In July 2016, the State Department will reveal some limited details about 22 “top secret” emails involving Clinton. One email chain is sent sometime in 2011, and involves two “top secret” emails. The first is sent by Clinton to her aide Jake Sullivan, and the second is Sullivan’s reply. The content of the emails remain unknown. (Vice News, 7/22/2016)
In July 2016, the State Department will reveal some limited details about 22 “top secret” emails involving Clinton. One email chain is sent sometime in 2011, and involves seven “top secret” emails. The chain begins with an email from Clinton’s aide Jake Sullivan to Clinton. It goes back and forth, with three emails from Clinton to Sullivan, and three more emails from Sullivan to Clinton. The content of the emails remains unknown. (Vice News, 7/22/2016)
In July 2016, the State Department will reveal some limited details about 22 “top secret” emails involving Clinton. One email chain is sent sometime in 2011, and involves two “top secret” emails. The chain begins with an email written by an unnamed State Department official. It makes its way to Sullivan, who forwards it to Clinton. Clinton then sends a reply to Sullivan. The contents of the emails remain unknown. (Vice News, 7/22/2016)
In July 2016, the State Department will reveal some limited details about 22 “top secret” emails involving Clinton. One email chain is sent sometime in 2011, and involves five “top secret” emails. The chain begins with an email from Clinton’s aide Jake Sullivan to Clinton. The chain goes back and forth, with two emails from Clinton to Sullivan, and two more emails from Sullivan to Clinton. The contents of the emails remain unknown. (Vice News, 7/22/2016)
In July 2016, the State Department will reveal some limited details about 22 “top secret” emails involving Clinton. One email chain is sent sometime in 2011, and involves two “top secret” emails. The chain begins with an email written by an unnamed State Department official. It makes its way to Sullivan, who forwards it to Clinton. There is no known reply from Clinton. The contents of the emails remain unknown. (Vice News, 7/22/2016)
State Department diplomatic security staff give a cybersecurity PowerPoint presentation meant for Clinton. However, she doesn’t attend it. According to a 2016 letter by Julia Frifield, the department’s assistant secretary for legislative affairs, “although the PowerPoint indicates the briefing was for former Secretary Clinton, we understand from the testimony of the briefers that she was not in attendance.” The PowerPoint presentation has not yet been declassified so it can be publicly released. (US Senate Judiciary Committee, 3/3/2016)
Very little is known about Clinton’s 22 emails that are later deemed “top secret,” since all details about them have remained classified. However, it is known that one of them is sent sometime this year. A few details about just this one email are known because it will be included in a random selection of 40 emails that will get reviewed by State Department Inspector General Steve Linick in 2015.
After Linick decides the email should be top secret, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency will perform a second review and confirm that the email should be top secret. That indicates the email contains information obtained from both CIA sources and US spy satellites. (The New York Times, 9/7/2015) (The New York Times, 2/29/2016)
According to a 2015 State Department inspector general report, in 2011, only 61,156 department emails out of a billion are formally archived, a rate of far less than one percent. In 2013, the number is even lower, only 41,749. Clinton will later justify her use of a private email address by claiming that her emails to other government officials would be permanently archived through their email accounts. (Politico, 3/11/2015)
The department has only an acting inspector general for most of this time. (The Associated Press, 6/8/2016)
Justin Cooper is a former advisor to President Clinton who provides technical support to Clinton’s private email server. On January 9, 2011, he emails Clinton’s deputy chief of staff, Huma Abedin, that “he had to shut down the server” because he believes “someone was trying to hack us and while they did not get in I didn’t want to let them have the chance to.”
Later in the day, Cooper emails Abedin to warn her, “We were attacked again so I shut [the server] down for a few min [minutes].”
On January 10, Abedin emails Clinton’s chief of staff, Cheryl Mills, and another Clinton aide and tells them not to email “anything sensitive” to Clinton, and says she can “explain more in person.”
Department policy requires employees to report suspicious cybersecurity incidents to security officials. However, a 2016 State Department inspector general’s investigative report will find no evidence that Clinton or her staff reported this incident to anyone else within the department. (US Department of State, 5/25/2016)
Her aide Jake Sullivan sends the emails which appear to include a summary of secret talks conducted by the “P5 1,” the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany. The subject line of the first email is “FW: Summary of Day One of Istanbul P5 1 talks,” and the second contains a summary of day two.
The emails will be published in 2015, but in heavily redacted form. The New York Times will later report, “State Department officials appear to have concluded that those details about conversations among foreign officials should have been classified as ‘secret’ at the time they were sent.” “Secret” is the medium level of classification, below “top secret.” (The New York Times, 9/30/2015) (The New York Times, 9/30/2015) (US Department of State, 12/31/2015)
An email from someone named John Godfrey is forwarded to her, and she doesn’t recognize his name or email domain. After being told that he works for the State Department, Clinton comments in an email, “I was surprised that he used a personal account if he is at State.” (The Washington Post, 1/8/2016)
A New York Observer article will later comment, “It’s hard to miss the irony of Ms. Clinton expressing surprise about a State Department staffer using personal email for work, which the secretary of state noted in her own personal email.” (The New York Observer, 1/9/2016)
Sid Blumenthal sends Clinton an email with the subject line, “H: Serious problems for Libyan Rebels. Sid.” Blumenthal is a journalist and Clinton Foundation employee who frequently sends intelligence emails to Clinton, despite being a private citizen with no security clearance. Clinton forwards the email to her top aide Huma Abedin and asks her to print it out. But she also asks, “Can you print for me w/o any identifiers?” Abedin replies “Yes.” (The New York Times, 6/29/2015)
Assistant Secretary for Diplomatic Security Eric Boswell sends a memo to Clinton and other top State Department officials with the subject: “Compromise of Officials’ Personal Email Accounts.”
It states, “Threat analysis by the DS [Diplomatic Security] cyber security team and related incident reports indicate a dramatic increase since January 2011 in attempts by”—the next phrase is later redacted on the grounds of containing “foreign government information”—“to compromise the private home email accounts of senior Department officials. … Specifically, the actors are sending cleverly forged emails to victims’ private web-based accounts (e.g. Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo). These ‘spear phishing’ messages appear to be sent by US government officials but are designed to trick recipients into activating embedded malicious code by clicking on an attachment or link. Although the targets are unclassified, personal email accounts, the likely objective is to compromise user accounts and thereby gain access to policy documents and personal information that could enable technical surveillance and possibly blackmail.”
Boswell concludes, “We urge Department users to minimize the use of personal web email for business, as some compromised home systems have been reconfigured by these actors to automatically forward copies of all composed emails to an undisclosed recipient.” (US Department of State, 11/5/2015)
Between May and July 2011, Clinton will get three emails that seems to perfectly fit Boswell’s warning. Despite this, Clinton continues to exclusively use a private email address for all her work and personal emails. (US Department of State, 10/30/2015) (US Department of State, 5/25/2016)
Clinton emails her deputy chief of staff Huma Abedin and tells her to print out two recent emails from former British Prime Minister Tony Blair. Both Clinton and Abedin are using private email accounts on Clinton’s server. The emails are CCed to Clinton aide Jake Sullivan, who also is using a private email account. Nearly all of the content of Blair’s messages is later redacted, due to containing “Foreign government information” and “foreign relations or foreign activities of the US, including confidential sources.” (Judicial Watch, 1/29/2016) At the time, Blair is the official Middle East envoy representing the US, Russia, the UN and the EU, and he is heavily involved in Middle Eastern peace negotiations. (BBC, 5/27/2015)
On March 13, 2011, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Jeffrey D. Feltman writes in an urgent email that Saudi Arabia and The United Arab Emirates are sending troops into the neighboring country of Bahrain to quash anti-government protests there. The email is sent to more than 20 other US officials, and then replied to and forwarded ten times in the next 24 hours. Recipients include Clinton, US Ambassador to Kuwait Deborah Jones, Homeland Security Adviser John Brennan, Deputy National Security Adviser Denis McDonough, and US Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice.
Feltman’s original email and some of the replies contain information later deemed classified. However, many of the emails in the chain are sent through the State Department’s unclassified system, state.gov, nicknamed “the low side,” instead of the department’s system for classified information, nicknamed “the high side.” Clinton’s private server is considered even less secure than “the low side.”
The New York Times will later report on the email chain to illustrate how widespread the emailing of obviously classified information through improper channels had become during this time period. (The New York Times, 5/10/2016) (US Department of State, 2/29/2016)
A widespread Libyan uprising against long-time Libyan ruler Muammar el-Qaddafi began in mid-February 2011, but the rebels lack weapons and are getting defeated. By a vote of ten to five, the UN Security Council approves a resolution authorizing “all necessary measures” to protect civilians there. (United Nations, 03/17/2011)
No country uses ground forces, but a NATO-led air war begins three days later, targeting el-Qaddafi’s forces. 17 countries are involved, with most of the forces belonging to the US, France, and Britain. (Al Jazeera, 3/25/2011) The civil war will continue for most of the rest of 2011 before the rebels win.
Clinton confidant Sid Blumenthal sends Clinton an email which states, “Tyler spoke to a colleague currently at CIA, who told him the agency had been dependent for intelligence from [redacted].” “Tyler” is Tyler Drumheller, a CIA operative until 2005. (Yahoo, 10/8/2015) Blumenthal sent Clinton hundreds of intelligence updates which appear to be based on information from Drumheller. It’s unclear where Drumheller got his information from, but this email suggests Drumheller was getting information from at least one unnamed active CIA agent.
In March 2011, State Department security officials warned Clinton and other senior officials that there was a “dramatic increase” in hacker attacks specifically targeting senior US officials. It concluded, “We urge department users to minimize the use of personal web email for business.”
This is followed by a cybersecurity briefing in April 2011 and then another one in May. Clinton’s immediate staff and other top officials attend the briefings, but it is not clear if Clinton herself does. However, after Clinton ends her term in 2013, a copy of a classified presentation used during one of the briefings will be found in her papers. It contains warnings similar to the March 2011 warning. (US Department of State, 5/25/2016)
Clinton aide Jake Sullivan sends Clinton a forward of a Reuters article explaining how former Libyan foreign minister Moussa Koussa has just defected to Britain and will be talking to British intelligence. The article will not be redacted later, but all of the extensive comments by Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs William Burns will be. Then Clinton adds three lines of commentary that also will be totally redacted. Her email will later be deemed “secret,” which is the middle level of classification. (US Department of State, 2/29/2016)
Even though Blumenthal is a private citizen with no security clearance, Clinton asks her aide Jake Sullivan, “This is informative. Should we pass on (unidentified) to WH / or other agencies?” (“WH” stands for “White House.”)
Sullivan replies, “Yes, I will do so. Very interesting.”
Politico will later note that Clinton referred to Blumenthal as “(unidentified)” because “The White House barred Clinton from bringing Blumenthal to [The State Department] because of sharp words he used to attack Obama during the 2008 primary.” (Politico, 2/29/2016)
Clinton confidant Sid Blumenthal emails Clinton that Libyan rebel “military leaders are considering the possibility of hiring private security firms to help train and organize their forces.” Clinton forwards the email to her aide Jake Sullivan and comments that the “idea of using private security experts to arm the opposition should be considered.” (Note that Clinton’s comment will be released by the House Benghazi Committee in October 2015, but when the State Department releases the email in January 2016, it will be redacted. (House Benghazi Committee, 10/7/2015) (US Department of State, 1/7/2016)
On July 14, 2011, Blumenthal will email Clinton with a proposal for the rebels to hire a private security company that he’s invested in.
Clinton aide Jake Sullivan sends Clinton a three-page email that will later be entirely redacted except for one line that appears to summarize the contents: “Sharpening the Aims and Execution of the Coalition Mission in Libya.”
The sole line prior to this one will later be redacted according to a classification code indicating it reveals the name of a secret official working for the Defense Department. Clinton apparently does not send a reply. (US Department of State, 2/29/2016)
The email discusses the current security situation in Libya. It says that due to violence in the town of Ajdabiyah, US Special Envoy Christopher Stevens “is considering departure from Benghazi.” It also discusses Stevens’ concerns about departing and it details the “phased checkout” of Stevens’ staff from the area, possibly in a few hours. Additionally, it contains the latest secret intelligence from AFRICOM (US Africa Command, the US military in Africa), detailing nearby troop movements in the Libyan civil war that could threaten Stevens and his staff. Tim Davis, a special assistant to Clinton, writes the email and then sends it to Clinton aide Huma Abedin, who forwards it to Clinton. Davis marks it “SBU,” which means “sensitive but unclassified.” The email will be released to the public in full on May 13, 2015.
However, the State Department’s inspector general will later conclude that the email should not have been made public without redactions. Furthermore, in August 2015, an unnamed government official familiar with the investigation into Clinton’s emails will tell CBS News that at least the part of the email containing current military intelligence should have been marked classified at the time. Additionally, because that information originated from the military, the State Department did not have the right to declassify it at the time it was sent or later. The unnamed official will say that this kind of mistake is not unusual for State Department officials when they discuss information from multiple sources, but the difference is that this email is stored on Clinton’s private server, which can be easily hacked or monitored. (CBS News, 8/19/2015) (US Department of State, 5/13/2015)
In 2015, Fox News will claim that the email contained intelligence from the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), the National Security Agency (NSA), and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), which oversees satellite imagery. Furthermore, “all three agencies confirmed to the intelligence community inspector general that the intelligence was classified when it was sent four years ago by Abedin to Clinton’s private account, and remains classified to this day.” (Fox News, 8/26/2015) Even though the email will be made public in full in May 2015, it will be reclassified as “secret” in September 2015. “Secret” is the medium level of classification, below “top secret.” (The New York Times, 9/30/2015)
State Department official Christina Tomlinson writes an email about a recent traffic accident involving US Special Envoy Christopher Stephens in Libya that killed four Libyan civilians. The email is sent to over 20 other US officials; most of them appear to have jobs related to the US military effort in the on-going Libyan civil war. The name and email address of one recipient will later be redacted due to that person being a secret CIA official. Clinton’s chief of staff Cheryl Mills forwards the email to Clinton. (US Department of State, 1/7/2016)
Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes sends an email to about a dozen other US officials. Many of the names are later redacted, including that of at least one secret CIA official. The email forwards comments from a recent President Obama interview, indicating Obama will not allow any photographs to be released of Osama bin Laden’s dead body. Clinton aide Jake Sullivan forwards the email to Clinton. (US Department of State, 1/7/2016)
On May 5, 2011, Sid Blumenthal emails Clinton with a warning about a “French economic grab” in Libya. With the rebels likely to eventually take over the oil-rich country due to NATO air support, Blumenthal worries that the French government is establishing strong ties with the rebel Transitional National Council (TNC). The French government is sending medical and humanitarian supplies to the rebels, and also having them meet with French business leaders, including oil company executives.
The next day, Clinton emails Blumenthal back, saying, “Just met w TNC again, but signed no contracts!” (US Department of State, 1/29/2016)
Clinton’s deputy chief of staff Huma Abedin sends an email to another close Clinton staffer discuss Clinton’s concern that someone has been “hacking into her email” after she received an email with a suspicious link to a website with pornographic material.
The FBI will later report, “There is no additional information as to why Clinton was concerned about someone hacking into her email account or if the specific link referenced by Abedin was used as a vector to infect Clinton’s device…”
Several hours later, Clinton receives an email from the personal account of Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs William Burns that also has a link to a suspect website.
The next day, Clinton emails Burns: “Is this really from you? I was worried about opening it!” Department policy requires employees to report suspicious cybersecurity incidents to security officials. However, a 2016 State Department inspector general’s investigative report will find no evidence that Clinton or her staff reports this incident to anyone else within the department. It is unknown if either hacking attack is successful, since the incidents were not investigated at the time. (US Department of State, 5/25/2016) (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/2/2016)
The FBI will later be unable to determine if Clinton ever opened the attachment. But “Open source information indicated, if opened, the targeted user’s device may have been infected, and information would have been sent to at least three computers overseas, including one in Russia.” (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/2/2016)
In March 2011, a State Department security official warned Clinton and others that there was a dramatic increase in attempts “to compromise the private home email accounts of senior Department officials. […] Specifically, the actors are sending cleverly forged emails to victims’ private web-based accounts… These ‘spear phishing’ messages appear to be sent by US government officials but are designed to trick recipients into activating embedded malicious code by clicking on an attachment or link. […] We urge Department users to minimize the use of personal web email for business…” (US Department of State, 11/5/2015) Despite such warnings and incidents, Clinton continues to exclusively use a private email address for all her work and personal emails.
An email exchange between Sid Blumenthal and Cody Shearer shows they are negotiating with Tyler Drumheller to contract with David Grange to send four operatives on a week-long mission to Tunis, Tunisia, and to the border of Libya and back. Clinton confidant Blumenthal has joined a business partnership with Clinton associate Shearer, former CIA official Drumheller, and former Major General Grange in Grange’s company Osprey Global Solutions that is trying to win a contract with the Libyan rebels to train and assist them in the on-going Libyan civil war.
An email from Drumheller to Blumenthal reveals that the trip will cost around $60,000 for four people, including someone named Khalifa al Sherif. This person is a secret source known as “K” in some of Blumenthal’s other Libya-related emails to Clinton. These emails about the Tunisia trip are not in Clinton’s emails but will come to light later due to the hacker Guccifer’s exposure of Blumenthal’s emails. (Gawker, 3/27/2015)
Mere hours earlier, Kerry (D) met with Director General Ahmad Pasha, who is head of the ISI, Pakistan’s intelligence agency, and Chief of Army Staff Ashfaq Kayani, who is the head of Pakistan’s military. Kerry writes, “During a long dinner with [the generals] to discuss the major issues between our two countries and in the region, I specifically sought their views.” But almost all of the rest of his 17-page email will later be redacted, and will be deemed “secret,” the middle classification ranking.
Politico will later comment that this email plus two others could be “awkward” for Kerry, because “reports he sent Clinton about his diplomacy in Pakistan wound up in her private email account, which was not authorized to hold classified information.” (Politico, 2/29/2016)
On May 15, 2011, Senator John Kerry (D) emailed Clinton with details about a recent meeting he had with Pakistani generals Ahmad Pasha and Ashfaq Kayani, and his email will later be deemed “secret,” the middle level of classification. The next day, Clinton aide Jake Sullivan emails Clinton with the comment: “Cameron called me, hysterical, —” The rest of the sentence is redacted, then Sullivan adds, “This is likely what Kerry is calling about.” Clinton replies to Sullivan, “Can you get me facts (such as they are) before I talk [with] Kerry?” These two emails will also later be deemed “secret,” due to the redaction in Sullivan’s brief comment. (US Department of State, 2/13/2016)
It is not known who Cameron is. However, at the time, the US ambassador to Pakistan is Cameron Munter. (The Asia Times, 5/11/2012) Intriguingly, Osama bin Laden was killed in Abbottabad, Pakistan, on May 2, 2011, just two weeks earlier. Furthermore, in 2014, an article in the New York Times will claim that the US had direct evidence that Pasha, who is also head of the ISI, Pakistan’s intelligence agency, knew of Bin Laden’s presence there. The information is said to come from a “senior United States official.” (The New York Times, 3/19/2014)
In 2015, famed journalist Seymour Hersh will similarly claim that both Pasha and Kayani had been told of the planned US attack on bin Laden well in advance, and once they realized the US was going to kill him no matter what, they helped make sure the attack would succeed. (London Review of Books, 5/21/2015)
For several years, the CIA has been conducting a secret drone program in Pakistan, targeting Islamist militants in the mountainous region near the border with Afghanistan. The Pakistani government has secretly allowed the program while publicly protesting it, because the Pakistani public is mostly against it. In 2011, Pakistani officials push back against the program due to the growing number of strikes and an increasing public backlash.
In June 2011, the Wall Street Journal reports that there is a debate about the scale of the program inside the US government. State Department and military officials argue that the CIA needs to be more selective with their strikes. Also, for the first time, State Department officials are given a say. The CIA begins notifying US ambassador to Pakistan Cameron Munter about planned drone strikes, and this information gets passed up the State Department to Clinton and other top officials. The department then gets to concur or not concur with the strike.
For the rest of Clinton’s tenure until February 2013, the department objects to a planned strike only once or twice. But the strikes will often be discussed by Clinton and other State Department officials in unsecured email channels, and this will later be a focus of the FBI’s Clinton investigation. (The Wall Street Journal, 6/9/2016) (The Wall Street Journal, 6/4/2011)
According to a June 2016 Wall Street Journal article, there are a series of Clinton emails in these two years regarding the US drone program in Pakistan. Starting roughly around June 2011, the State Department is given the right to approve or disapprove of the CIA’s drone strikes in Pakistan as part of the US government’s attempt to mollify Pakistan’s concerns so they will continue their secret support of the program.
However, this creates a communication problem, because advanced warning of strikes varies from several days to as little as half an hour. According to the Journal, “Under strict US classification rules, US officials have been barred from discussing strikes publicly and even privately outside of secure communications systems.”
As a result, US intelligence officials want State officials to use a very secure system to discuss the strikes, called JWICS (Joint Worldwide Intelligence Community Systems). But few State officials have access to JWICS, even in Washington, DC, so they use another secure system commonly known as the “high side” (SIPR or, Secret Internet Protocol Router Network).
However, this can be slow as well as difficult to access outside of normal work hours. As a result, according to the Journal, on about a half-dozen different occasions, State officials use the “low side,” which means unsecure computers, such as emailing from a smart phone. This is often said to take place at night, or on the weekend or holiday, or when people are traveling, or when a proposed drone strike is imminent. It is not clear why secure phone lines are not used instead.
The emails are usually vaguely worded so they don’t mention the “CIA,” “drones,” or details about the militant targets, unnamed officials will later claim. These emails sometimes are informal discussions that take place in addition to more formal notifications done through secure communications. In some cases, these emails about specific drone strikes will later be deemed “top secret,” making up many of Clinton’s reported 22 top secret emails.
According to the Journal, unnamed US officials will later say that there “is no evidence Pakistani intelligence officials intercepted any of the low side State Department emails or used them to protect militants.” (The Wall Street Journal, 6/9/2016)
Gawker files a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for some of Clinton’s deputy chief of staff Huma Abedin’s email correspondence. The exact scope of the request is not clear from media accounts. The State Department eventually returns no documents, although the timing of their reply also is not clear.
In March 2015, it will be revealed that Abedin primarily used an email account at the clintonemail.com server, just like Clinton did. Presumably this is why no emails are turned over. However, she also used a .gov email account. (Gawker, 3/3/2015)
In June 2011, shortly after Scott Gration becomes the new US ambassador to Kenya, the State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DS) learns that he has sent out a revised policy allowing himself and other personnel in his embassy to use private email addresses for the daily communication of official government business.
Gration’s new policy happens to take place the same month the department sends out a cable warning all embassies to “avoid conducting official department business from your personal email accounts” due to a surge in hacking attacks of the personal emails of government employees. DS warns Gration they will be sending an experienced computer security officer to Kenya to reestablish proper communications procedures. DS officials also email him that this visit will be “especially timely in the wake of recent headlines concerning a significant hacking effort directed against the private, web-based email accounts of dozens of senior [government] officials…”
However, Gration continues to use his private email for work matters. Then, on July 20, 2011, a DS cable quotes from the department’s Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM): “it is the department’s general policy that normal day-to-day operations be conducted on an authorized [system].” The cable then warns, “Given the threats that have emerged since 2005, especially in regard to phishing and spoofing of certain web-based email accounts, we cannot allow the proliferation of this practice beyond maintaining contact during emergencies,” and there is nothing in his situation that would warrant an exception.
But Gration ignores these warnings and continues to use his personal email account.
The department then initiates disciplinary proceedings against him for this and several other infractions, but he resigns in August 2012, just weeks before any disciplinary measures are due to be imposed.
However, even though Clinton uses only a private email account for all her emailed work matters, she is not warned or disciplined like Gration. Furthermore, Clinton doesn’t change her email habits after the measures taken against Gration’s email habits are reported internally and in the press. (US Department of State, 5/25/2016) (US Department of State, 3/5/2015) (The New Republic, 6/20/2012)
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney is asked to address news reports that Chinese hackers have targeted the personal email accounts of US officials. He says, “Well, the US government policy, certainly, the administration policy that is effective here, is that all of our work is conducted on work email accounts. […] We are definitely instructed that we need to conduct all of our work on our government accounts as part of the Presidential Records Act. I’m not aware of any law or rule that suggests that government workers cannot have separate private email accounts [for personal use].” (The White House, 6/2/2011)
Google Inc. publicly announces that hackers based in China are targeting the email accounts of senior US officials and hundreds of other prominent people. The attacks are on users of Google’s Gmail email service. If successful, the hackers are able to read the emails of their targets. (The Wall Street Journal, 6/2/2011)
Clinton’s chief of staff Cheryl Mills conducts government work through her Gmail account. Philippe Reines, Clinton’s senior advisor and press secretary, has a government account and a Gmail account, and uses both for work. However, there’s no evidence Mills or Reines stops using Gmail for work after this news report. (Judicial Watch, 9/14/2015) (Politico, 10/5/2015)
Furthermore, two days later, Mills indicates in an email that there was an attempt to hack her email: “As someone who attempted to be hacked (yes I was one)…” (CBS News, 9/30/2015)
Later in the month, the State Department will issue a warning to all employees not to use private emails for work, but apparently Mills and Reines still won’t stop using their Gmail accounts for work. (The Washington Post, 3/27/2016)
On June 3, 2011, recently retired State Department official Anne-Marie Slaughter sends an email to Clinton and some of her top aides lamenting that the State Department’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.” She says more funds are needed and that an opinion piece might make the point to legislators.
Clinton replies that the idea “make good sense.”
However, one day later, Clinton’s chief of staff Cheryl Mills disagrees in another email: “As someone who attempted to be hacked (yes I was one), I am not sure we want to telegraph how much folks do or don’t do off state mail [because] it may encourage others who are out there.”
Slaughter concurs with Mills, and points out that Clinton aide Jake Sullivan “also has concerns.” Instead, she suggests, “Perhaps a better approach is to make the point more quietly to legislators through [Clinton].”
Clinton will be asked about this in a July 2016 FBI interview. She will say that doesn’t recall the compromise of Gmail accounts, but she does recall the frustration over the department’s information technology systems. (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/2/2016)
Mills, Clinton’s chief of staff, is responding to a suggestion from another State Department official that someone in the department should make a public complaint about the poor state of the department’s email system. Mills writes, “As someone who attempted to be hacked (yes I was one), I am not sure we want to telegraph how much folks do or don’t do off state mail [because] it may encourage others who are out there.” (Bloomberg News, 10/1/2015) (US Department of State, 9/30/2015)
Just two days earlier, Google gave a public warning that Chinese hackers were targeting US government officials using Google’s Gmail email service, and Mills uses a Gmail account for some work matters, in addition to her department email account. (The Wall Street Journal, 6/2/2011) (Judicial Watch, 9/14/2015)
An unnamed person sends an email to Clinton’s chief of staff Cheryl Mills. Classification coding will later indicate the person is a secret CIA official. The entire contents of the short email is: “The Director said that the Secretary [Clinton’s] comments at today’s NSC meeting were outstanding and that he echoed them in spades.” “The Director” is a likely reference to Leon Panetta, the CIA director at the time, and “NSC” stands for “National Security Council.”
Mills forwards the email to Clinton, and Clinton gives a brief reply back to Mills. (US Department of State, 6/6/2011)
Sid Blumenthal is a journalist, Clinton Foundation employee, and friend of Clinton’s. In 2015, the email will be released to the public without any redactions, apparently by accident since the redactors assumed that Blumenthal, a private citizen without any security clearance at the time, would not have highly classified information. The email contains a detailed account of very current events in Sudan, especially about a coup that is being plotted by top generals there. (US Department of State, 1/6/2016)
According to a later account by John Schindler, a former NSA counterintelligence officer, “Mr. Blumenthal’s information came from a top-ranking source with direct access to Sudan’s top military and intelligence officials, and recounted a high-level meeting that had taken place only 24 hours before. To anybody familiar with intelligence reporting, this is unmistakably signals intelligence, termed SIGINT in the trade. In other words, Mr. Blumenthal, a private citizen who had enjoyed no access to US intelligence for over a decade when he sent that email, somehow got hold of SIGINT about the Sudanese leadership and managed to send it, via open, unclassified email, to his friend Ms. Clinton only one day later.”
It appears the information is taken from four different NSA reports, all of them classified “top secret.” At least one is issued under the GAMMA compartment, which is “top secret / special intelligence” (TSSI), considered more classified than even “top secret.”
In 2016, current NSA officials will say they have no doubt Blumenthal’s information came from recent NSA reports. One unnamed official will say, “It’s word-for-word, verbatim copying. […] In one case, an entire paragraph was lifted from an NSA report” that was classified “top secret.”
On the basis of this and other emails, Schindler will conclude that Blumenthal “was running a private intelligence service for Ms. Clinton.” Schindler will ask, “How Mr. Blumenthal got hold of this Top Secret-plus reporting is only the first question. Why he chose to email it to Ms. Clinton in open channels is another question. So is: How did nobody on Secretary Clinton’s staff notice that this highly detailed reporting looked exactly like SIGINT from the NSA?” (The New York Observer, 3/18/2016)
Sid Blumenthal’s email sent a day earlier appears to contain very recent classified information, including details of a secret meeting of rebellious Sudanese generals that took place just one day earlier. Although Blumenthal is a private citizen, he marked the top of the email “CONFIDENTIAL” and mentioned getting intelligence from a “particularly sensitive source” in Sudan who is speaking in “strict confidence.”
Instead of flagging the email as containing possibly classified information, Clinton merely forwards it to her aide Jake Sullivan with the comment “fyi”—meaning “for your information.” (US Department of State, 1/7/2016) (The New York Observer, 3/18/2016)
She grows impatient as she waits for “talking points” about a sensitive matter.
Sullivan emails her, “They say they’ve had issues sending secure fax. They’re working on it.”
Then Clinton emails him, “If they can’t, turn into nonpaper w no identifying heading and send nonsecure.” (US Department of State, 1/7/2016)
Clinton spokesperson Brian Fallon will later claim, “What she was asking was that any information that could be transmitted on the unclassified system be transmitted. It is wrong to suggest that she was requesting otherwise. The State Department looked into this and confirmed that no classified material was sent through a non-secure fax or email.”
There has been no official comment from the State Department on this exchange yet. (The Washington Post, 3/27/2016)
Senator Charles Grassley (R), chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, will later call the exchange between Clinton and Sullivan “disturbing.” He will say, “It raises a host of serious questions and underscores the importance of the various inquiries into the transmittal of classified information through her non-government email server.” (CNN, 1/8/2016)
In February 2016, Sullivan will give his opinion about this email in an FBI interview. According to the FBI, “Sullivan did not recall this specific email but believed that Clinton’s request indicated that she would have wanted him to make an unclassified version of the document, summarize the contents, and then send it to her on a non-secure fax.” (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/2/2016)
In 2016, Clinton will give her opinion about this email on two occasions.
Alo in 2016, FBI Diretor James Comey will give his opinion about the email.
Clinton sends an email to Kurt Campbell, the assistant secretary of state for Asian affairs. In the vast majority of her later published emails, Clinton responds to emails other people send her, but this is a case where she initiates an email communication herself.
She writes Campbell, “The FM took me aside as I was leaving to raise three issues:” Then her next four lines are later redacted. According to classification codes, those lines contain “Foreign government information” and “Foreign relations or foreign activities of the US including confidential sources.” Clinton then concludes, “Pls [Please] advise how to respond.”
Campbell emails her back, saying he will come up with a recommendation, but he doesn’t do it by email. (The New York Times, 5/10/2016) (US Department of State, 9/30/2015) “2+2” and “FM” indicate Clinton is referring to talks that day with Japanese Foreign Minister Takeaki Matsumoto, as part of “2 plus 2” diplomatic talks between the US and Japan. (US Department of State, 6/21/2011)
A department cable issued under Clinton’s signature orders all employees to “Avoid conducting official Department business from your personal email accounts” because it has been discovered that hackers are targeting the personal emails of government employees. (The Washington Post, 3/10/2015) (US Department of State, 3/5/2015)
This comes in response to reports that Gmail accounts of government workers had been targeted by “online adversaries.”
However, Clinton herself ignores the warning and continues to use her unsecure BlackBerry and her private server. (The Washington Post, 3/27/2016)
In a July 2016 FBI interview, Clinton will claim that “she did not recall this specific notice, and she did not recall receiving any guidance from State regarding email policies outlined in the State FAM [Foreign Affair Manual].” (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/2/2016)