2011: Clinton misses a cybersecurity presentation meant just for her.

Julia Frifield (Credit: The Department of State Archives)

Julia Frifield (Credit: The Department of State Archives)

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)

2011: A “top secret” Clinton email contains intelligence from CIA sources and US spy satellites

The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency logo. (Credit: public domain)

The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency logo. (Credit: public domain)

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)

2011—2013: Very few employee emails are being permanently archived in the State Department.

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)

March 9, 2011: Clinton asks an aide to print a Blumenthal email without any identifiers.

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)

March 11, 2011: Clinton doesn’t think two emails from a former British prime minister should be flagged for classified content.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair (Credit: David Levene / The Guardian)

British Prime Minister Tony Blair (Credit: David Levene / The Guardian)

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)

March 13, 2011—March 14, 2011: An email chain shows that Clinton is far from the only US official emailing obviously classified information.

Jeffrey D. Feltman (Credit: Patrick Tsui / FCO)

Jeffrey D. Feltman (Credit: Patrick Tsui / FCO)

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)

March 17, 2011: The United Nations Security Council approves a ‘no-fly zone’ over Libya, starting NATO involvement in the Libyan civil war.

The US and Britain vote in favor of a no-fly zone in Libya, on March 17, 2011. (Credit: Foreign Policy Journal)

The US and Britain vote in favor of a no-fly zone in Libya, on March 17, 2011. (Credit: Foreign Policy Journal)

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.

April and May 2011: Clinton and her top aides are warned again to minimize the use of personal emails for business due to hacker attacks.

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)

April 3, 2011: Clinton’s comments about a Libyan defector will later be deemed “secret.”

Moussa Koussa (Credit: PA)

Moussa Koussa (Credit: PA)

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)

April 7, 2011: Clinton likes Blumenthal’s suggestion to use a private company to train the Libyan rebels.

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.

April 10, 2011: An email forwarded to Clinton appears to contain the most recent US military intelligence, which should have been classified.

US Ambassador Christopher Stevens. He dies from smoke asphyxiation on September 11, 2012, due to a terrorist attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi, Libya. (Credit: Reuters)

US Ambassador Christopher Stevens. He dies from smoke asphyxiation on September 11, 2012, due to a terrorist attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi, Libya. (Credit: Reuters)

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)

April 26, 2011: An email forwarded to Clinton includes the name and email address of a secret CIA official who might be in Libya.

Christina Tomlinson (Credit: Linked In)

Christina Tomlinson (Credit: Linked In)

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)

May 4, 2011: An email forwarded to Clinton mentions the name and email address of a secret CIA official.

Ben Rhodes (Credit: Kevin Lamarque / Reuters)

Ben Rhodes (Credit: Kevin Lamarque / Reuters)

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)

May 5, 2011—May 6, 2011: Blumenthal and Clinton worry about the French government developing business ties with the Libyan rebels.

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)

Around June 2011: The State Department gets a say in CIA drone strikes in Pakistan, leading to email trouble for Clinton and others.

US Ambassador to Pakistan Cameron Munter (Credit: India Times)

US Ambassador to Pakistan Cameron Munter (Credit: India Times)

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)

After June 2011 to Late 2012: Clinton and other State Department officials sometimes discuss proposed drone strikes in Pakistan in unsecured emails.

A rally in Islamabad, Pakistan, to condemn US drone attacks in Pakistani tribal areas, on October 28, 2011. (Credit: The Associated Press)

A rally in Islamabad, Pakistan, to condemn US drone attacks in Pakistani tribal areas, on October 28, 2011. (Credit: The Associated Press)

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)

June 2011: Huma Abedin’s emails are requested, but the State Department will not turn any over.

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)

June 2011—August 2012: A US ambassador is warned not to use private email for daily work matters, but Clinton’s identical behavior does not result in any warnings.

Scott Gration (Credit: New Republic)

Scott Gration (Credit: New Republic)

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)

June 2, 2011: Chinese hackers are targeting Gmail accounts of senior US officials, but top Clinton aides keep using Gmail account for work.

The Google Gmail logo (Credit: Google)

The Google Gmail logo (Credit: Google)

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)

June 20, 2011: Clinton reveals sensitive classified information in an email she initiated.

Left to Right: Japanese Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa, US Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Japanese Foreign Minister Takeaki Matsumoto, and Clinton, in Washington, DC, on June 21, 2011. (Credit: US Department of State)

Left to Right: Japanese Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa, US Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Japanese Foreign Minister Takeaki Matsumoto, and Clinton, in Washington, DC, on June 21, 2011. (Credit: US Department of State)

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)