2009: The State Department rolls out an easy way to preserve emails for record keeping, but Clinton’s office elects not to use it and Clinton will later claim she never even heard of it.

Ernie Milner, division chief for SMART Testing and Implementation, and Kevin Gatlin, division chief for SMART Messaging, in the State Department SMART lab in Newington, VA. (Credit: American Diplomacy / University of North Carolina)

Ernie Milner, division chief for SMART Testing and Implementation, and Kevin Gatlin, division chief for SMART Messaging, in the State Department SMART lab in Newington, VA. (Credit: American Diplomacy / University of North Carolina)

In 2009, the first year Clinton is secretary of state, the State Department begins using the State Messaging and Archive Retrieval Toolset (SMART), which allows employees to electronically tag emails to preserve a copy for posterity. This allows employees to easily comply with record keeping regulations, instead of having to print out copies of each email.

Although most of the State Department starts using SMART in 2009; the Office of the Secretary elects not to use the SMART system to preserve emails, partly due to concerns that the system would “allow overly broad access to sensitive materials.” (This quote is from an FBI report, but the name of the official who said it is redacted.)

Representatives from the Executive Secretariat (which includes Clinton’s office) ask to be the last to receive the SMART rollout. Ultimately SMART is never used by the Executive Secretariat Office or Clinton for the rest of Clinton’s four-year tenure.

This leaves printing out each email as the only approved method by which the Clinton or her staff in the Office of the Secretary could preserve emails for record keeping. But when Clinton leaves office in February 2013, she won’t even do that.

Remarkably, when Clinton will be interviewed by the FBI in July 2016, the FBI summary will indicate: “Clinton was not aware how other State [Department] staff maintained their records and was unaware of State’s State Messaging and Archive Retrieval Toolset (SMART).” (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/2/2016)

SMART will have security and cost overrun problems for the rest of Clinton’s tenure, and beyond.

January 21, 2009—February 1, 2013: Most State Department officials claim they don’t know Clinton has a private email address or uses a private server.

A sample email of the "H" as it appears in an email sent by Clinton. (Credit: public domain)

A sample address with the “H” as it appears in an email sent by Clinton. (Credit: public domain)

A September 2016 FBI report will indicate that “some Clinton aides and senior-level State [Department] employees were aware Clinton used a personal email address for State business during her tenure [as secretary of state]. Clinton told the FBI it was common knowledge at State that she had a private email address because it was displayed to anyone with whom she exchanged emails. However, some State employees interviewed by the FBI explained that emails from Clinton only contained the letter ‘H’ in the sender field and did not display her email address.”

The report also notes, “The majority of the State employees interviewed by the FBI who were in email contact with Clinton indicated they had no knowledge of the private server in her Chappaqua residence.”

Even Clinton’s closest aides like her chief of staff Cheryl Mills and deputy chief of staff Huma Abedin will claim they didn’t know, though there is evidence that suggests otherwise (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/2/2016)

March 30, 2012—March 31, 2012: Clinton’s BlackBerry emails could be intercepted by Saudi Arabia while she visits that country.

Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs Jeffrey Feltman, Ambassador to the Clinton meets with King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia on March 30, 2012. (Credit: US Embassy Riyadh)

Clinton meets with King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia on March 30, 2012. (Credit: US Embassy Riyadh)

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.

Headquarters of Research In Motion (RIM) located in Waterloo, Ontario (Credit: public domain)

Headquarters of Research In Motion (RIM) located in Waterloo, Ontario (Credit: public domain)

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)

 

Around February 1, 2013: Clinton later claims she wasn’t given any instructions on how to preserve her emails when she left office.

In a July 2016 FBI interview, “Clinton [will state] that she received no instructions or direction regarding the preservation or production of records from [the] State [Department] during the transition out of her role as secretary of state in early 2013. Furthermore, Clinton believed her work-related emails were captured by her practice of sending emails to State employees’ official State email accounts.”

A May 2016 State Department inspector general report will conclude this wasn’t a proper method, and Clinton should have printed and filed her emails when she left office. (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/2/2016)

February 18, 2016 and May 3, 2016: A Platte River Networks employee is interviewed twice by the FBI and gives contradictory answers.

Paul Combetta (Credit: public domain)

Paul Combetta (Credit: public domain)

Platte River Networks (PRN) is the computer company managing Clinton’s private server from June 2013 until at least October 2015, and PRN employee Paul Combetta played a pivotal role in the deletion of Clinton’s emails from her server.

On February 18, 2016, Combetta is interviewed by the FBI for the first time. He says that between March 25 and 31, 2015, he realized he failed to change the email retention policy on Clinton’s email account on her server, as Clinton’s lawyer (and former chief of staff) Cheryl Mills told him to do in December 2014. This would result in the deletion of some of her emails after 60 days. However, he claims that despite this realization, he still didn’t take any action. Additionally, on March 9, 2015, Mills sent him and other PRN employees an email which mentioned that the House Benghazi Committee had made a formal request to preserve Clinton’s emails. Combetta tells the FBI that he didn’t recall seeing the preservation request referenced in the email.

On May 3, 2016, Combetta has a follow-up FBI interview, and his answers on key issues completely contradict what he said before. This time, he says that when he realized between March 25 and 31, 2015 that he forgot to change the email retention policy on Clinton’s email account, he had an “oh shit!” moment. Then, instead of finally changing the policy settings, he entirely deleted Clinton’s email mailbox from the server,  and used the BleachBit computer program to effectively wipe the data to make sure it could never be recovered. He also deleted a Datto back-up of the data. And he did all this without consulting anyone in PRN or working for Clinton. Furthermore, he admits that he was aware of the mention in the March 9, 2015 email from Mills mentioning the Congressional request to preserve Clinton’s emails.

A September 2016 FBI report will simply note these contradictions. There will be no explanation why Combetta was not indicted for lying to the FBI, obstruction of justice, and other possible charges. There also will be no explanation why his answers changed so much in his second FBI interview, such as him possibly being presented with new evidence that contradicted what he’d said before. (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/2/2016)

September 2, 2016: Clinton often told an aide to forward Blumenthal’s emails to the White House and others, but the FBI was unable to prove this actually happened.

In the FBI’s Clinton email investigation final report released on this day, the FBI discusses the at least 179 “intelligence memos” Clinton confidant Sid Blumenthal emailed to Clinton. Media reports indicate that some memos were accurate and some were totally inaccurate, but none of them were vetted by any US government official, because Blumenthal was and is a private citizen with no security clearance sending the emails directly to Clinton.

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An email in which Clinton wanted Sullivan to send a Blumenthal email to Obama, without mentioning who it was from. (Credit: public domain)

According to the FBI report, “Clinton often forwarded the memos to [her aide Jake] Sullivan, asking him to remove information identifying Blumenthal as the originator and to pass the information to other State employees to solicit their input. According to emails between Clinton and Sullivan, Clinton discussed passing the information to the White House, other [US government] agencies, and foreign governments.”

However, the report also mentions that the FBI was unable to determine if any of the memos were actually sent to such recipients, because the State Department didn’t give the FBI any of Sullivan’s emails sent to anyone other than Clinton. (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/2/2016) (Department of State, 2/29/16)