November 2010: Clinton writes she doesn’t want “any risk of the personal being accessible” in her emails, contradicting her later claim that her main concern is “convenience.”

The seventeen words that merited a headline by the New Yorker: "Let's get separate address or device but I don't want any risk of the personal being accessible." (Credit: The New Yorker)

The seventeen words that merited a headline by the New Yorker: “Let’s get separate address or device but I don’t want any risk of the personal being accessible.” (Credit: The New Yorker)

Clinton and her deputy chief of staff, Huma Abedin, discuss the fact that Clinton’s emails to other State Department employees are sometimes not being received. Apparently, they are getting discarded as spam because they are coming from an unofficial address.

Abedin tells Clinton in an email that “we should talk about putting you on state email or releasing your email address to the department so you are not going to spam.”

In response, Clinton writes, “Let’s get separate address or device but I don’t want any risk of the personal being accessible.” (US Department of State, 5/25/2016)

In 2016, the New Yorker Magazine will comment that Clinton’s “personal being accessible” comment “seem[s] to confirm what many observers have suspected from the outset: Clinton’s main motive in setting up the email system wasn’t to make it easier for her to receive all her messages in one place, or to do all her business on her beloved BlackBerry; it was to protect some of her correspondence—particularly correspondence she considered private—from freedom-of-information requests and other demands for details, for example, from Republican-run congressional committees.” (The New Yorker, 5/26/2016)

These emails between Clinton and Abedin will not be included in the 30,000 work-related emails that Clinton turns over to the State Department in December 2014, even though they clearly discuss work matters. The State Department will later discover them through other means, most likely from Abedin’s email inbox. (The Associated Press, 5/26/2016)

November 28, 2010: WikiLeaks releases over 250,000 State Department cables, but Clinton does not change her unsecure communication methods.

Mark Penn (Credit: PR News)

Mark Penn (Credit: PR News)

WikiLeaks, working with several major media outlets, begins publicly releasing over 250,000 diplomatic cables between the State Department and US embassies around the world. The cables date from 1966 to February 2010. None of the cables are classified at a level higher than “confidential,” the lowest classification level.

Clinton responds with the public comment, “This disclosure is not just an attack on America’s foreign policy interests, it is an attack on the international community: the alliances and partnerships, the conversations and negotiations that safeguard global security and advance economic prosperity. […] It puts people’s lives in danger, threatens our national security, and undermines our efforts to work with other countries to solve shared problems.” (USA Today, 11/29/2010) (The New York Times, 11/28/2010) 

Mark Penn, Clinton’s chief strategist for her 2008 presidential campaign, sends Clinton an email in which he recommends, “I think you need to order a full scale review and upgrading of the cyber security of the State Department immediately.” (US Department of State, 9/30/2015) 

However, despite this being the largest breach of State Department classified information in history, Clinton doesn’t change her personal communication methods, and continues to use an unsecured BlackBerry and an unsecured private email server. It is unknown if the State Department changes its cybersecurity as a whole, and if so, how.

November 29, 2010: Clinton pledges improved communication security after the WikiLeaks leak, but the department remains highly vulnerable.

WikiLeaks Logo (Credit: WikiLeaks)

WikiLeaks Logo (Credit: WikiLeaks)

One day after WikiLeaks releases over 250,000 State Department cables, Clinton states, “I have directed that specific actions be taken at the State Department, in addition to new security safeguards at the Department of Defense and elsewhere to protect State Department information so that this kind of breach cannot and does not ever happen again.” (US Department of State, 11/29/2010

However, in October 2013, Buzzfeed will report that “The State Department’s communications system is operating without basic technical security measures in place, despite warnings about its vulnerabilities…” The system, called SMART (the State Messaging and Archive Retrieval Toolset), is used to share department communications, including the exact same kind of cables leaked by WikiLeaks. Buzzfeed further reports that its anonymous sources “say the failures have left thousands of cables and messages, including highly sensitive and classified ones, vulnerable to espionage or leaks for the last four years.” (Buzzfeed, 10/2/2013)