According to a May 2016 State Department inspector general’s report, the department’s Diplomatic Security (DS) and Information Resources Management (IRM) security officials claim that Clinton never demonstrates to them that her private server or BlackBerry or iPad meets the minimum security requirements specified by the Federal Information Security Management Act and the Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM). (US Department of State, 5/25/2016)
The Washington Post will later report, “Officials in the IT division have told investigators they could not recall previously hiring a political appointee.” Pagliano had worked as the IT director for Clinton’s PAC [political action committee] and also for her presidential campaign, and was paid by the PAC until April 2009. He also provided computer services to the Clinton family. (The Washington Post, 3/27/2016)
Patrick Kennedy, the department’s under secretary for management, oversees the hiring of Pagliano. Pagliano’s new bosses Susan Swart, head of the department’s Bureau of Information Resource Management, and her deputy, Charlie Wisecarver exchange emails expressing confusion and surprise that Kennedy has given them a political employee to work in the IT division. (Reuters, 3/24/2016) His initial salary is $133,000 a year. As a Schedule C political hire, Pagliano is vetted by the State Department’s Office of White House Liaison, where Heather Samuelson holds a top position. Samuelson worked on Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign, as did Pagliano, and in 2014 she will be one of three Clinton aides who decide which of Clinton’s 60,000 emails will be deleted. (The Daily Caller, 3/3/2016)
Clinton’s computer technician Bryan Pagliano is working with staff from the State Department’s Information Resources Management (IRM) office to resolve issues affecting the ability of emails sent from Clinton’s private server to be received at department .gov email addresses. Pagliano shows some staffers the computer logs from the server. The issue is eventually resolved. On December 21, 2010, IRM staff send an email to Clinton’s top aides describing the issue and summarizing what was done to resolve it. This appears to be one of the few times Clinton’s server is discussed with other department employees. (US Department of State, 5/25/2016)
Two members of Clinton’s senior executive staff will later claim they discussed their concerns about Clinton’s use of a personal email address, each in a separate meeting with John Bentel, the director of the Office of the Executive Secretariat for Information Resource Management.
In one of those meetings, Bentel says that Clinton’s personal communication system has been reviewed and approved by the department’s legal staff and that the matter is not to be discussed any further. However, a later State Department inspector general investigation will find no evidence that any department lawyers ever make such a review.
The other staff member who raised concerns about the server is told by Bentel that the mission of his office is to support Clinton and, in the words of a May 2016 inspector general report, “instruct[s] the staff never to speak of the Secretary’s personal email system again.”
Clinton’s private BlackBerry temporarily stops working, due to disruptions in the New York area following Hurricane Irene, and some State Department officials are talking about what to do to fix the problem.
John Bentel, director of the department’s Information Resources Management (IRM) office, notes in an email sent to department official Monica Hanley that a government email address was set up for Clinton when she became secretary of state: SSHRC@state.gov. He points out, “you should be aware that any email would go through the Department’s infrastructure and subject to FOIA [Freedom of Information Act] searches.”
However, Clinton has never used the account, and she still chooses not to use it. Instead, this account is only used by Clinton’s staff to maintain an Outlook calendar.
Bentel notes there are some old emails associated with the account, but none since January 2011, and they could be deleted.
Hanley forwards the email to Clinton’s deputy secretary of state Huma Abedin, but if here’s any email reply from her or Clinton, it’s unknown. (US Department of State, 5/25/2016) (US Department of State, 6/20/2016)
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)
He says, “We tried. We told people in her office that it wasn’t a good idea. They were so uninterested that I doubt the secretary was ever informed.” He was a member of the department’s cybersecurity team. He says it was well known amongst the team that Clinton’s private account was at greater risk of being hacked or monitored, but their warnings were ignored. (Al Jazeera America, 3/3/2015)
John Bentel, director of the department’s Information Resource Management (IRM) office while Clinton was secretary of state, is questioned behind closed doors by the House Benghazi Committee. According to a later account by his lawyer Randy Turk, Bentel testifies he has “no memory or knowledge” of Clinton’s private email server and only learned about it from the newspapers in March 2015.
In early 2016, he will refuse to speak to Congressional investigators and then refuse to speak to a State Department inspector general’s investigators. But the inspector general’s report released in May 2016 will uncover emails and other witness accounts suggesting Bentel did know about her private server and that he stopped his staffers from taking action to keep Clinton’s email practices within the law. (Yahoo News, 5/27/2016)
According to the Free Beacon, the servers were located at the department’s headquarters building in Washington, DC, and were maintained by the department’s Bureau of Information Resource Management. It is claimed they were taken by the FBI “several weeks ago.”
According to two unnamed people familiar with the investigation, the servers are being analyzed by technical forensic analysts who are trying to determine how “top secret” information was sent to Clinton’s private email account by her aides. Spokespeople for the FBI, State Department, and Clinton’s campaign refuse to comment about the matter. (The Free Beacon, 10/7/2015)
It is reported that Senate Republicans have been trying to interview John Bentel since December 2015. Bentel was the director of Information Resources Management (IRM) in the State Department’s Office of Executive Secretariat when Clinton was secretary of state, and thus he may have knowledge about both Clinton’s private email account and her private server. But he has refused to answer their questions about Clinton’s private server. Senators Charles Grassley and Ron Johnson, the leaders of the Senate Judiciary and Homeland Security Committees respectively, have told Bentel that they would prefer a “voluntary and informal” meeting, but “will consider other options if faced with a continuing lack of cooperation,” potentially referring to a subpoena.
Bentel was secretly questioned by the House Benghazi Committee in June 2015, and claimed he had “no memory or knowledge” about such issues.
Hours after a report is released by the State Department’s inspector general that is highly critical of Clinton’s email practices, the Clinton campaign releases a statement that largely dismisses the report’s critique. The New York Times analyzes and disputes every claim made in the 203-word Clinton rebuttal:
- “The inspector general documents just how consistent her email practices were with those of other secretaries and senior officials at the State Department who also used personal email.” The Times points out that only former Secretary of State Colin Powell exclusively used a personal email account for work matters, and nobody else used a private email server.
- “The report shows that problems with the State Department’s electronic record-keeping systems were longstanding and that there was no precedent of someone in her position having a State Department email account until after the arrival of her successor.” The Times notes the department did have long-standing recordkeeping issues. However, the rules became more stringent by the time Clinton became secretary of state. Most of Clinton’s predecessors simply didn’t use email at all.
- “Contrary to the false theories advanced for some time now, the report notes that her use of personal email was known to officials within the department during her tenure…” The Times notes that many in the State Department did know of Clinton’s private email address, due to exchanging emails with her. “It is equally clear, however, that senior department officials were sensitive about people raising red flags about it. When two junior staff members expressed concerns to their boss in the Information Records Management office, he ‘instructed the staff never to speak of the secretary’s personal email system again.’”
- “There is no evidence of any successful breach of the secretary’s server.” While it is true the report contains no proof the server was breached, the server was shut down twice due to hacker attacks. Prior to the report, Clinton claimed there was no evidence it was even attacked.
- “We agree that steps ought to be taken to ensure the government can better maintain official records, and if she were still at the State Department, Secretary Clinton would embrace and implement any recommendations, including those in this report, to help do that.” The Times notes, “many of these regulations [pointed out in the report] existed, in one form or another, when she was in office.”
- “As this report makes clear, Hillary Clinton’s use of personal email was not unique, and she took steps that went much further than others to appropriately preserve and release her records.” The Times counters, “Mrs. Clinton’s use of a private email and server stored in her home was, in fact, unique. She left the State Department without turning over any emails, and only did so after she was contacted by the department’s lawyers, who were under pressure to produce documents from the House Select Committee on Benghazi.” Furthermore, the emails she turned over now appear to be incomplete.
- The Times concludes by noting that the Clinton campaign statement “does not repeat an assertion Mrs. Clinton has made before: that her arrangement, while unwise, was permitted. Last September, she told the Associated Press: ‘What I did was allowed. It was allowed by the State Department. The State Department has confirmed that.’” (The New York Times, 5/25/2016)
A new State Department inspector general report determines that department rules required Clinton to get official approval to conduct official business using a personal email account on her private server, but she did not do so.
In the words of the report, Steven C. Taylor, current head of Information Resources Management (IRM) and Gregory Starr, current head of Diplomatic Security (DS), jointly claim that Clinton “had an obligation to discuss using her personal email account to conduct official business with their offices, who in turn would have attempted to provide her with approved and secured means that met her business needs. However, according to these officials, DS and IRM did not—and would not—approve her exclusive reliance on a personal email account to conduct department business, because of the restrictions in the FAM [Foreign Affairs Manual] and the security risks in doing so.” (US Department of State, 5/25/2016)
Yahoo News reports that “Senate investigators and a conservative group [Judicial Watch] are zeroing in on newly revealed evidence about the activities of a now retired State Department computer specialist in orchestrating what they charge was a ‘cover-up’ of the former secretary of state’s email practices.” That person is John Bentel, who was director of the department’s Information Resource Management (IRM) office until December 2012.
According to a newly released State Department inspector general’s report, in late 2010, two IRM staffers separately raised issues with Bentel that some of Clinton’s private emails might need to be preserved to comply with the law and regulations. But according to the report, Bentel told one of the staffers that Clinton’s email practices had been “reviewed and approved by Department legal staff”—which was not true—and “that the matter was not to be discussed any further.” Bentel told the other staffer that the mission of the IRM “is to support the Secretary and instructed the staff never to speak of the Secretary’s personal email system again.”
In response to this report, Senator Chuck Grassley (R) says, “If what these two witnesses said is true, it is an outrage, and it raises a lot of serious questions. Good and honest employees just trying to do their job were told to shut up and sit down. Concerns about the secretary’s email system being out of compliance with federal record-keeping laws were swept under the rug.”
Additionally, in June 2015, Bentel told the House Benghazi Committee that he had “no memory or knowledge” of Clinton’s private email server while she was secretary of state.
But in August 2011, Clinton’s deputy chief of staff, Huma Abedin, emailed the idea of giving Clinton a new email address because “her personal email server is down.” Bentel suggested giving Clinton a government email account, but warned, “you should be aware that any email would go through the department’s infrastructure and [be] subject to FOIA [Freedom of Information Act] searches.”
Grassley says he intends to learn more about Bentel’s role in a possible cover-up. And Judicial Watch plans to question former Clinton aides like Abedin and Cheryl Mills about Bentel’s role when they are deposed under oath in the coming weeks.
Law professor Douglas Cox say that Bentel’s role was “the most shocking part of the [inspector general’s] report. It shows there was dissent within the State Department precisely by the people responsible for insuring compliance with record-keeping and cyber-security issues—and they were told something that appears not to be true.” (Yahoo News, 5/27/2016) (The New York Times, 5/26/2016)