The Washington Examiner, 1/29/2016)
On January 29, 2016, Earnest is asked if the White House believes Clinton will be indicted for her email scandal or not. He replies, “I know that some officials over there have said is that she is not a target of the investigation. So that does not seem to be the direction that it’s trending, but I’m certainly not going to weigh in on a decision or in that process in any way. That is a decision to be made solely by independent prosecutors. But, again, based on what we know from the Department of Justice, it does not seem to be headed in that direction.”
On March 9, Attorney General Loretta Lynch says that Earnest shouldn’t have made such comments. “Certainly, it’s my hope when it comes to ongoing investigations, that we would all stay silent. […] It is true that neither I nor anyone in the department has briefed Mr. Earnest or anyone in the White House about this matter. I’m simply not aware of the source of his information.”
Earnest then clarifies that he was only referring to his opinion of news reports. (Politico, 3/9/2016)
Mukasey is asked if classified markings on Clinton’s “top secret” emails would have been removed before being emailed to Clinton. He replies, “Well, the documents originated someplace. They didn’t drop in from Mars. The person who originated them necessarily put classified markings on them… Now how did the markings get off? […] [There] is very particular language relating to the fact that there are three communication systems within the government. Non-secure, SIPR [Secret Internet Protocol Router Network or SIPRNet] or secure, and the highest, which is JWICS [Joint Worldwide Intelligence Communications System]. The information from SIPR and from JWICS cannot move on the low end system, and if you put anything on there that’s got those markings on it, it essentially sets off an alarm that alerts people involved with security.”
He concludes, “[I]f she has signals intelligence or information from a human source that is obviously confidential and secret and relates to intelligence activities of the United States abroad, she’d have to have been a low grade moron in order to not know that it’s classified.” (CNN, 1/30/2016)
This is notable because at the time Clinton is secretary of state, Blumenthal is a private citizen (and journalist and Clinton Foundation employee) with no government security clearance at the time. Dozens of other Blumenthal emails have been partly redacted, but here are the four fully redacted ones, with only the subject headings known:
- June 23, 2009, titled “N. Ireland/Shaun.” This is a likely reference to Shaun Woodward, who is the secretary of state for Northern Ireland at the time.
- June 20, 2011, titled “memo hrc Bahrain/Iran.” This is redacted because it contains information related to foreign activities.
- June 28, 2012, titled “some intel on internal german/euro maneuvering.”
- August 3, 2012. This email is entirely redacted except for the statement that the email contains information from “sources with access to the highest levels of the Governments and institutions.”
Twenty-two emails have been deemed “top secret,” so no details whatsoever about them have been made public. It is not known if any of them were sent by Blumenthal. (The Daily Caller, 1/30/2016)
The New York Observer comments, “How Mr. Blumenthal, who held no US Government position after January 2001, when Bill Clinton left the White House, had access to classified information a decade after that is not explained.” Furthermore, “Since Mr. Blumenthal’s emails were illegally accessed by a private hacker [Guccifer, in March 2013], they can be safely assumed in to be in the hands of numerous foreign intelligence services.” (The New York Observer, 2/1/2016)
In the wake of revelations that 22 of Clinton’s emails have been retroactively classified “top secret,” she says, “Let’s just get it out. Let’s see what it is and let the American people draw their own conclusions. […] I think it’s pretty clear [the Republicans are] grasping at straws…” (CNN, 1/31/2016)
John Schindler, a former National Security Agency (NSA) counterintelligence officer, comments that “this is pure political theater: she surely knows that the emails are not going to be released on security grounds anytime soon, probably not for several decades, at least.” (The New York Observer, 2/1/2016)
ABC News journalist George Stephanopoulos asks Clinton, “You know, you’ve said many times that [your] emails were not marked classified. The non-disclosure agreement you signed as secretary of state says that that’s really not that relevant. It says classified information is marked or unmarked classified and that all of you are trained to treat all of that sensitively and should know the difference.”
Clinton replies, “Well of course and that’s exactly what I did. I take classified information very seriously. You know, you can’t get information off the classified system in the State Department to put on an unclassified system, no matter what that system is. We were very specific about that. And when you receive information, of course, there has to be some markings, some indication that someone down the chain thought that this was classified and that was not the case.”
The Washington Post reviews the exchange and says that Clinton’s answer is “only half of the story. Even without markings, officials are supposed to recognize that information passed through an unclassified system might be deemed as classified and should take steps to protect it.” Furthermore, Clinton did sign a non-disclosure agreement legally obligating her to do just that. (The Washington Post, 3/4/2016)
Asked by a reporter if voters should interpret his refusal to highlight the issue means that Clinton did nothing wrong, Sanders replies “No. Nope, nope. That is not, I think, a fair assessment. That is, I think, a very serious issue,” However he adds, “There is a legal process taking place, I do not want to politicize that issue. It is not my style.” (CNN, 1/31/2016)
Sanders’ more critical stance comes two days after news reports that 22 of Clinton’s emails were retroactively classified “top secret.” (The New York Times, 1/29/2016)