The US government posts an internal guide on how to deal with “spillage”—the common term for classified information accidentally getting onto an unclassified system. The guide, “National Instruction on Classified Information Spillage,” explains how such errors should be assessed and reported. One step mentioned for more severe cases is: “Determine whether the incident should be referred to the Department of Justice for investigation and/or criminal prosecution.” (The New York Times, 8/8/2015)
Clinton confidante Sid Blumenthal email Clinton his latest intelligence report, this one regarding high-level intrigues inside the British government. Like many of his emails, it is marked “CONFIDENTIAL,” the lowest official classification level. Clinton comments, “I shared your emails w Bill who thought they were ‘brilliant’! Keep ’em coming when you can.” “Bill” is a likely reference to Hillary’s husband Bill Clinton. (US Department of State, 8/31/2015)
In May 2015, Clinton will dramatically downplay her enthusiasm for Blumenthal’s emails, merely saying, “He sent me unsolicited emails which I passed on in some instances.” (Real Clear Politics, 5/20/2015)
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.
Clinton sends an email to Kurt Campbell, the assistant secretary of state for Asian affairs. In the vast majority of her later published emails, Clinton responds to emails other people send her, but this is a case where she initiates an email communication herself.
She writes Campbell, “The FM took me aside as I was leaving to raise three issues:” Then her next four lines are later redacted. According to classification codes, those lines contain “Foreign government information” and “Foreign relations or foreign activities of the US including confidential sources.” Clinton then concludes, “Pls [Please] advise how to respond.”
Campbell emails her back, saying he will come up with a recommendation, but he doesn’t do it by email. (The New York Times, 5/10/2016) (US Department of State, 9/30/2015) “2+2” and “FM” indicate Clinton is referring to talks that day with Japanese Foreign Minister Takeaki Matsumoto, as part of “2 plus 2” diplomatic talks between the US and Japan. (US Department of State, 6/21/2011)
The State Department continues to allow it, though with certain requirement and restrictions. (The New York Times, 3/25/2016)
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)
State Department official Thomas Gibbons describes the department’s policy on the use of personal email accounts, in response to an investigative letter by Representative Darrell Issa (R). Gibbons says that “employees may use personal email on personal time for matters not directly related to official business, and any employee using personal email should make it clear that his or her personal email is not being used for official business.” Gibbons failed to mention Clinton used a personal email account for work (or had a personal email account at all), even though Issa directly asked that question. (The New York Times, 4/14/2015)
In December 2012, a US-based company called VCS Mining wins one of the first two gold-mining permits issued by the Haitian government in more than 50 years. The mining project is heavily criticized by Haitian politicians who call it a potential environmental disaster and a waste of resources. Its permit is put on a hold due to the backlash.
In October 2013, Hillary Clinton’s brother Tony Rodham is added to VCS Mining’s advisory board. Rodham is rewarded with stock options in the mining company that will vest if the mine is successful. Both Rodham and VCS Mining chief executive and president Angelo Viard later claim that Rodham was added to the board after a chance meeting at the previous year’s Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) annual conference. Both also claim that Rodham’s involvement with the mining company has nothing to do with the political power of the Clintons in the US or in Haiti. (Bill and Hillary Clinton are widely seen as leading the reconstruction effort since the 2010 Haiti earthquake.) Rodham used to work as a repo man, prison guard, and private detective, but has more recently worked for an investment firm. (The Washington Post, 3/20/2015)
In March 2016, the New York Times will report that many in Haiti see Rodham’s involvement in the mining company as him taking advantage of his sister’s political influence for personal profit. (The New York Times, 3/14/2016)
One week after the Times article that suggested Clinton could be hurt politically by the connection, VCS Mining will announce that Rodham has stepped down from the board due to company “restructuring.” (VCS Mining, 3/21/2016)
The State Department begins using a system that automatically keeps the emails of high-ranking officials, such as deputy secretary of state, and under and assistant secretaries. Secretary of State John Kerry’s emails have been automatically retained since around the time he took office in 2013.
In 2012, an Obama administration directive mandated that departments must devise a system for retaining and preserving email records by the end of 2016, but some departments are slow to adapt.
Patrice McDermott, director of the transparency watchdog group OpenTheGovernment.org, says, “It really is chaos across the government in terms of what agencies do, what individuals do, and people understand that they can decide what they save and what they don’t. If you leave it up to the agency, some are going to behave properly and take it seriously, and some are going to see it as carte blanche to whitewash the record.” (The New York Times, 3/13/2015)
The New York Times’ Editorial Board comments, “Hillary Rodham Clinton’s decision when she was secretary of state to use only her personal email account to conduct official business was a disturbing departure from the normal practice of relying primarily on departmental emails for official business.” The editorial concludes, “Some way needs to be found to ensure that the emails she retained [and then deleted] are truly private and don’t involve government business.” (The New York Times, 3/4/2015)
In a letter to Clinton’s lawyer David Kendall, the committee says Clinton should give her server to the State Department’s inspector general or to a neutral party in order to determine which of her emails were work-related and which ones were personal. (The New York Times, 3/20/2015) Several day later, Kendall replies that turning over the server would be pointless since no emails remain on it. (The New York Times, 3/31/2015)
Clinton will keep her server until a copy is given to the FBI in August 2015. It will later be reported that the FBI recovers most if not all of the deleted emails on the server.
The New York Times reports that while it is known Clinton deleted over 31,000 emails from her server due to alleged personal content, it is unknown if she still retains copies of them elsewhere. “At a news conference this month, Mrs. Clinton appeared to provide two answers about whether she still had copies of her emails. First, she said that she ‘chose not to keep’ her private personal emails after her lawyers had examined the account and determined on their own which ones were personal and which were State Department records. But later, she said that the [contents of the] server… ‘will remain private.’” (The New York Times, 3/27/2015)
The New York Times will later reveal, “Secretary of State John Kerry asked Mr. Linick’s office to conduct a review after the disclosure [in March 2015] that Mrs. Clinton had exclusively used a computer server installed in her New York home for official and personal email correspondence from 2009 to 2013…” The State Department inquiry started by Linick will eventually develop into an FBI investigation. (The Washington Post, 8/14/2015) (The New York Times, 3/10/2016)
Bloomberg News will also later report, “The State Department inspector’s entire review [is] part of an effort initiated by Janice Jacobs, the department’s transparency coordinator for managing information and records, who was appointed by Kerry…” (Bloomberg News, 3/4/2016) Jacobs donates $2,7000 to Clinton’s presidential campaign in July 2015, the maximum allowable by law. (CNN, 9/9/2015)
The State Department inquiry started by Linick will eventually develop into a formal FBI investigation, as well as a final inspector general’s report published in May 2016.
The email sample was examined by the inspectors general of the State Department and the Intelligence Community. Those two emails were not marked as classified at the time, but were given classified labels indicating they contain highly sensitive information from signal intercepts and spy satellites. One is a discussion of a news article about a drone strike operation. The other concerns North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. (Inspector General of the Intelligence Community, 8/11/2015) (The New York Times, 9/7/2015)
One of the two emails is said to be designated “TOP SECRET//SI//TK/NOFORN.” “SI” stands for “special intelligence,” and usually indicates an intercepted communication. “TK” is an abbreviation for “Talent Keyhole,” which the New York Times reports “relies on satellite intercepts of conversations or imagery data. The program involves some of the most secure information in the intelligence agencies’ computer systems.” “NOFORN” means no foreigners should read the intelligence. (The New York Times, 8/14/2015)
In February 2016, the email about North Korea, written July 3, 2009, will be downgraded from “top secret” to “secret” and then partially released. This will leave one of the random sample of 40 emails “top secret.” All that is known about it is that it is from 2011. (The New York Times, 2/29/2016)
At a fund-raising dinner in Clear Lake, Iowa, Clinton jokes, “You may have seen that I recently launched a Snapchat account. I love it. Those messages disappear all by themselves.” (The New York Times, 8/14/2015)
Later in the month, a New York Times article on Democratic politicians who worry about the email scandal notes, “many say, her repeated jokes and dismissive remarks on the email controversy suggest that she is not treating it seriously enough.” (The New York Times, 8/27/2015)
The New York Times reports that according to several unnamed US officials, “specially trained cybersecurity investigators will seek to determine whether Russian, Chinese, or other hackers breached the account or tried to transfer any of Mrs. Clinton’s emails…” (The New York Times, 8/14/2015)
The New York Times reports, “In an unusual move, the FBI’s inquiry is being led out of its headquarters in Washington, blocks from the White House. Nearly all investigations are assigned to one of the bureau’s 56 field offices. But given this inquiry’s importance, senior FBI officials have opted to keep it closely held in Washington in the agency’s counterintelligence section, which investigates how national security secrets are handled.” (The New York Times, 8/14/2015)
A letter addressed to State Department Inspector General Steve Linick and Intelligence Community Inspector General Charles McCullough is signed by the “ranking Democrats on the House and Senate committees overseeing intelligence, foreign affairs, government operations, Homeland Security and the judiciary.” The letter states, “Already, this review has been too politicized. […] We are relying on you as independent inspectors general to perform your duties dispassionately and comprehensively.”
A spokesperson for Linick rejects the accusations. Linick has released two interim reports about Clinton’s emails and server, and is expected to release a final report in another month or two. (The New York Times, 3/10/2016)
The New York Times reports that Bill and Hillary Clinton have indicated their relationship with the Clinton Foundation would remain basically unchanged if Hillary becomes the next president. However: “Ethics experts reject that answer. They say there wouldn’t be any way to avoid the appearance of conflicts if she wins the presidency.”
Stephen Gillers, a legal ethics expert at New York University School of Law, says, “If Bill seeks to raise large sums of money from donors who also have an interest in US policy, the public will rightly question whether the grants affected United States foreign policy.” He adds that ethics rules are “not merely to prevent bad behavior but to foster public trust in the integrity of government choices.”
Joel Fleishman, who ran a foundation and wrote a book on philanthropy, says the Clintons should “sever the relationship [with the foundation] completely and put it in the hands of independent trustees.” They also should pick a leader of “impeccable integrity and let it go its own way in raising money.” (The New York Times, 5/22/2016)