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 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)
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.
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)
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.
It has been reported that Clinton and President Obama exchanged 18 emails in the four years of Clinton’s secretary of state tenure. However, very few details have been released about any of them, except for this one. This email is an exception because when Clinton will be interviewed by the FBI in July 2016, she will be asked about the email, apparently since it was sent from Russia. A September 2016 FBI report will mention it is sent on July 1, 2012 and that the subject line is: “Fw: Congratulations!”
Additionally, an FBI summary of her interview will mention, “Clinton stated she received no particular guidance as to how she should use the president’s email address [redacted]. Since the foregoing email was sent from Russia, Clinton stated she must have sent it from the plane.”
Elsewhere in the FBI report, it will be mentioned that the FBI was unable to determine whenever Clinton sent emails overseas while on the ground or in an airplane because the State Department didn’t give the FBI detailed enough information about her travel schedule. (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/2/2016)
Clinton’s former deputy chief of staff Huma Abedin will be asked about this email in an April 2016 FBI interview, though it will be described as “an email chain dated June 28, 2012, with the subject ‘Re: Congratulations!'” According to the FBI summary, “Abedin did not recognize the name of the sender. Once informed that the sender’s name is believed to be a pseudonym used by [President Obama], Abedin exclaimed ‘How is this not classified?’ Abedin then expressed her amazement at the president’s use of a pseudonym and asked if she could have a copy of the email. Abedin provided that she did not go on the trip to St. Petersburg [Russia] and noted that security protocols in St. Petersburg were not necessarily the same as they were in Moscow, where they were not allowed use to their BlackBerrys.” (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/23/2016)
Based on Abedin’s comments, it appears probable that Clinton sends an email in the chain with her BlackBerry from St. Petersburg, Russia, though it is unclear if she is on an airplane at the time or not, or if the plane is flying on on the ground.
Accordng to some basic details that will be revealed about the Clinton-Obama emails in September 2016, it appears Obama emails Clinton on June 28, 2012, then Clinton replies to him on June 28, 2012, which coincides with her time in St. Petersburg, on June 28 and 29, 2012. Then her aide Monica Hanley sends an email to Obama on July 1, 2012. It is not clear why this Hanley email will later be included in a list of Obama-Clinton emails or why the FBI wil refer to a July 1, 2012 email in Clinton’s FBI interview instead of the June 28, 2012 Clinton email mentioned in the Abedin FBI interview. (Vice News, 09/15/16) (Vicc News, 09/15/16)
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)
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)
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 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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
Representative Darrell Issa (R) asks Clinton in a letter, “Have you or any senior agency official ever used a personal email account to conduct official business? If so, please identify the account used.” His letter also asks if State Department employees have to turn over work-related emails from personal accounts by the time they leave office, and it seeks written documentation of the department’s policies for the use of personal email for government business.
Issa is the chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and he is investigating how the Obama administration handles its officials’ use of personal email.
However, Clinton never sends a reply, and leaves office seven weeks later.
Issa finally gets a response from the State Department on March 27, 2013, but it fails to mention Clinton’s use of a private email address for work matters and just describes the department’s general email policies.
In 2015, a department spokesperson will decline to explain why Issa was never told about Clinton’s personal email usage. (The New York Times, 4/14/2015)
Tania Neild runs a company called InfoGrate that connects very wealthy people with companies who oversee their personal technologies, such as emails, and her company is based only about twenty miles from Clinton’s New York house. (Politico, 11/10/2015) (The Washington Post, 9/5/2015)
An FBI report will later state that “due to user limitations and reliability concerns regarding the [existing] server, staff for [Hillary] Clinton and President [Bill] Clinton discussed future email server options, and a search was initiated to find a vendor to manage a Clinton email server. Additionally, [Clinton’s computer technician Bryan] Pagliano’s expressed desire to seek new employment contributed to the decision to move to a new server.”
Clinton will also be interviewed, and she will recall “that the transition to [a new company] was initiated by President Clinton’s aides seeking a higher level of service than could be provided by the [existing] server.”
Around January 2, 2013, Neild is introduced to Clinton’s chief of staff Cheryl Mills through an unnamed mutual business associate. Neild will later tell the FBI that she worked with Mills and Pagliano to produce a proposal to solicit responses from multiple companies. (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/2/2016)
January 2013, Platte River Networks, a small company based in Colorado, is told by Neild they are in he running for a new contract. In mid-February, they find out they are a finalist for the contract, and that they might be working for Clinton. They will be hired by Clinton to manage her private server on May 31, 2013. (Politico, 11/10/2015) (The Washington Post, 9/5/2015)
Pagliano will later tell the FBI who made the final decision to pick Platte River. But this person’s name will be redacted, and only identified as someone working for President Clinton. (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/2/2016)
In retrospect, the choice of Platte River will seem to be an odd one. Cybersecurity expert Alex McGeorge will later comment, “My big issue here is do you want a small firm with little/no government experience or contracting (according to what’s being reported) and no stated security expertise to be in charge of the email system for our secretary of state? That is fundamentally ridiculous.” (Business Insider, 8/17/2015)
This is according to a FBI report that will be released in September 2016. It is known the staffer whose account gets breached is female, but her name will be redacted. The unnamed hacker uses the anonymity software Tor to browse through this staffer’s messages and attachments on the server.
The FBI will call this the only confirmed “successful compromise of an email account on the server.” But the FBI will not be able to determine who the hacker is or how the hacker obtained the staffer’s username and password to access her account. (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/2/2016)
Wired will later comment, “The compromise of a Bill Clinton staffer—who almost certainly had no access to any of then-Secretary Clinton’s classified material—doesn’t make the security of those classified documents any clearer. But it will no doubt be seized on by the Clintons’ political opponents to raise more questions about their server’s security.”
Clinton’s computer technician Bryan Pagliano is in charge of monitoring the server’s access logs at the time.
But Dave Aitel, a former NSA security analyst and founder of the cypersecurity company Immunity, will later comment that the breach shows a lack of attention to the logs. “They weren’t auditing and restricting IP addresses accessing the server. That’s annoying and difficult when your user is the secretary of state and traveling all around the world… But if she’s in Russia and I see a login from Afghanistan, I’d say that’s not right, and I’d take some intrusion detection action. That’s not the level this team was at.” (Wired, 9/2/2016)
When Pagliano is interviewed by the FBI in December 2015, he will claim that he knew of no instance when the server was successfully breached, suggesting he didn’t know about this incident. (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/2/2016)
And when Justin Cooper, a Bill Clinton aide who helped Pagliano manage the server, will be asked about the incident in September 2016, he will say he knew nothing about it until he read about it in the FBI report released earlier that month. (US Congress, 9/13/2016)
Clinton associate Cody Shearer sends Clinton confidant Sid Blumenthal a clearly classified document in an email. The subject heading for the email is: “Sid – This is Classified.” There is no text, but a document is attached called “Washington,_DC_Itinerary_for_D.doc.” In 2011 at least, Shearer and Blumenthal were business partners.
This email will only come to light because the hacker nicknamed Guccifer will post a screenshot of it after breaking into Blumenthal’s email account in March 2013.
It is not known if Shearer sent Blumenthal other classified information or if Blumenthal forwarded any such information to Clinton. (Gawker, 3/31/2015) Blumenthal has no security clearance to receive classified information at the time.
Under Secretary of State for Management Patrick Kennedy sends Clinton’s chief of staff Cheryl Mills an email regarding the sending of six officers from the Defense Department’s Defense Attaché Office (DAO) to Bamako, Mali, the next day.
The names of these six people are given in the email, but they will later be redacted due to a code indicating their identities are to be kept secret. Mali is experiencing a civil war with Islamist militants at the time, and in January 2013 numerous foreign governments have sent soldiers to assist the Mali government.
The email is forwarded to Clinton, who replies that she is fine with the DAO personnel being sent. But her response will later also be partially redacted. (US Department of State, 1/29/2016)
Furthermore, it appears Kennedy attaches a document that lists the names and job positions of dozens of employees temporarily assigned to the US embassy in Bamako, Mali. The names of eight defense attachés in the list will later be redacted as well. (US Department of State, 2/13/2016)
Clinton’s chief of staff Cheryl Mills forwards Clinton’s recent Congressional testimony about the US response to the 2012 Benghazi terrorist attack. One of the handful of people Mills forwards the email to is a secret CIA official, so the name and email address of that person will later be redacted.
Mills then forwards the email chain to Clinton. (US Department of State, 2/29/2016)