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 2012, and involves two “top secret” emails. The chain begins with an email written by an unnamed State Department official to other unnamed department officials. It makes its way to Sullivan, who forwards it to Clinton, Clinton’s chief of staff Cheryl Mills, and Deputy Secretary of State William Burns. Clinton then replies to Sullivan. Then there’s another back and forth between Clinton and 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 2012, 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 and Clinton’s chief of staff Cheryl Mills. There is no known reply from Clinton. The content of the emails remain unknown. (Vice News, 7/22/2016)
The State Department continues to allow it, though with certain requirement and restrictions. (The New York Times, 3/25/2016)
The Homeland Security Department’s Computer Emergency Readiness Team issues a warning about remote access attacks, that would allow hackers to take control of computers. The warning notes that “An attacker with a low skill-level would be able to exploit this vulnerability.”
In 2015, the Associated Press will report that Clinton’s private email server could have been vulnerable to a hostile takeover by this very type of attack. Clinton’s server appears to have lacked encrypted protections, and could accept commands from the computers over the Internet.
Marc Maiffret, who founded two cybersecurity companies, will later comment, “That’s total amateur hour. […] Real enterprise-class security, with teams dedicated to these things, would not do this.”
Another cybersecurity expert, Justin Harvey, will comment that Clinton’s server “violates the most basic network-perimeter security tenets: Don’t expose insecure services to the Internet.” (The Associated Press, 10/13/2015)
At some point in 2012, The State Department bans the use of remote-access software for its technology officials to maintain unclassified servers, unless a waiver is given. It also bans all instances of remotely connecting to classified servers. However, according to records from December 2012, Clinton’s private email server continues to use remote-access software, and no evidence of a waiver allowing this has yet emerged.
Computer security expert Mikko Hypponen will say in 2015 that the use of remote-access software on her server was “clearly serious” and could have allowed hackers to run malicious software on it. (The Associated Press, 10/13/2015)
According to the Center for Effective Government, a government watchdog group which will later merge into the Project On Government Oversight (POGO), in the fiscal year of 2012, Clinton’s last full year in office, the State Department ranks last out of the 15 major government departments for its handling of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. It earns an “F” grade, with a score well below any other department. (Bloomberg News, 3/5/2015) (Center for Effective Government, 3/5/2016)
Eric Holder, the US attorney general from 2009 until 2015, writes a memo during the 2012 US presidential race outlining Justice Department policy on how to avoid interfering in elections. It states that department employees (which includes the FBI) “must be particularly sensitive to safeguarding the department’s reputation for fairness, neutrality, and nonpartisanship.” If an employee is “faced with a question regarding the timing of charges or overt investigative steps near the time of a primary or general election,” that person should contact the department’s public integrity section “for further guidance.”
The department has had such policies for decades, and they usually are restated every presidential election, but the memo adds clarity to them. (The Washington Post, 10/29/2016) (US Department of Justice, 3/9/2012)
This department policy will be tested in 2016, when the FBI reopens an investigation into Clinton’s emails just 11 days before Clinton is on the ballot for the US presidential election.
Cheryl Mills, Clinton’s chief of staff, forwards to Clinton an email with the subject heading: “URGENT — From Dave Petraeus’s Chief of Staff…” The name of the sender of the original email will later be redacted because it mentions the name of a secret CIA official. However, the subject heading logically suggests the sender is the chief of staff of CIA Director David Petraeus. The original email is sent at 4:44 a.m., suggesting it is quite urgent.
Parts of the email chain are later redacted due to containing “foreign government information” as additional mentions of secret CIA officials, although it’s unclear if all of these are the same person. Emails in the chain are too heavily redacted to be understood, although it might relate to security protocols, because Mills makes the comment, “I do want to discuss this situation as it will reoccur and we have protocols that we follow that I welcome covering with you.”
The email will later be classified at the “secret” level, which is the medium classification level, although it is not clear how much of this is due to the mention of a secret CIA name or names and how much is due to the urgent content in the emails. (US Department of State, 1/29/2016)
Clinton replies to Mills at 6:49 a.m., presumably just after arriving to work, agreeing to receive a phone call from Mills about the matter a short time later. Clinton’s reply email will also be later deemed “secret,” because it includes all of the previous emails in the chain. (US Department of State, 1/29/2016)
Clinton’s chief of staff Cheryl Mills writes an email to US Ambassador to Algeria Henry Ensher. Most of the short email will later be deemed classified both for containing “foreign government information” as well as the name of a secret CIA official. Ensher replies on March 19, and that also will later be deemed classified for containing “foreign government information” as well as the name of a secret CIA official. Mills then forwards the email chain to Clinton. The email to Clinton will later be deemed “secret,” the medium classification level. (US Department of State, 1/29/2016)
There is an email chain this day started by Clinton, with all emails in it between Clinton, Justin Cooper, Bryan Pagliano, and Oscar Flores. Cooper (a Bill Clinton aide) and Pagliano (a State Department official) are jointly managing Clinton’s private server, with Cooper doing more of the customer service and Pagliano more of the technical aspects. Flores helps manage Clinton’s home in Chappaqua, New York, where the server is located.
Clinton begins the email chain with the subject heading “Help!” She writes: “Once again, I’m having BB [BlackBerry] trouble. I am not receiving emails although people are getting ones I send but I get their replies on my IP [iPad]. I’ve taken out the battery and done what I know to do but with no luck yet any ideas?”
Cooper sends two replies trying to solve the problem, with Clinton giving a short reply to one of them.
Then Pagliano writes, “Let me take a look at the server to see if it offers any insight. iPhone is not much different from iPad, however in both cases the security landscape is different from the BlackBerry. -Bryan”
Then Clinton replies, “Thanks again. I’m back in business.” (US Department of State, 10/12/2016)
None of these five emails will be included in the 30,000 work-related emails Clinton gives the State Department in December 2014, even though the inclusion of Pagliano, a department official, in the chain makes them work-related. (One email that will be included is simply Pagliano wishing Clinton a happy birthday in 2012.) Instead, one of the emails in the chain will be later recovered by the FBI from Clinton’s deleted emails (with the text of the other four emails included in the reply).
These emails will be released to Judicial Watch on October 12, 2016, in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit, and Judicial Watch will make them public on October 19, 2016. (US Department of State, 10/12/2016)
Ironically, in the same time frame, on October 13, 2016, Clinton’s written responses to a court deposition will be made public. In one answer, she will write: “Secretary Clinton states that she does not recall having communications with Bryan Pagliano concerning or relating to the management, preservation, deletion, or destruction of any emails in her clintonemail.com email account.” (Judicial Watch, 10/13/2016)
All of the emails between Clinton and Pagliano many never be found, since the FBI could only recover about half of Clinton’s deleted emails, and the file containing all of Pagliano’s emails from his time working at the State Department was mysteriously lost.
Speaking at an award ceremony for the international non-profit Transparency International, Clinton says, “[C]orruption and the lack of transparency eats away like a cancer at the trust people should have in their government, at the potential for broad-based, sustainable, inclusive growth. Corruption stifles entrepreneurship, siphons funding away from critical services, poor fiscal transparency makes it impossible to hold governments accountable. And if these problems go on long enough, if they run deep enough, they literally can and have been shaking societies to the core.” (US Department of State, 3/22/2012)
State Department official Christina Tomlinson sends Clinton aide Jake Sullivan an email entitled “MG-Z in Dushanbe.” Sullivan then forwards it to Clinton. Other Clinton emails indicate that “MG” is a reference to US Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Marc Grossman. Dushanbe is the capital of Tajikistan. Different portions of Tomlinson’s email will be deemed classified for various reasons. But one section is classified because it mentions the name of a secret CIA official. As a result, the entire email will later be deemed “secret,” the middle classification level. There is no apparent response from Clinton. (US Department of State, 1/29/2016)
Clinton travels to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, from March 30 to 31, 2012. (US Department of State, 3/30/2012)
This is notable because a September 2016 FBI report will reveal that Clinton regularly used her unsecure BlackBerry while outside the US, including sending and/or receiving “hundreds” of emails containing classified information. (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/2/2016)
Furthermore, in August 2010, it was reported that Research in Motion (RIM), the company that makes BlackBerrys, agreed to locate three computer servers within Saudi Arabia, “putting them under the jurisdiction of local security forces,” according to an article at the time by the Register.
The effective result is that the Saudi government was able to intercept emails that have to briefly pass through the servers. RIM did not want to agree to this, but the Saudi government briefly suspended BlackBerry service until RIM gave in. Even emails sent through Saudi Arabia using personal encryption keys could be easily intercepted due to this agreement. (The Register, 8/9/2010)
Clinton is sent emails virtually every day, and her days in Saudi Arabia are no exceptions. One email classified at the “confidential” level is sent to Clinton on March 31, 2012, though it’s not clear if she is in Saudi Arabia at the time or not. The email concerns politics in Sudan and South Sudan. (US Department of State, 1/29/2016)
A photo of Clinton using her BlackBerry while wearing sunglasses on a military plane in 2011 becomes popular on the Internet, prompting a “Texts from Hillary” meme.
In court testimony in 2016, State Director of Executive Secretariat Staff Karin Lang will recall that Clarence Finney, who oversees the State Department’s responses to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) searches, sees the photo in the media and wants to know if Clinton still does not have a government email account. Finney checks with the department’s information management staff and confirms she still doesn’t have one. According to Lang, Finney will not recall who told him this, or when it happened exactly. (Politico, 6/9/2016)
However, the photo’s popularity starts and peaks in April 2012. The Washington Post comments about the photo at the time, “When Hillary Rodham Clinton checks her phone, she’s probably reading top secret e-mails…” But this does not lead to any attempt by Finney or others to find if she might have a private email account that could be responsive to FOIA requests. (The Washington Post, 4/5/2012)
Clinton is sent an email by State Department official Monica Hanley regarding a phone call to new Malawi president Joyce Banda. All the text of the email will later be redacted except for the first few lines, one of which states, “(C) Purpose of Call: to offer condolences on the passing of President Mukharika and congratulate President Banda on her recent swearing in.” The “(C)” is an official code known as a “portion marking,” and it indicates the information is classified at the “confidential” level.
In June 2016, Fox News will report that an unnamed US government source claims “there are other Clinton emails with classified markings, or marked classified, beyond” this email, but presumably those markings are in later-redacted portions of the emails. Clinton does not flag the email for having classified information in an insecure channel, but merely makes a brief comment that the timing of the phone call works for her.
Also in June 2016, Clinton spokesperson Brian Fallon will be asked directly about the email. However, he will ignore the direct evidence the email was marked classified at the time by saying, “The fact that this email was classified after the fact suggests again that agencies in the government tend to err on the side of classifying even routine matters of diplomacy.” (Fox News, 6/11/2016) (US Department of State, 1/29/2016) (LawNewz, 6/11/2016)
Clinton aide Jake Sullivan emails Clinton information from a blog promoting Islamic jihad, saying it is “pretty interesting.” Clinton forwards the email to State Department spokesperson Philippe Reines while also asking Sullivan, “If not classified or otherwise inappropriate, can you send to the NYTimes reporters who interviewed me today?” Politico will later comment, “The email suggests Clinton may have known some of the messages that came to her were classified, as she had to ask her staff whether the content was or was not guarded at such a level for national security reasons.” (Politico, 2/29/2016) (US Department of State, 2/29/2016)
Clinton confidant Sid Blumenthal sends Clinton an email that appears to be based on the NSA’s monitoring of German Prime Minister Angela Merkel. Blumenthal gives Clinton an all caps warning: “THE FOLLOWING INFORMATION COMES FROM AN EXTREMELY SENSITIVE SOURCE AND SHOULD BE HANDLED WITH CARE. THIS INFORMATION MUST NOT BE SHARED WITH ANYONE ASSOCIATED WITH THE GERMAN GOVERNMENT.”
Two memos follow. The first two-page memo will later be totally unredacted and contains an analysis of German economic policy based on private conversations between Merkel and some of her top officials. The second four-page memo will later be totally redacted.
Clinton then forwards the email containing both memos to her aide Jake Sullivan with the note, “Fyi–could be worth forwarding to Hormats and asking for reaction and whether worth sharing more broadly (w WH [White House] or Treasury).”
“Hormats” is a probable reference to Robert Hormats, who is under secretary of state for economic, business, and agricultural affairs at the time. Whistleblower Edward Snowden will reveal the NSA’s monitoring of Merkel in 2013. (US Department of State, 2/29/2016) (The Guardian, 7/1/2015)
It is not clear how Blumenthal gets such intelligence, since he is a private citizen with no security clearance at the time.
On this day, Clinton takes part in a series of emails with Jake Sullivan, her top foreign policy aide. All the emails in the thread are classified a “secret,” which is the ranking below “top secret.” The entire exchange is redacted, except for the subject line: “Khar–where we are.”
Several days earlier, Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar had requested that the US apologize for the death of 24 Pakistani troops in a NATO airstrike, so the emails presumably discuss how the US should react. Sullivan sends 215 classified emails to Clinton, more than anyone else. (The Washington Post, 3/5/2016)
Further emails in the chain will also be deemed “secret,” but in one of them, a mysterious comment Clinton makes to Sullivan will be declassified: “I’m even more determined to do this and have some ideas I want to discuss [with] you.” (US Department of State, 2/13/2016)
On June 19, 2012, Clinton’s chief of staff Cheryl Mills travels from Washington, DC, to New York City. The next day, she interviews two high-level business executives in order to help the Clinton Foundation find a new leader.
When Clinton became secretary of state, she and the Clinton Foundation agreed to abide by rules specially created in an agreement with the Obama administration not to “create conflicts or the appearance of conflicts for Senator Clinton as Secretary of State.”
When news of this trip is made public in August 2016, Clinton’s campaign will claim that any work Mills did for the Clinton Foundation, such as this trip, was strictly voluntary.
The two executives interviewed by Mills had worked at Pfizer and WalMart, companies that CNN points out “have been huge donors to Foundation, and have worked with the Clinton Global Initiative.” However, neither of them get the job. (CNN, 8/11/2016)
Clinton confidant Sid Blumenthal sends Clinton an email with the subject heading: “H: Here it is: latest, latest intell on MB/SCAF inside deal. Sid.” “MB” stands for the “Muslim Brotherhood,” who recently took power in Egypt, and “SCAF” stands for the “Supreme Council of the Armed Forces” of Egypt. The email alleges to contain inside intelligence about political intrigues in that country.
Clinton forwards the email to her aide Jake Sullivan with the comment: “Fyi [For your information]. Worth forwarding.”
Sullivan replies, “Will do. Wonder who his source is.”
Clinton answers, “Former US intell w continuing contacts.” (US Department of State, 1/7/2016)
The FBI will ask her about this in a July 2016 interview. The State Department later marked the email unclassified and left it entirely unredacted. But presumably the FBI is interested in her “Former US intell w continuing contacts” comment, which indicates she knows Blumenthal’s emails are mainly based on intelligence from former CIA official Tyler Drumheller, and she might have some knowledge of Drumheller’s contacts.
But Clinton’s answer doesn’t appear to address that. According to the FBI, “Clinton commented it was a confusing time in Egypt and [the] State [Department] was trying to obtain all of the intelligence it could on Egypt. However, she had no concerns regarding the classification of the email.” (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/2/2016)
Clinton confidant Sid Blumenthal sends Clinton an email with the subject heading: “H: some Intel on internal german/euro maneuvering.” The entire two-page long email will later be redacted, except for Blumenthal’s marking “CONFIDENTIAL” and a second subject line: “Re: Internal pressures and potential schisms in German government over Euro-zone.”
Clinton then forwards the email to her aide Jake Sullivan with the comment, “More on the Eurozone crisis.” (US Department of State, 1/29/2016)
Based on the subject matter and other Blumenthal emails, Blumenthal’s intelligence appears to come from the NSA’s secret wiretapping of German Prime Minister Angela Merkel and other top German officials.
An email sent to Clinton from her aide Jake Sullivan on this day will later be deemed “secret,” the medium level of US classification. The email contains the text of an Associated Press article titled “US drone strike kills 4 militant in Pakistan.” The article will not be redacted at all, but Ambassador Richard Hoagland, deputy chief of mission for the US Embassy in Islamabad, made some comments about it before sending it to Sullivan, and Hoagland’s comments will later be redacted.
Another email from May 2011 followed a similar pattern. An article about the US drone program was commented on, and it was the comments that merited a “secret” classification. (Politico, 2/29/2016)
Former President Bill Clinton is traveling in Africa at the time, including to Rwanda. On July 11, 2012, and then again on July 28, Mills emails information about Rwanda and Congo, a country having a conflict with Rwanda at the time. Details are unclear, because large sections of the emailed information will later be deemed classified and redacted due to “national security” and “foreign policy.” The July 28 message is titled “Developments in the Eastern Congo.”
Mills emails the information to Amitabh Desai, the foundation’s director of foreign policy. Mills was on the foundation’s board of directors before joining the State Department, and will return to its board as soon as she leaves.
Other emails show that she also continues to advise the foundation while working at the State Department. (Politico, 9/30/2015)
Clinton confidant and private citizen Sid Blumenthal marks the email “CONFIDENTIAL,” and then gives this warning: “SOURCE: Sources with access to the highest levels of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, and Western Intelligence and security services. THE FOLLOWING INFORMATION COMES FROM AN EXTREMELY SENSITIVE SOURCE AND SHOULD BE HANDLED WITH CARE.” The email then discusses secret meetings between senior members of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Egyptian army which have taken place in recent days. (US Department of State, 1/7/2016)
However, Clinton does not warn department security about this email that could jeopardize an intelligence asset in Egypt. Instead, she forwards the email to her aide Jake Sullivan with the comment, “More timely info.” (US Department of State, 1/7/2016)
Eric Boswell, the assistant secretary of state for diplomatic security, sends an email to Joseph MacManus, executive assistant to Clinton, and Patrick Kennedy, under secretary of state for management, with the subject heading: “Threat.” All of the several lines of text in the email are later redacted. There are several classification codes justifying the redaction, including one for information that would “disclose investigative techniques” and one for information that would “endanger life or physical safety of any individual.”
MacManus then forwards the email to Clinton with the subject heading: “Re: Huma.” Huma Abedin is Clinton’s deputy chief of staff. (US Department of State, 12/31/2015)
A couple of days earlier, five Republican Congresspeople accused Abedin of having family members tied to the Muslim Brotherhood, so this threat might somehow relate to that. (The accusations are widely dismissed in the mainstream media.) (CBS News, 7/19/2012)
On the same day, there is another email chain started by State Department diplomatic security official David Gallagher. It might be related, but all the substantial content is redacted, including the subject headings. All of Gallagher’s comments in two emails are redacted for the same above-mentioned reasons of disclosing investigative techniques and endangering lives. A comment in the chain from Abedin and CCed to Clinton is also later redacted for threatening to disclose investigative techniques. (US Department of State, 12/31/2015)
An anonymous hacker using a computer in Serbia scans hundreds of millions of Internet addresses for accessible openings, called “ports.” Clinton’s private server is scanned by this hacker in August 2012 and again in December. The hacker’s millions of results are then made widely available on-line. It is unknown if anyone looking at this data figures out if the server belongs to Bill and Hillary Clinton, although the name “clintonemail.com” is a clue. (The Associated Press, 10/13/2015)
Clinton is sent an email by State Department official Monica Hanley regarding a phone call to United Nations/Arab League Joint Special Envoy for Syria Kofi Annan. The email is a call sheet to help Clinton with her talking points while speaking to Annan. The first paragraph starts with the text: “(C) Purpose of Call.” The “(C)” is an official code known as a “portion marking,” and it indicates the information is classified at the “confidential” level. Other sections of the email are marked with (SBU), a code meaning “sensitive but unclassified.” (US Department of State, 11/30/2015)
This is the second time it is known Clinton received an email clearly marked as classified, after getting another one from Hanley in April 2012. (US Department of State, 1/29/2016) This email’s existence won’t be publicly noticed until after FBI Director James Comey will comment on July 5, 2016 that a very small number of Clinton’s emails were marked classified at the time. (The New York Times, 7/5/2016)
Clinton confidant Sid Blumenthal sends Clinton a long intelligence email to Clinton about an upcoming election in the country of Georgia. It includes a message from John Kornblum, an international lawyer who was ambassador to Germany under President Bill Clinton. A billionaire named Bidzina Ivanishvili is opposing incumbent President Mikheil Saakashvili. Ivanishvili calls for closer relations with Russia, while Saakashvili is supported by the US.
Despite this, Blumenthal and Kornblum clearly favor Ivanishvili in the email, and the email mentions that Kornblum is employed advising Ivanishvili’s political party. The email even includes a personal letter to Clinton from Ivanishvili himself asking for her to change State Department policy to favor him.
In 2015, Gawker will report that this email could be in violation of a federal law designed to prevent foreign powers from covertly wielding influence within the US. Anyone attempting to influence US policy must register as foreign operatives, and records show that neither Blumenthal nor Kornblum do so.
Four lawyers who specialize in this legal field will tell Gawker that both of them should have registered before attempting to influence Clinton. For instance, one attorney says that this email is precisely “the type of activity that is meant to be captured” by the law, even if the lobbying stopped with just that one email. The maximum penalty for violating the law is ten years in prison.
Blumenthal sends the email twice under slightly different names, but there is no apparent reply from Clinton. (Gawker, 3/30/2015) (US Department of State, 11/30/2015) (US Department of State, 11/30/2015)
Clinton confidant and private citizen Sid Blumenthal emails Clinton another one of his many intelligence updates, despite having no security clearance. This one will later be nearly entirely classified, including the email title. There are only two sentence fragments later made public. One is Blumenthal’s marking: “CONFIDENTIAL.” The other is: “SOURCE: Sources with access to the highest levels of the governments and institutions discussed below. This includes—” Six blank pages of fully redacted text follow. (US Department of State, 1/29/2016) Most of Blumenthal’s emails relate to Libya, and the email is sent just eight days prior to a terrorist attack on the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya.
Islamic extremists launch a terrorist attack on the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya, killing Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other American citizens. (The New York Times, 8/8/2015)
Blumenthal writes to Clinton, “Sending direct. Just in,” above a forward of an email from Drumheller’s email address about Libya just one day after the terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya.
The Drumheller email cites “sensitive sources” in Libya and says the Benghazi terrorist attack one day earlier was the work of Ansar al-Shariah, a group with ties to al-Qaeda. It details evidence that the group had planned the attacks for a month and used a nearby protest against an anti-Islamic YouTube video as cover.
Clinton forwards the email to her aide Jake Sullivan, writing, “We should get this around ASAP.”
This email will later cause much trouble for Clinton, because the information in it contradicts the Obama administration’s narrative at the time that the protesters had caused the attacks. It also contradicts another email sent by Blumenthal only a few hours after the attacks which said the attacks had been caused by the protesters. Given that Drumheller retired from the CIA in 2005, it is not known where he got his information. (The New York Times, 5/22/2015) (Politico, 5/21/2015)
An unnamed person sends an email to Clinton’s chief of staff Cheryl Mills. Later classification coding will indicate the sender is a secret CIA official. The email refer to an “amazing service” and “difficult ceremony”—a likely reference to the memorial earlier that day of the four US citizens killed in the Benghazi terrorist attacks two days earlier. The brief email also tells Mills, “Second, we are now in the process of sending you the classified cables the Secretary and/or you requested.” It is signed by “RS.” Mills forwards the email to Clinton. (US Department of State, 1/7/2016)
Clinton responds by forwarding the email to another aide with the comment, “Pls [Please] print.” (US Department of State, 11/30/2015)
On September 15, 2012, an email from an redacted name is sent to about a dozen other redacted names. The only email recipient whose name is later unredacted is Clinton aide Jake Sullivan. Classification codes indicate that at least one of the many redacted names is a secret CIA official. The entire contents of the email will later be redacted except for the first two sentences: “Per the discussion at Deputies, here are the revised TPs for HPSCI. Let me know what you think.” “Deputies” is a likely reference to deputy cabinet members; “TPs” is a likely abbreviation of “talking points,” and “HPSCI” stands for the “House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.”
On September 27, Sullivan forwards the email to Clinton.
On October 17, Clinton finally replies, “Pls [Please] print.”
Clinton’s email will first be released to the House Benghazi Committee, indicating its content is somehow related to the 2012 Benghazi terrorist attack. (US Department of State, 5/13/2015)
State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland starts an email chain about an imminent New York Times article written by Eric Schmitt that could mention a particular CIA annex. The email is sent to a handful of Clinton’s top aides.
Soon, a secret CIA official joins in the email chain, despite not being sent the original email.
A later email in the chain from this CIA official (or possibly another one) reveals the New York Times backs down and agrees to changes to the article, including not mentioning details about the CIA annex.
Parts of Clinton’s email will later be deemed classified due to the mention of at least one secret CIA official’s name and email address earlier in the chain. (US Department of State, 12/31/2015)
That evening, The New York Times publishes an article written by Eric Schmitt and two others called, “Deadly Attack in Libya Was Major Blow to CIA Efforts.” (The New York Times, 9/23/2012)
State Department official Rexon Y. Ryu sends an email to about a dozen other US officials, mostly also in the State Department. He says, “All – below is a conversation that Salman Ahmed had with Lakhdar Brahimi on Sunday. Ask that you keep this closehold, given the frankness of his comments.”
Salman Ahmed is a US senior policy advisor, and Lakhdar Brahimi is the United Nations and Arab League Envoy to Syria. The email discusses the civil war in Syria, and large portions of it will later be redacted. But most notably, the name and email address of one recipient of Ryu’s email will be redacted because that person is a secret CIA official.
Clinton aide Jake Sullivan is another recipient, and he forwards the email to Clinton. (US Department of State, 2/13/2016)
Clinton confidant Sid Blumenthal sends Clinton an email with the message, “Got all this done. Complete refutation on Libya smear. Philippe can circulate these links. Sid.” The email also includes links to four recent Media Matters stories questioning aspects of the House Benghazi Committee’s investigation of the government’s response to the 2012 Benghazi terrorist attack that is very critical of Clinton and her State Department. For instance, one of the stories, published the same day Blumenthal’s email is written, has the title: “Right-Wing Media’s Libya Consulate Security Mythology Falls Apart.”
None of the articles have a Blumenthal by-line, but his “got this done” comment suggests he is somehow involved in making them. Media Matters is a pro-Clinton media watchdog group chaired by David Brock, who will later head Clinton’s main Super PAC for her 2016 presidential campaign.
Clinton replies with the message “Passing on,” and forwards the email to Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Philippe Reines, as Blumenthal requested. (US Department of State, 11/30/2015) (Media Matters, 10/10/2012) (Media Matters, 10/10/2012) (Media Matters, 9/26/2012) (Media Matters, 10/9/2012)
In June 2015, Blumenthal will reveal under oath that he was paid around $200,000 a year by Media Matters for a part-time consulting beginning in late 2012, or around the time of this email. (Fox News, 6/19/2015) (The Los Angeles Times, 6/27/2016)
In early 2009, President Obama banned Clinton from giving Blumenthal a State Department job, but this email suggests the ban was not entirely effective.
Clinton’s deputy chief of staff Huma Abedin sends an email to Justin Cooper, an aide to Bill Clinton. She asks, “Is Clinton email down?” Cooper replies, “It was. Back up now.” (US Department of State, 6/20/2016) This is further evidence that Cooper, who is not a government employee and apparently has no security clearance, helps manage Clinton’s private email server.
Jeremy Bash, who is chief of staff to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta at the time, sends an email to four other US officials, including Clinton aides Jake Sullivan and Cheryl Mills. Sullivan then forwards the email to Clinton. The email has the subject heading: “This a.m. Green on Blue.” That is an idiom referring to when police attacks soldiers. The email refers to an Afghan police officer triggering a suicide vest and killing or wounding 14 Americans or Afghans, including one dead American.
The email will later be classified at the “secret” level, suggesting some important classified information in it, but its redactions make it difficult to understand. There is no indication of a reply from Clinton. (US Department of State, 1/29/2016)
In Clinton’s July 2016 FBI interview, she will be specifically asked about this email, again suggesting something unusual about it. However, her answer will also be heavily reacted. For instance, “Clinton believed she would be speculating if she were to state what [redacted] meant when he referred to [redacted].” (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/2/2016)
On February 4, 2016, NBC News will reveal that the email concerns undercover CIA officer Dario Lorenzetti. He died in the suicide attack described in the email. Lorenzetti’s CIA connection was leaked to the media by anonymous officials four days after his death and was widely reported in the news media, although his CIA cover was not lifted until later.
According to NBC News, in the redacted portions of the email, it seems Bash was trying “to preserve the CIA officer’s cover. But some of the language he used, now that Lorenzetti is known to have been a CIA officer, could be read as a US government acknowledgement that CIA officers pose as State Department personnel in a specific country, Afghanistan — something widely known but not formally admitted.” This is why the email is classified at the “secret” level.
Bash ends the email by instructing a CIA spokesperson to “please lash up with [redacted].” NBC News will indicate the missing word is “presumably either the spy agency or one of its employees.” (NBC News, 2/4/2016)
This may be the phrase that the FBI asked Clinton about, and to which she replied that “she would be speculating if she were to state what [redacted] meant when he referred to [redacted].” (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/2/2016)
NBC News will also interview Bash about this email. Bash will claim that the email “did not reference the individual’s name, employer, nor any identifying description or information.” Additionally, once the CIA posthumously lifted Lorenzetti’s cover, “the original unclassified email could be read to confirm the general use of cover, prompting the redactions we now see. But any suggestion that this email contained confirmation about the person or his cover, or any inappropriate information, is flat wrong.” (NBC News, 2/4/2016)
Joseph Stafford, a top official at the US embassy in Khartoum, Sudan, is asked if the embassy has gotten extra security for some unnamed reason. Stafford explains in an email, “We’ve gotten the extra protection – twenty-seven police currently deployed around Embassy compound,” [redacted] “Senior police contact reports that an additional 300 police are on standby at nearby police compound, approx. 8 minute response time…” According to classification coding, the missing portion will later be redacted due to information that could “endanger life or physical safety of any individual.”
The email is forward to Clinton by her chief of staff Cheryl Mills with the comment, “FYI.” There is no apparent response from Clinton. (US Department of State, 11/30/2015)
On October 26, 2012, Bryan Pagliano sends Clinton an email with the subject line: “Happy Birthday!” His message is, “Happy Birthday Madam Secretary. To many more! Bryan.”
However, rather than directly replying, on November 14, 2012, Clinton forwards the email to her aide Robert Russo with the comment, “Pls [please] respond.”
She forwards dozens of other birthday emails to Russo on the same day, as she apparently has been too busy to reply to each one herself. Curiously, Clinton’s forward of Pagliano’s email (and not his original email) appears to be the only email to or from Pagliano or mentioning his name in the over 30,000 Clinton emails that will later be publicly released, even though he’s a State Department employee and is managing Clinton’s private server during her four years as secretary of state. (US Department of State, 11/30/2015)
In December 2015, it will be reported that a State Department file containing Pagliano’s emails from Clinton’s time as secretary of state is missing. (Politico, 12/11/2015)
Also in December 2015, Senator Chuck Grassley (R), the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, will say that his request to the State Department for emails between Pagliano and Clinton is his “highest-priority request.” (Business Insider, 3/3/2016)
Clinton’s private email server in Chappaqua, New York, stops working for days after New York is hit by Hurricane Sandy. Bryan Pagliano is still the lead specialist for the server and is tasked to fix it. The email system is not always reliable, and Pagliano is always the one on call to fix problems as they come up. (The Washington Post, 8/4/2015) However, no emails between Pagliano and Clinton will be included in Clinton’s over 30,000 publicly released work emails, except for one where he wishes her a happy birthday. (US Department of State, 11/30/2015)
This is the longeest down time by far during Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state. The only other significant outage is for three days during Hurricane Irene in August 2011. (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/2/2016)
Starting around October 28, 2012, Hurricane Sandy disrupts power in the New York City area for a few days, including the Chappaqua, New York, area where Clinton’s private email server is located. On October 30, an email exchange between Clinton’s deputy chief of staff Huma Abedin and another Clinton aide discusses that Clinton’s private server is down. Abedin’s main email account is hosted on the server.
Clinton’s computer technician Bryan Pagliano meets with staff from the department’s Information Resources Management (IRM) to find out if the department could provide support for Clinton’s server. Staffers tell Pagliano they can’t help because it is a private server.
This appears to be a very rare instance in which the existence of the server is mentioned to other department employees. (US Department of State, 5/25/2016)
Former CIA official Tyler Drumheller sends a letter to Ali Zeidan, the new Prime Minister of Libya. The letter will later be found in one of Sid Blumenthal’s emails due to his inbox getting broken into by the hacker nicknamed Guccifer.
The letter is undated, but must be from between November 2012 when Zeidan became prime minister, and March 15, 2013, when Blumenthal’s emails were hacked. Drumheller offers the services of his private company “Tyler Drumheller LLC,” to “provide discreet confidential information allowing the appropriate entities in Libya to address any regional and international challenges.” He says his information “is based on the experience of senior officials drawn from the highest levels of the American intelligence, security, and political communities.”
Since Clinton became secretary of state in 2009, Drumheller appears to have been sending CIA and NSA intelligence to Blumenthal, who then forwards it to Clinton. It’s not clear how Drumheller gets this information, since he left the CIA in 2005.
This is according to Internet records; it is likely in response to the server crashing for several days after Hurricane Sandy one month earlier. The choice of Google is curious because Clinton herself claimed that in June 2011, the Chinese government tried to break into the Google email accounts of senior US government officials. (The Associated Press, 3/4/2015)
One day after David Petraeus resigns as CIA director due to media reports that he had improperly handled classified information, Homeland Security Advisor John Brennan sends an email to National Security Advisor Thomas E. Donilon detailing the provisions for Petraeus’s personal security due to his unexpected resignation.
Donilon then forwards it to Clinton, commenting, “Madam Secretary – Attached is an update on the security for Dave P.”
All of Brennan’s email will later be redacted and classified at the “confidential” level on the grounds that it involves “vulnerabilities or capabilities of systems, installations, infrastructures, projects, plans, or protection services relating to the national security.” But another reason given for that classification is that it mentions the name of a secret CIA officer.
State Department official Bill Roebuck sends an email revealing that Libyan police have arrested several people who might have connections to the September 2012 Benghazi, Libya, terrorist attack. The subject heading is: “FYI- Report of arrests — possible Benghazi connection.” He says the police “were acting on information furnished by DS/RSO [Diplomatic Security/Regional Security Officer].”—this is followed by five lines that later will be redacted.
Twenty-three words from those lines will be classified at the medium “secret” level. According to classification codes, the FBI requests the redaction because that information could “interfere with [law] enforcement proceedings,” “disclose confidential sources,” and “disclose investigation techniques.” The email’s contents somehow relate to the FBI, because one email reply to it includes the unredacted sentence: “FBI in Tripoli is fully involved.”
Roebuck’s email is forwarded to other US officials.
It will later be alleged that in mid-2015, Under Secretary for Management Patrick Kennedy will attempt to change the classification code of the email to one that would be less politically embarrassing for Clinton, but apparently without success.
The request by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) ask for “records sufficient to show the number of email accounts of or associated with Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton.” (US Department of State, 7/29/2016)
This request is sparked by reports that Lisa Jackson, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, had been using an email account at work under the name “Richard Windsor.”
Clinton is still secretary of state at the time, and her chief of staff Cheryl Mills soon learns of CREW’s request, due to a December 11, 2012 email sent to her (and possibly Clinton) about it. But although Mills is very aware of Clinton’s private email address since she frequently sends emails to it, she doesn’t take any action and merely has an aide monitor the progress of CREW’s request.
In May 2013, the State Department will respond to CREW, “no records responsive to your request were located.”
Other requests for Clinton’s records will meet the same fate until the House Benghazi Committee finds out about her private email account in 2014. (The Washington Post, 3/27/2016) (The Washington Post, 1/6/2016)
On December 6, 2012, the non-profit group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) files a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, asking for records that show the number of Clinton’s email accounts. (US Department of State, 7/29/2016)
Five days later, State Department official Brock Johnson sends an email to Clinton’s chief of staff Cheryl Mills about this. It has the subject heading: “FW: Significant FOIA Request.” This email will be made public in July 2016 due to a different FOIA request by Judicial Watch.
Johnson writes in his email: “FYI [For your information] on the attached FOIA request from: ‘The request by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) ask for “records sufficient to show the number of email accounts of or associated with Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton.”‘” Then he forwards an email to him about the request, and also includes the entire request as an attachment. (US Department of State, 7/29/2016)
It appears likely that Mills then forwards this email to Clinton, because Clinton will be interviewed by the FBI in July 2016, and she will be asked about over a dozen specific emails sent to her, and she will be asked about an email sent on the same date, December 11, 2012, with the exact same subject heading, “FW: Significant FOIA Report.” If Clinton is sent the email, it isn’t included in the over 30,000 work-related emails Clinton will give to the State Department in December 2014.
According to a later FBI report, “Clinton stated she did not recall the specific request and was not aware of receiving any FOIA requests for information related to her email during her tenure as secretary of state. [The] State [Department] had a FOIA department and Clinton relied on the professionals in that department to address FOIA matters.” (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/2/2016)
Although it has not been confirmed Clinton gets the email, there’s no doubt Mills does. And even though Mills is very aware of Clinton’s private email address since she frequently sends emails to it, she doesn’t take any action and merely has an aide monitor the progress of CREW’s request.
Melanie Sloan, the executive director of CREW, will later say, “Cheryl Mills should have corrected the record. She knew this wasn’t a complete and full answer.”
In May 2013, the State Department will respond to CREW, “no records responsive to your request were located.” Other requests for Clinton’s records will meet the same fate until the House Benghazi Committee finds out about her private email account in 2014.
Steve Linick, the State Department’s inspector general, will conclude in a 2016 report that the State Department gave an “inaccurate and incomplete” response about Clinton’s email use to CREW and in other similar cases. (The Washington Post, 3/27/2016) (The Washington Post, 1/6/2016)
Clinton is less than two months away from ending her term as secretary of state. Paul Wester, chief records officer for National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), writes to his NARA co-workers, “We need to discuss what we know, and how we should delicately go about learning more about the transition plans for Secretary Clinton’s departure from State.” He says he has been warned of an effort to move Clinton’s files to Bill Clinton’s presidential library in Little Rock, Arkansas.
He adds that a co-worker is “asking questions about what we are doing to make sure everyone leaving the Administration does not leave with Federal records. I told him we are aware of the issue and are working on it.”
Officials at Clinton’s presidential library will later say they never heard of such an effort, and it wouldn’t have been appropriate for the library to house Hillary’s records in any case.
Wester will be interviewed in 2015 and will say the concern was over paper records only. “We had no information or no inkling of any issues with the email matters that have come to our attention more recently.” (Politico, 5/21/2015)
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