1996: Future FBI Director Comey wants to charge Hillary Clinton in the Whitewater investigation.

Cover of Time magazine on April 4, 1994, with the subhead "How the president's men tried to hinder the Whitewater investigation" (Credit: Time Magazine)

Cover of Time magazine on April 4, 1994, with the subhead “How the president’s men tried to hinder the Whitewater investigation” (Credit: Time Magazine)

James Comey is deputy special counsel to the Senate Whitewater Committee. According to Time Magazine in March 2016: “In 1996, after months of work, Comey came to some damning conclusions: Hillary Clinton was personally involved in mishandling documents and had ordered others to block investigators as they pursued their case. Worse, her behavior fit into a pattern of concealment: she and her husband had tried to hide their roles in two other matters under investigation by law enforcement. Taken together, the interference by White House officials, which included destruction of documents, amounted to ‘far more than just aggressive lawyering or political naiveté,’ Comey and his fellow investigators concluded. It constituted ‘a highly improper pattern of deliberate misconduct.’”

However, Comey is not in charge of the case, and his superiors decide not to press charges against Bill or Hillary Clinton in the matter.

In 2013, Comey will be appointed director of the FBI, which will make him the de facto head of the FBI’s investigation into Clinton’s emails that starts in 2015. (Time, 3/31/2016)

June 2, 1996: Clinton shows a pattern of evasion regarding the Whitewater investigation.

Clinton talks to reporters after testifying before a grand jury investigating Whitewater on January 26, 1996. (Credit: The Associated Press)

Clinton talks to reporters after testifying before a grand jury investigating Whitewater on January 26, 1996. (Credit: The Associated Press)

The Washington Post publishes a front-page story analyzing Hillary Clinton’s public comments about the Whitewater investigation. It concludes, “From the beginning of the Whitewater controversy, Hillary Clinton has maintained a public posture seemingly at odds with her actions. She was reluctant to release records during the 1992 campaign. She fought David Gergen’s recommendation to turn over all the records in 1993. She led White House opposition to the appointment of a special counsel in early 1994. There appears to be a four-year pattern of Hillary Clinton avoiding full disclosure, occasionally forgetting places and events that might embarrass her, and revising her story as documents emerge and the knowledge of her questioners deepens.” (The Washington Post, 6/2/1996)

Bloomberg News will later comment, “The impression that she had something to hide—even when she may not have—was cemented when her Whitewater billing records from her old practice, the Rose Law Firm, mysteriously went missing for two years, then turned up in a reading room in the third-floor residence at the White House.” (Bloomberg News, 3/3/2015)

September 21, 2000: A US ambassador loses his security clearance after working on classified information on an airplane flight.

Martin Indyk (Credit: Paul Richards / Getty Images)

Martin Indyk (Credit: Paul Richards / Getty Images)

US Ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk has his security clearance taken away after the FBI began investigating whether he prepared classified memos about meetings with foreign leaders using an unclassified laptop computer on an airplane flight. Investigators say there was no evidence of espionage or of the exposure any classified information.

A month later, Indyk’s clearance will be restored after a flare-up between Israel and the Palestinian territories results in the worst violence there in a decade. The Clinton administration decides it needs Indyk’s diplomatic abilities to help deal with the crisis. (The Los Angeles Times, 10/11/2000)

August 22, 2001: A top al-Qaeda expert quits the FBI due to fallout from a briefcase incident.

John P. O'Neill (Credit: public domain)

John P. O’Neill (Credit: public domain)

John O’Neill, considered the FBI’s top expert on al-Qaeda, retires from the bureau. In July 2000, he left a briefcase containing classified documents in a room with other FBI agents while he went outside to take a cell phone call. His briefcase was missing when he returned. It was recovered by police a short time later with only a pen and lighter missing. Fingerdusting revealed the documents were never touched, and a Justice Department investigation cleared him of any criminal wrongdoing.

However, he felt the incident damaged his career so much that he took a job offer to work as head of security at the World Trade Center. He is killed on 9/11 just a couple of weeks after starting his new job. (PBS Frontline, 10/3/2002) (US Department of State, 3/31/2016)

January 1, 2003: An FBI agent is charged with gross negligence but pleads guilty to lesser charges.

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Ex FBI agent James J. Smith (Credit: The Associated Press)

James Smith is an FBI agent for more than 20 years, running counterintelligence operations against Chinese spies. In 2003, three years after retiring from the FBI, he is arrested by the FBI and charged with gross negligence. He had a sexual relationship with a longtime source, Katrina Leung. He is alleged to have carried classified documents in a briefcase and sometimes left the case open and unattended while he visited her. Leung was believed to be a double agent working for the Chinese government but loyal to the FBI. However, she copied some of the documents, which were found in her safe. Smith is also charged with wire fraud for submitting false reports on Leung’s activities as an FBI asset.

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Katrina Leung makes the front cover of U.S. News & World Report on November 2, 2003. (Credit: public domain)

The original charges against Smith are later dropped in a plea deal whereby he pleads guilty to a single felony count of making false statements by failing to mention his affair with Leung. He is sentenced to three months of home confinement, three years of probation, and a $10,000 fine. It is alleged there was no damage to national security because the classified information never got further than Leung when she was arrested at the same time he was.

Leung is charged with obtaining and keeping classified documents in violation of the Espionage Act, but without an explicit charge of espionage. She also strikes a plea deal, pleading guilty to making a false statement and filing a false tax return. She is sentenced to probation.

In July 2016, FBI Director James Comey will announce he is not going to charge Clinton with gross negligence, claiming only one other person, Smith, has been charged with it in 100 years. (Politico, 7/7/2016)

January 1, 2007: An NSA whistleblower is harassed by the government despite no evidence against him.

William Binney (Credit: Thomas Peter / Reuters)

William Binney (Credit: Thomas Peter / Reuters)

In 2002, William Binney, a recently retired NSA [National Security Agency] official, alerted the Defense Department’s inspector general that the department is wasting over $3 billion on a new system to track Internet data, when it could be done for $3 million instead.

In 2007, the FBI searches his home in a hunt for whoever leaked details of a secret post-9/11 domestic wiretapping program. He isn’t prosecuted, since he had nothing to do with that leak, but government officials “blackball” his consulting firm for intelligence agencies, costing him millions of dollars. He is wiretapped, stripped of his security clearance, and threatened with prosecution for two years.

In 2015, he will complain that he was unfairly targeted because he was a whistleblower. He says Clinton and other top ranking officials will never get prosecuted, no matter what they do. “These people are above the law.” (McClatchy Newspapers, 9/29/2015)

Mid-August 2008: The Chinese government apparently hacks into the 2008 presidential campaigns of Barack Obama and John McCain.

Admiral Dennis Blair (Credit: Sasakawa Peace Foundation USA)

Admiral Dennis Blair (Credit: Sasakawa Peace Foundation USA)

Hacking teams traced back to China are caught breaking into the computers of the Obama and McCain campaigns, resulting in high-level warnings to Chinese officials to stop. The computers, laptops, and mobile devices of top campaign aides and advisers who receive high-level briefings are particularly targeted. “Spear phishing” is used to get targets to open an attachment containing a virus that would allow data to be stolen from their computer.

Obama campaign manager David Plouffe will later say he got a call in the middle of August 2008 alerting him to the attack and that the FBI was investigating. However, the virus is extremely sophisticated, and it takes months for it to be completely removed from the networks of the two campaigns.

In a May 2009 speech, President Obama will make a general mention of the attacks: “Hackers gained access to emails and a range of campaign files, from policy position papers to travel plans.” However, the involvement of China’s government won’t be publicly revealed until June 2013.

Dennis Blair, director of national intelligence from 2009 to 2010, will comment that year, “Based on everything I know, this was a case of political cyberespionage by the Chinese government against the two American political parties. They were looking for positions on China, surprises that might be rolled out by campaigns against China.” (NBC News, 6/6/2013)

January 21, 2009—February 1, 2013: Hundreds of Clinton’s emails are printed out by a Bill Clinton staffer; he may have a relevant security clearance.

Clinton presents a letter of congratulations and signed photo to Chief Culinary Specialist Oscar Flores during his retirement ceremony aboard the USS Makin Island on April 1, 2010. (Credit: Chief Mass Communication Specialist John Lill / US Navy)

Clinton presents a letter of congratulations and signed photo to Chief Culinary Specialist Oscar Flores during his retirement ceremony aboard the USS Makin Island on April 1, 2010. (Credit: Chief Mass Communication Specialist John Lill / US Navy)

A September 2016 FBI report will mention that the FBI determined “hundreds of emails” were sent by Clinton’s deputy chief of staff Huma Abedin and other State Department staffers to a member of Bill Clinton’s staff so he could print them out for Clinton. His name will be redacted, but he is almost certainly Oscar Flores, because the report will mention that he is a member of the US Navy Reserves, which Flores is at the time.

Some of these emails will later be determined to contain information classified at the “confidential” level, including six email chains forwarded by Abedin and one email chain forwarded by Clinton.

But the FBI will determine that Flores received a security clearance at the “secret” level on October 25, 2007 from the Defense Department. Furthermore, although Flores retires from the US Navy Reserves in September 2010, there is no indication his security clearance is deactivated at that time. (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/2/2016)

January 21, 2009—February 1, 2013: Hundreds of classified emails are sent or received by Clinton while she is outside the US, including some to or from President Obama.

Clinton boards the State Department jet with her BlackBerry, destination unknown. (Credit: Andrew Harnik / The Associated Press)

Clinton boards the State Department jet while using her BlackBerry, date and location are unknown. (Credit: Andrew Harnik / The Associated Press)

This is according to a September 2016 FBI report. The report indicates that Clinton and her immediate staff were repeatedly “notified of foreign travel risks and were warned that digital threats began immediately upon landing in a foreign country, since connection of a mobile device to a local network provides opportunities for foreign adversaries to intercept voice and email transmissions.”

Additionally, the State Department has a Mobile Communications Team responsible for establishing secure mobile voice and data communications for Clinton and her team wherever they travel. But even so, Clinton and her staff frequently use their private and unsecure mobile devices and private email accounts while overseas.

The number of Clinton emails sent or received outside the US will be redacted in the FBI report. Although it will mention that “hundreds” were classified at the “confidential” level, additional details are redacted. Nearly all mentions of “top secret” emails are redacted in the report, so it’s impossible to know if any of those are sent while Clinton is overseas.

The report will mention that some emails between Clinton and President Obama are sent while Clinton is overseas. However, the exact number will be redacted. None of these overseas emails between them will be deemed to contain classified information. According to the report, “Clinton told the FBI that she received no particular guidance as to how she should use President Obama’s email address…”

The details of the FBI’s report on Clinton’s July 2016 FBI interview will indicate that Clinton emailed Obama on July 1, 2012 from Russia. However, it is not clear if she sent the email from on the ground or on a plane. (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/2/2016)

January 21, 2009—February 1, 2013: Clinton may regularly carry two mobile devices at once, although she will later claim otherwise.

In March 2015, after it becomes public knowledge that Clinton exclusively used a private email account for all her email usage, she will claim she did this for “convenience,” so she wouldn’t have to carry two personal devices at once.

During a trip to the Middle East, Clinton is seen using two Blackberrys while being filmed for a National Geographic documentary called “Inside the State Department” on June 15, 2010. (Credit: National Geographic)

During a trip to the Middle East, Clinton is seen using two Blackberrys while being filmed for a National Geographic documentary called “Inside the State Department” on June 15, 2010. (Credit: National Geographic)

However, in 2016, Justin Cooper, an aide to Bill Clinton who helps manage the Clinton private server, will claim otherwise. In an FBI interview, “Cooper stated that he was aware of Clinton using a second mobile phone number. Cooper indicated Clinton usually carried a flip phone along with her BlackBerry because it was more comfortable for communication and Clinton was able to use her BlackBerry while talking on the flip phone.”

However, in Clinton’s 2016 FBI interview, “she did not recall using a flip phone during her tenure [as secretary of state], only during her service in the Senate.” In their FBI interviews, Clinton’s aides Huma Abedin and Cheryl Mills “advised they were unaware of Clinton ever using a cellular phone other than the BlackBerry.”

According to FBI investigators, Clinton has “two known phone numbers… which potentially were used to send emails using Clinton’s clintonemail.com email addresses.” One is associated with her BlackBerry usage. Toll records associated with the other phone number “indicate the number was consistently used for phone calls in 2009 and then used sporadically through the duration of Clinton’s tenure and the years following. Records also showed that no BlackBerry devices were associated with this phone number.” (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/2/2016)

January 21, 2009—February 1, 2013: Clinton’s frequently discarded BlackBerrys are sometimes destroyed and sometimes disappear.

The FBI will later determine that Clinton uses 11 BlackBerrys while secretary of state and two more using the same phone number after she leaves office. In a 2016 FBI interview, “Clinton stated that when her BlackBerry device malfunctioned, her aides would assist her in obtaining a new BlackBerry, and, after moving to a new device, her old SIM cards were disposed of by her aides.”

Justin Cooper, a Bill Clinton aide who helps manage Clinton’s private server, will later tell the FBI that he “did recall two instances where he destroyed Clinton’s old mobile devices by breaking them in half or hitting them with a hammer.”

However, according to Clinton aides Huma Abedin and Monica Hanley, “the whereabouts of Clinton’s devices would frequently become unknown once she transitioned to a new device.” (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/2/2016)

February 12, 2009: An email suggests Clinton gets a new cell phone, despite her later claims that she didn’t use one.

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Clinton talks on a flip phone in Washington, DC on November 14, 2006. (Credit: Karen Bleir / Agence France Presse / Getty Images)

An email sent to or received by Clinton on this day has the subject heading: “Re: New cell.” It won’t be found in the over 30,000 Clinton emails given to the State Department in December 2014. Thus, the details are known because she will be asked about it in her July 2016 FBI interview.

According to a later FBI report, “Clinton stated she was familiar with the phone number ending in [redacted] referenced in the email. She believed the number was that of her BlackBerry because she did not recall using a flip phone during her time at State, only while in the Senate.”

However, in the FBI Clinton email investigation final report, evidence will be mentioned that Clinton actually had two phone numbers. One was for her BlackBerry, which she used just for emails, and one for her flip phone, which she used for phone calls. (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/2/2016)

March 2009: Clinton’s personal email server is replaced; she will use the new one for the rest of her term as secretary of state.

Justin Cooper, an aide to former President Bill Clinton, has been working with Bryan Pagliano, who worked as a computer technician on Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign, to build a new private server located in the Clintons’ Chappaqua, New York, house. Some time in March 2009, Pagliano and Cooper met at the Chappaqua house to physically install the server and related equipment in a server rack in the basement.

Once the new server is up and running, Pagliano migrates the email data from the old server to the new one. Pagliano will later be interviewed by the FBI, and he will claim that after the migration, no email content should have remained on the old server. He will tell the FBI that he only transferred clintonemail.com email accounts for Clinton aide Huma Abedin and others (whose names will later be redacted), and he was unaware of and did not transfer an email account for Hillary Clinton.

However, Clinton emails using a clintonemail.com domain address start getting sent in January 2009, showing she must had had an account on the old server since that time. Cooper will also later be interviewed by the FBI, and he will say he believed Clinton had a clintonemail.com email account on the old server and Abedin did not. The FBI will be unable to obtain the old server to analyze it, so the dispute has not been fully resolved.

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The Dell Power Edge 2900 (Credit: public domain)

This new server will be used for the rest of Clinton’s term as secretary of state, then will be replaced in 2013. Later in March 2009, the old server is repurposed to serve as a personal computer for household staff at Clinton’s Chappaqua house. (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/2/2016)

The Washington Post will later report, “The server was nothing remarkable, the kind of system often used by small businesses, according to people familiar with its configuration at the end of her tenure. It consisted of two off-the-shelf server computers. Both were equipped with antivirus software. They were linked by cable to a local Internet service provider. A firewall was used as protection against hackers.” (The Washington Post, 3/27/2016)

According to the FBI, the new server initially consists of the following equipment: “a Dell PowerEdge 2900 server miming Microsoft Exchange for email hosting and management, a Dell PowerEdge 1950 server miming BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) for the management of BlackBerry devices, a Seagate external hard drive to store backups of the Dell PowerEdge 2900 server, a Dell switch, a Cisco firewall, and a power supply.” (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/2/2016)

In 2015, Hillary Clinton will say of her server, “It was sitting there in the basement. It was not any trouble at all.” (The Wall Street Journal, 9/27/2015)

Around Spring 2009: Clinton’s computer technician is advised to make a key improvement to the security of Clinton’s private server, but the improvement is never made.

When Bryan Pagliano, the manager of Clinton’s private server while she Clinton’s is secretary of state, will be interviewed by the FBI in December 2015, he will recall a conversation that takes place around the beginning of Clinton’s tenure. This person, whose name is later redacted, recommends that email transiting from a state.gov account to Clinton’s private server should be sent through a Transport Layer Security (TLS) “tunnel.” Most of Clinton’s email traffic is with State Department officials using state.gov accounts.

A diagram of the Transport Layer Security (TLS) (Credit: public domain)

A diagram described as Networking 101: Transport Layer Security (TLS) (Credit: public domain)

A September 2016 FBI report will explain: “TLS is a protocol that ensures privacy between communicating applications, such as web browsing, email, and instant messaging, with their users on the Internet. TLS ensures that no third-party eavesdrops on the two-way communication. TLS is the successor to SSL and is considered more secure.”

Pagliano is the main person to manage problems with the server, but he will tell the FBI that the transition to TLS never occurred. It is not clear why. The FBI will be unable to forensically determine if TLS was ever implemented on the server.

The same unnamed person who gives Pagliano this advice also tells him at the same time that he would not be surprised if classified information was being transmitted to Clinton’s personal server.  (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/2/2016)

March 9, 2012: A Justice Department memo clarifies a policy of avoiding interference in elections.

Eric Holder (Credit: public domain)

Eric Holder (Credit: public domain)

Eric Holder, the US attorney general from 2009 until 2015, writes a memo during the 2012 US presidential race outlining Justice Department policy on how to avoid interfering in elections. It states that department employees (which includes the FBI) “must be particularly sensitive to safeguarding the department’s reputation for fairness, neutrality, and nonpartisanship.” If an employee is “faced with a question regarding the timing of charges or overt investigative steps near the time of a primary or general election,” that person should contact the department’s public integrity section “for further guidance.”

The department has had such policies for decades, and they usually are restated every presidential election, but the memo adds clarity to them. (The Washington Post, 10/29/2016) (US Department of Justice, 3/9/2012)

This department policy will be tested in 2016, when the FBI reopens an investigation into Clinton’s emails just 11 days before Clinton is on the ballot for the US presidential election.

January 2013—May 31, 2013: Clinton uses an agent to find new management for her private server.

Tania Neild (Credit: public domain)

Tania Neild (Credit: public domain)

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) 

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Alex McGeorge (Credit: Newsmax)

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)

January 5, 2013: Someone accesses the email account of one of Bill Clinton’s staffers on the private server used to host Hillary Clinton’s emails.

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The Tor Logo (Credit: public domain)

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.”

Dave Aitel (Credit: Immunity)

Dave Aitel (Credit: Immunity)

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)

March 15, 2013—March 21, 2013: Clinton’s private server is repeatedly scanned from Russia shortly after Guccifer’s hack revealed her server domain.

On March 14, 2013, the Romanian hacker known as Guccifer broke into the email account of Clinton confidant Sid Blumenthal and learned Clinton’s private email address and thus her clintonemail.com server domain.

A September 2016 FBI report will reveal that “An examination of log files [of Clinton’s server] from March 2013 indicated that IP addresses from Russia and Ukraine attempted to scan the server on March 15, 2013, the day after the Blumenthal compromise, and on March 19 and March 21, 2013. However, none of these attempts were successful, and it could not be determined whether this activity was attributable to [Guccifer].” (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/2/2016)

May 31, 2013: Clinton hires the Colorado-based Platte River Networks to maintain her email server.

The Denver, Colorado, apartment building where Platte River was based until mid-2015. (Credit: Matthew Jones / The Daily Mail)

The Denver, Colorado, apartment building where Platte River was based until mid-2015. (Credit: Matthew Jones / The Daily Mail)

Platte River Networks (PRN) will begin managing the server in early June, with the management of Clinton’s aides Bryan Pagliano and Justin Cooper being phased out as a result. But the Service Level Agreement won’t be signed until July 18, 2013.

The original server is disconnected and shipped from Clinton’s house in Chappaqua, New York, to a data center in New Jersey. (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/2/2016) (The Associated Press, 10/7/2015) (McClatchy Newspapers, 10/6/2015)

This takes place three months after the hacker nicknamed Guccifer made public Clinton’s exact email address. However, the process of choosing the company began in January 2013, prior to the Guccifer hack, suggesting the change was at least partially due to Clinton’s time as secretary of state coming to an end in February 2013 instead. (The Washington Post, 9/5/2015)

Platte River will soon relocate Clinton’s server to New Jersey, then replace it with a new server, while keeping the old server running.

Early June 2013—Early July 2013: Clinton’s server is relocated and then replaced by a new server, but the old server keeps running.

After Platte River Networks (PRN) is selected to manage Clinton’s private email server on May 31, 2013, the company decides to immediately relocate the server and then also replace it with a better one.

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The founders of Platte River Network: Brent Allshouse (left) and Treve Suavo (right). (Credit: Platte River Networks)

PRN assigns two employees to manage the new server (which will be the third server used by Clinton). The FBI will later redact the names of these two employees, but it is known that one of them works remotely from his home in some unnamed town and will handle the day-to-day administration of the server, and the other one works at PRN’s headquarters in Denver, Colorado, and handles all hardware installation and any required physical maintenance of the server. Media reports will later name the two employees as Paul Combetta, who works from Rhode Island, and Bill Thornton.

The employee at PRN’s headquarters (who logically would be Thorton) works with Clinton’s computer technician Bryan Pagliano to help with the transition. Around June 4, 2013, this person is granted administrator access to the server, as well as any accompanying services.

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Equinix Logo (Credit: public domain)

On June 23, 2013, this person travels to Clinton’s house in Chappaqua, New York, shuts down the server, and transports it to a data center in Secaucus, New Jersey, run by Equinix, Inc. This older server will stay at the Equinix facility until it is given to the FBI on October 3, 2015.

The PRN headquarters employee (still likely to be Thornton) turns the old server back on in the Equinix data center so users can continue to access their email accounts. Then he spends a few days there setting up a new server. When he leaves, all the physical equipment for the new server is successfully installed except for an intrusion detection device, which Equinix installs later, once it gets shipped.

Meanwhile, the PRN employee who works remotely (Combetta) does his remote work to get the new server online. Around June 30, 2013, this employee begins to transfer all the email accounts from the old server to the new one. After several days, all email accounts hosted on the presidentclinton.com, wjcoffice.com, and clintonemail.com domains are transferred. However, PRN keeps the old server online at the Equinix data center along with the new server to ensure email continues to be delivered. But the old server no longer hosts email services for the Clintons.

According to an FBI report made public in September 2016, “The new Clinton email server hosted email for [Hillary] Clinton, President Clinton, [redacted], and their respective staffs.”

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The Dell PowerEdge R620 (Credit: public domain)

This same FBI report will explain that the new server consists of the following equipment: “a Dell PowerEdge R620 server hosting four virtual machines, including four separate virtual machines for Microsoft Exchange email hosting, a BES for the management of BlackBerry devices, a domain controller to authenticate password requests, and an administrative server to manage the other three virtual machines, a Datto SfRlS 2000 to store onsite and remote backups of the server system, a CloudJacket device for intrusion prevention, two Dell switches, and two Fortinet Fortigate 80C firewalls.” (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/2/2016)

The FBI report will not make entirely clear what happens to the data on the old server. But a September 2015 Washington Post article will assert that after PRN moved all the data onto a new server, everything on the original server was deleted until it is “blank.” However, it was not wiped, which means having the old files overwritten several times with new data until they can never be recovered. (The Washington Post, 9/12/2015)

June 6, 2013: Chinese government hacker attacks on US government targets have steadily increased since 2008.

Shawn Henry (Credit: public domain)

Shawn Henry (Credit: public domain)

In the summer of 2008, the presidential campaigns of Barack Obama and John McCain had their computers successfully breached by hackers apparently working for the Chinese government. According to NBC News, “US officials say that Chinese intrusions have escalated in the years since, involving repeated attacks on US government agencies, political campaigns, corporations, law firms, and defense contractors—including the theft of national security secrets and hundreds of billions of dollars in intellectual property.”

Shawn Henry headed up the FBI’s investigation of the 2008 attacks and now is president of the computer security company CrowdStrike. He says there’s “little doubt” the Chinese government has an aggressive electronic espionage program targeting the US government and the commercial sector. “There’s been successful exfiltration of data from government agencies (by the Chinese) up and down Pennsylvania Avenue.” (NBC News, 6/6/2013)

June 21, 2013: President Obama nominates James Comey to be the next director of the FBI; Comey starts a ten-year term.

James Comey is sworn in as FBI director by Attorney General Eric Holder on September 4, 2013. (Credit: FBI Archives)

James Comey is sworn in as FBI director by Attorney General Eric Holder on September 4, 2013. (Credit: FBI Archives)

While announcing the nomination, Obama comments, “To know Jim Comey is also to know his fierce independence and his deep integrity. […] [H]e doesn’t care about politics, he only cares about getting the job done. At key moments, when it’s mattered most, he [stood] up for what he believed was right. He was prepared to give up a job he loved rather than be part of something he felt was fundamentally wrong.”

Comey had been the deputy attorney general during the Bush administration. Obama’s comment about giving up a job is reference to a 2004 incident where Comey (and others) threatened to resign unless President Bush canceled a surveillance program before its legal authorization expired. Bush gave in and canceled the program. (The White House, 6/21/2013) 

Comey is approved by the Senate later in June and starts his ten-year term as FBI director on September 4, 2013. (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/4/2013) Comey will later be in charge of the FBI when it investigates Clinton’s email scandal.

June 24, 2013—August 2015: Another company stores the contents of Clinton’s email server on a cloud storage system; this could help the FBI recover deleted emails.

The Datto, Inc. office in Rochester, New York. (Credit: The New York Times)

The Datto, Inc. office in Rochester, New York. (Credit: The New York Times)

Shortly after taking over management of Clinton’s private email server, Platte River Networks (PRN) buys a device called the Datto SIRIS S2000 from another company called Datto, Inc. that frequently makes copies of all the server’s contents. They use this device on a copy of Clinton’s server, which has been moved to a data storage facility in New Jersey. Then, apparently without PRN asking or paying for it, or even being aware of it, Datto stores those copies of the server’s contents on a “cloud” storage system elsewhere. (McClatchy Newspapers, 10/6/2015)

A September 2016 FBI report will explain, “At the Clintons’ request, PRN only intended that the backup device store local copies of the backups. However, in August 2015, Datto informed PRN that, due to a technical oversight, [Clinton’s] server was also backing up the server to Datto’s secure cloud storage. After this notification, PRN instructed Datto to discontinue the secure cloud backups.”

The FBI report will also reveal that the first Datto back-up takes place on June 24, 2013. But a new server is still being set-up and data being transferred from the old server, so the June 29, 2013 back-up will later prove most useful to FBI investigators. the FBI will say the back-ups will stop on December 23, 2013, but it isn’t explained why. (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/2/2016)

In 2015, an unnamed source familiar with Datto’s account will say that PRN was billed for “private cloud” storage, and since PRN didn’t have a cloud storage node of its own, the data bounced to Datto’s cloud. This source says that even though nobody seemed to realize it, Datto was “managing the off-site storage throughout.”

When asked if the FBI might recover Clinton’s deleted emails from Datto’s storage, the source will say, “People don’t use Datto’s service for getting rid of data.” Apparently, the FBI will ask for and get the contents of Datto’s storage in September 2015. (McClatchy Newspapers, 10/6/2015)

Senator Ron Johnson (R), who will write a letter to Datto in late 2015 seeking more information, will say that “questions still remain as to whether Datto actually transferred the data from its off-site data center to the on-site server, what data was backed up, and whether Datto wiped the data after it was transferred.” It is also unknown if Datto employees have security clearances allowing them to view classified information. (CNN, 10/8/2015) 

A Datto official will later say that investigators may be able to recover Clinton’s deleted emails if the data was on the server at the time Datto’s service was first used in 2013. (The Washington Post, 10/7/2015)

The FBI will later confirm that Datto back-ups to the cloud will occur, but it isn’t clear if the FBI recovered any emails from this that they didn’t find through other means. It also isn’t clear if the June 29, 2013 back-up that the FBI finds useful is from the Datto SIRIS S2000, the cloud, or both. (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/2/2016)

Also, despite internal PRN emails from August 2015 indicating many PRN employees didn’t know about the Datto cloud back-up until that time, by November 2015, the FBI will find evidence that an unknown PRN employee deleted data from the cloud back-up in March 2015.

June 29, 2013: Some of Clinton’s emails are later recovered due to a back-up of computer files made on this date.

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The Datto SIRIS S2000 (Credit: Datto, Inc.)

In June 2013, Platte River Networks (PRN) takes over management of Clinton’s server. Late in the month, they replace the server with a new one and then transfer the data to it. They subcontract with the company Datto, Inc. and purchase a device called the Datto SIRIS S2000 to make periodic back-ups of all the data on the new server. The first such back-up takes place on June 24, 2013.

But data is still being transferred from the old server to the new one. The June 29, 2013 back-up will later prove to be the most important one for FBI investigators, as it apparently is the first one after the data transfer is completed. From that point onwards, emails from Clinton’s four years as secretary of state are likely to only get lost from the server, not added.

The FBI will later report that all of Clinton’s emails at the start of Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state, from January 23, 2009 to March 17, 2009 were missing from the over 30,000 emails Clinton handed over. But the FBI’s Clinton investigation recovered some these emails because they were “captured through a Datto backup on June 29, 2013. However, the emails obtained are likely only a subset of the emails sent or received by Clinton during this time period.”

Clinton’s first server was replaced around March 18, 2009 by the same server that PRN then decided to replace in June 2013. But presumably some of the emails on the first server were transferred to the second server, from instance by being in email inboxes, and then were transferred again by PRN to the newest (and third) server.

One thing that isn’t clear is how many of the emails from after March 18, 2009 were recovered by the FBI. It also isn’t clear if the FBI recovered emails from a Datto device attached to the new server, or if it was from a copy of the data that Datto kept in the “cloud,” over the Internet. (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/2/2016)

2014: The data on Clinton’s first private server is transferred to another computer, causing some of Clinton’s emails to be lost.

When Clinton became secretary of state in January 2009, her emails were hosted on her first private email server, which was an Apple computer (either an Apple Power Macintosh G4 or G5 tower). In March 2009, the server was replaced by a new one built by Clinton’s computer technician Bryan Pagliano. The old server was repurposed to serve as a personal computer and/or workstation for household staff at Clinton’s Chappaqua, New York, house.

At some unknown point in 2014, the data on this Apple computer is transferred to an Apple iMac computer. The hard drive of the old Apple computer is then discarded. Clinton’s emails from January 2009 until around March 18, 2009, are apparently lost as a result.

On October 14, 2015, Williams & Connolly, the law firm of Clinton’s personal lawyer David Kendall, tells the Justice Department that a review of the iMac was conducted, as requested by the Justice Department, and no emails were found belonging to Clinton from when she was secretary of state. The FBI will not directly examine the iMac. (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/2/2016)

November 2014: The Romanian hacker “Guccifer,” who broke into the email account of Clinton associate Sid Blumenthal in 2013, appears to be freely cooperating with US investigators.

Guccifer, whose real name is Marcel-Lehel Lazar, started serving a seven-year prison sentence in Romania earlier in 2014 due to his hacking activities. A New York Times reporter who interviews him there in November 2014 writes, I learned [he was] also busy meeting with American investigators who had traveled to Romania to meet the man who had outfoxed them for so long. They, too, wanted to find out how he burrowed into so many American computers.” (The New York Times, 11/21/2014)

Between December 5, 2014 and December 11, 2014: Clinton tells Mills she doesn’t need her “personal” emails, resulting in Mills telling those managing Clinton’s server to delete them.

In 2016, Clinton’s former chief of staff Cheryl Mills will be interviewed by the FBI. Mills will claim that in December 2014, Clinton decided she no longer needed access to any of her emails older than 60 days. This comes shortly after the State Department formally asked Clinton for all of her work-related emails, on October 28, 2014. This decision has to take place before an email discussing it on December 11, 2014, written Paul Combetta, the Platte River Networks (PRN) employee managing Clinton’s private server.

Paul Combetta (Credit: Facebook)

Paul Combetta (Credit: Facebook)

Even so, Mills will claim she instructed Combetta to modify the email retention policy on Clinton’s clintonemail.com email account to reflect this change. (PRN is managing Clinton’s private server at the time.) This means that the 31,830 Clinton emails that Mills and Clinton’s other lawyers David Kendall and Heather Samuelson recently decided were not work-related will be deleted after 60 days.

However, Combetta will later say in an FBI interview that he forgot to make the changes to Clinton’s clintonemail.com account and didn’t make them until late March 2015.

Clinton will also later be interviewed by the FBI. She will claim that after her staff sent her work-related emails to the State Department on December 5, 2014, “she was asked what she wanted to do with her remaining personal emails. Clinton instructed her staff she no longer needed the emails. Clinton stated she never deleted, nor did she instruct anyone to delete, her emails to avoid complying with FOIA [Freedom of Information Act], State [Department], or FBI requests for information.”

However, Clinton saying her personal emails were no longer needed, then having Mills tell PRN to have them delete them after 60 days, will result in all of Clinton’s emails that her lawyers deemed personal getting permanently deleted. The FBI will later recover some of the emails through other means and discover that thousands actually were work-related. (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/2/2016)

Shortly After March 2, 2015: A surge of hacking attempts follows the revelation of Clinton’s use of a private email server in the media.

On March 2, 2015, a New York Times article publicly reveals Clinton’s use of a personal email account and private server to conduct government business. The FBI’s Clinton email investigation will later identify an increased number of login attempts to her server and its associated domain controller just after this article comes out.

According to the FBI in September 2016, “Forensic analysis revealed none of the login attempts were successful. [The] FBI investigation also identified an increase in unauthorized login attempts into the Apple iCloud account likely associated with Clinton’s email address during this time period.” (Clinton’s email address, which had been publicly revealed in March 2013, was still used as the user name for the account.) “Investigation determined all potentially suspicious Apple iCloud login attempts were unsuccessful.”

Despite all this, Clinton does not simply turn the server off. Instead, Platte River Networks (PRN) employees, who are managing the server, make some security improvements around March 7, 2015.

PRN staff also discuss the possibility of conducting penetration testing against the server to highlight vulnerabilities, so they can be fixed. However, the penetration testing ultimately doesn’t happen. (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/2/2016)

March 7, 2015—Mid-July 2016: Donations to a state senate election lead to potential conflicts of interests in three FBI investigations for a high-ranking FBI official.

The Clintons stand behind Terry McAuliffe during his inauguration as the Commonwealth of Virginia’s 72nd governor. (Credit: Patrick Semansky / The Associated Press)

Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe is widely considered the best friend of Bill and Hillary Clinton, and was co-chair of one of Bill’s presidential campaigns and the chair of Hillary’s 2008 presidential campaign. In March 2016, McAuliffe says, “We’re best friends, I’ve been family friends with the Clinton’s for thirty years. It’s a great relationship, we vacationed together for years, we’re just very personal friends…” (The Valley’s Music Place, 3/31/2016)

On March 7, 2015, McAuliffe and other state Democratic Party leaders meet with Dr. Jill McCabe and persuade her to run for a state senator seat in Virginia. Dr. McCabe is a hospital physician who has never run for political office before. This has potentially larger political implications, because her husband is Andrew McCabe, an FBI official who runs the FBI’s Washington, DC, field office at the time.

Dr. Jill McCabe (Credit: Twitter)

Dr. Jill McCabe (Credit: Twitter)

FBI officials will later claim that after the March 7, 2015 meeting, Andrew McCabe seeks ethics advice from the FBI and follows it, avoiding involvement with public corruption cases in Virginia, and also avoiding any of his wife’s campaign activities or events.

Five days before Jill McCabe is asked to run, on March 2, 2015, the New York Times publicly reveals Clinton’s use of a private email address, and her use of a private email server is revealed two days later, starting a major and prolonged political controversy. Jill McCabe announces her candidacy on March 12, 2015.

On July 10, 2015, the FBI’s Clinton email investigation formally begins, although it may have informally begun earlier.

Andrew McCabe and Jill McCabe pose at a campaign event in 2015. (Credit: Sharyl Attkisson)

Andrew McCabe and Jill McCabe pose at a campaign event in 2015. (Credit: Sharyl Attkisson)

Andrew McCabe’s Washington, DC, field office provides personnel and resources to the investigation. At the end of July 2015, he is promoted to assistant deputy FBI director, the number three position in the FBI.

During the 2015 election season, McAuliffe’s political action committee (PAC) donates $467,500 to Jill McCabe’s campaign. Furthermore, the Virginia Democratic Party, ”over which Mr. McAuliffe exerts considerable control,” according to the Wall Street Journal, donates an additional $207,788 to her campaign. “That adds up to slightly more than $675,000 to her candidacy from entities either directly under Mr. McAuliffe’s control or strongly influenced by him.”

This represents more than a third of all the campaign funds McCabe raises in the election. She is the third-largest recipient of funds from McAuliffe’s PAC that year.

Virginia State Senator Dick Black (Credit: Twitter)

Virginia State Senator Dick Black (Credit: Twitter)

On November 3, 2015, Jill McCabe loses the election to incumbent Republican Dick Black. Once the campaign is over, “[Andrew] McCabe and FBI officials felt the potential conflict-of-interest issues ended,” according to the Journal.

In February 2016, Andrew McCabe is promoted to deputy FBI director, the second highest position in the FBI. In this role, he is part of the executive leadership team overseeing the Clinton email investigation, though FBI officials say any final decisions are made by FBI Director James Comey.

However, that is not the only potential conflict of interest. By February 2016, four FBI field offices are conducting investigations of the Clinton Foundation. McAuliffe was a Clinton Foundation board member until he resigned when he became the governor of Virginia in 2013. (The Wall Street Journal, 10/24/2016)

Also, at some point in 2015, if not earlier, the FBI begins conducting an investigation of McAuliffe. When the existence of this investigation is publicly leaked in May 2016, media reports suggest it may involve McAuliffe’s financial relationship with a Chinese businessperson who has donated millions to the foundation. It is also reported that investigators have looked at McAuliffe’s time as a board member of the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI), a yearly conference run by the Clinton Foundation.  (CNN, 5/24/2016)

Andrew McCabe (Credit: Getty Images)

Andrew McCabe (Credit: Getty Images)

In the spring of 2016, Andrew McCabe agrees to recuse himself from the McAuliffe investigation, due to McAuliffe’s donations to Jill McCabe’s election campaign. However, he doesn’t recuse himself from the Clinton Foundation investigation or the Clinton email investigation, despite McAuliffe’s close ties to Bill and Hillary Clinton. (The Wall Street Journal, 10/24/2016)

In mid-July 2016, the FBI seeks to reorganize the Clinton Foundation investigation. McCabe decides the FBI’s New York office should take the lead, while the Washington office that he formerly headed should take the lead with the McAuliffe investigation. The Journal will later report, “Within the FBI, the decision was viewed with skepticism by some, who felt the probe would be stronger if the foundation and McAuliffe matters were combined.” However, the decision is implemented.

McCabe also is involved in an effort to shut down the foundation investigation in August 2016, but his role is unclear.

In October 2016, McCabe’s potential conflicts of interest will be revealed by two Wall Street Journal articles. (The Wall Street Journal, 10/30/2016) In early November 2016, the Journal will report that “some [in the FBI] have blamed [McCabe], claiming he sought to stop agents from pursuing the [Clinton Foundation] case this summer. His defenders deny that, and say it was the Justice Department that kept pushing back on the investigation.” (The Wall Street Journal, 11/2/2016)

Around that time, James Kallstrom, the former head of the FBI’s New York office, will say of McCabe, “The guy has no common sense. He should be demoted and taken out of the chain of command.” (The American Spectator, 11/1/2016)

Around March 7, 2015: Changes are made to the security settings of Clinton’s private server after its existence was revealed in the media.

In the days following a New York Times article revealing Clinton’s use of her private server, Cheryl Mills, who is one of Clinton’s lawyers as well as her former chief of staff, requests that Platte River Networks (PRN), the computer company managing Clinton’s server, conduct a complete inventory of all equipment related to the server. Two unnamed PRN employees do so.

This results in some changes to the server’s security settings around March 7, 2015. According to a September 2016 FBI report, these changes “include disabling the server’s public-facing VPN page and switching from SSL protocol to TLS to increase security.”

The FBI will explain: “TLS is a protocol that ensures privacy between communicating applications, such as web browsing, email, and instant-messaging, with their users on the Internet. TLS ensures that no third-party eavesdrops on the two-way conummication. TLS is the successor to SSL and is considered more secure.” (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/2/2016)

March 8, 2015: Someone deletes email accounts other than Clinton’s from Clinton’s private server.

In a September 2016 report, the FBI will reveal that the “FBI forensically identified deletions from [Clinton’s] server on March 8, 2015 of .pst files not associated with Clinton’ s email account or domain, and other server data.”

A .pst or “Personal Storage Table” file is a file format used to store copies of emails and other items within Microsoft software.

This incident will only be mentioned in a footnote in an FBI report, with no mention of who made the deletions or why. It also is not clear how thorough the deletions are. Clinton’s deputy chief of staff Huma Abedin had a frequently used email account hosted on the server, but it is unknown if these deletions include her emails.

Platte River Network's new, larger office, which they moved into in mid-2015. (Credit: Stuart Sipkin / Demotis / Corbis))

Platte River Network’s new, 12,000 sq. foot office, which they moved into in mid-2015. (Credit: Stuart Sipkin / Demotis / Corbis))

It seems probable an employee of Platte River Networks (PRN), the computer company managing Clinton’s server, made the deletions. Shortly after a news report made Clinton’s use of the server public knowledge on March 2, 2015, Cheryl Mills, who is one of Clinton’s lawyers as well as her former chief of staff, requested that PRN conduct a complete inventory of all equipment related to the server, and one unnamed PRN employee physically checked the server while another one remotely logged on to check it.

The FBI report will also mention that around March 7, 2015, PRN makes various changes to the server’s security settings. (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/2/2016)

March 9, 2015: An email from Cheryl Mills warns a Platte River Networks employee that Clinton’s emails should be preserved, but he will delete them all later in the month anyway.

Cheryl Mills, who is one of Clinton’s lawyers at the time, as well as being her former chief of staff, sends an email to some employees at Platte River Networks (PRN), the company that is managing Clinton’s private server. On March 3, 2015, the House Benghazi Committee sent a letter to Clinton’s lawyers, asking that they preserve all of Clinton’s emails. This is because of a New York Times report the day before that indicated Clinton probably had many emails from when she was secretary of state that the State Department did not. Mills’ email to PRN references this preservation request.

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In March 2015, PRN is preparing to move from a small downtown loft in Denver, to a more spacious 12,000 sq. foot office space. (Credit: Platte River Networks / Facebook)

PRN employee Paul Combetta is one of the recipients of this email from Mills. In a February 18, 2016 FBI interview, he will claim that he didn’t recall seeing the preservation request mentioned in the email. But he will be interviewed by the FBI again, on May 3, 2016. At that time, he will indicate that he deleted and then wiped all of Clinton’s emails from her server in late March 2015, despite the fact that, according to an FBI report, “he was aware of the existence of the preservation request and the fact that it meant he should not disturb Clinton’s email data on [Clinton’s] server.”

It is not clear why he will do this. He will also state during his second interview, “he did not receive guidance from other PRN personnel, PRN’s legal counsel, or others regarding the meaning of the preservation request.” (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/2/2016)

March 18, 2015: Clinton’s team won’t answer basic questions about the security of her private server.

John A. Lewis (Credit: John Hopkins University)

John A. Lewis (Credit: John Hopkins University)

Clinton spokesperson Nick Merrill claims that when Clinton set up her private email server, “Robust protections were put in place and additional upgrades and techniques were employed over time as they became available. There was never evidence of a breach, nor any unauthorized intrusions.”

However, Merrill declines to say who exactly was in charge of maintaining the server and ensuring its security. Furthermore, it’s unclear what sort of security vetting that person or persons received, if any. Additionally, Merrill won’t reveal if other departments that protect government communications, such as the FBI or the NSA, were ever told of the server’s existence, and if so, if they helped provide security for it.

James A. Lewis, who held senior technology posts at the White House and State Department, comments that emails “that run on commercial services are vulnerable to collection. […] I don’t think people realize how much of this information is available to foreign intelligence services.” (Bloomberg News, 3/18/2015)

Contrary to Merrill’s claim, a May 2016 State Department inspector general report will reveal that there were hacker attacks on Clinton’s server.

March 20, 2015: The House Benghazi Committee formally requests that Clinton turn over her private email server.

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.

Between March 25 and 31, 2015: A Platte River Networks employee allegedly deletes all of Clinton’s emails and then wipes them to prevent their recovery, despite apparently having no clear order to do so.

Platte River Networks (PRN) is managing Clinton’s private server, and two PRN employees are occasionally working on it. Around December 2014, PRN employee Paul Combetta was told by one of Clinton’s lawyers (and her former chief of staff) Cheryl Mills to delete all copies of Clinton’s emails off Mills’ computer and the computer of another lawyer working for Clinton, Heather Samuelson. He did so. But he says he was also told by Mills to change the email retention policy on Clinton’s clintonemail.com email account so that Clinton’s unwanted “personal” emails would be deleted after 60 days, and he forgot to do that.

Combetta will be interviewed by the FBI on February 18, 2016. At that time, he will say that after a conference call between PRN and the staff of former President Bill Clinton on March 25, 2015, roughly between March 25 and 31, 2015, he will realize he forgot to make the change, but then will tell the FBI that he didn’t do anything about it.

However, Combetta will be interviewed by the FBI again on May 3, 2016, and his answers will change. This time, he will say he had what told the FBI was “an ‘oh shit’ moment.” Then, sometime between March 25 and 31, 2015, he deleted the Clinton archive mailbox from Clinton’s server. Furthermore, he used BleachBit to delete the exported .pst files he had created on the server system containing Clinton’s emails.

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There are six employees leading PRN in 2015. From left to right they are Brent Allshouse, David DeCamillis, Treve Suavo, Sam Hickler, Craig Papke, and Dave Robinson (not pictured). (Credit: Linked In and Platte River Networks)

An FBI report will explain, “BleachBit is open source software that allows users to ‘shred’ files,” as well as other functions. “BleachBit’s ‘shred files’ function claims to securely erase files by overwriting data to make the data unrecoverable.”

Additionally, the FBI investigation will later find “evidence of these deletions and determined the Datto backups of the [Clinton’s] server were also manually deleted during this timeframe.” However, the FBI will not mention if they figured out who deleted the Datto back-ups, whether it is Combetta or someone else.

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BleachBit System Cleaner 1.8 (Credit: BleachBit)

Note that Combetta was only asked by Mills to change the deletion policy on Clinton’s account, which would have deleted only her “personal” emails 60 days later. He actually immediately deleted all of her emails, including her work-related ones, and then used a program to make their later recovery impossible. It is not clear if anyone told him to do this, and if so who, or if he did it on his own.

Furthermore, Combetta took these actions even though Mills sent him (and others at PRN) an email on March 9, 2015, which mentioned how the House Benghazi Committee had requested to Clinton’s lawyers that all of Clinton’s emails should be preserved. In his first FBI interview, he will deny being aware of this. But in his second FBI interview, according to the FBI, at the time he made the deletions, “he was aware of the existence of the preservation request and the fact that it meant he should not disturb Clinton’s email data on [Clinton’s] server.” (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/2/2016)

March 27, 2015: Clinton is not willing to hand over her private server to see if emails were improperly deleted.

Clinton’s personal lawyer David Kendall reveals this in a letter to the House Benghazi Committee. On March 20, 2015, the committee had suggested that an independent party could review it to see if any work-related emails remained. Kendall states, “There is no basis to support the proposed third-party review of the server… To avoid prolonging a discussion that would be academic, I have confirmed with the secretary’s IT [information technology] support that no emails… for the time period January 21, 2009 through February 1, 2013 reside on the server or on any back-up systems associated with the server.” (Politico, 3/27/2015) 

Clinton will give the server to the FBI in August 2015. (The Washington Post, 8/12/2015) One month later, it will be reported that deleted emails have been recovered from the server, and some of them are work-related. (Bloomberg News, 9/2/2015)

March 27, 2015: There allegedly is a “massive” FBI investigation of Guccifer’s hack into Blumenthal’s emails.

Cody Shearer (Credit: Vimeo)

Cody Shearer (Credit: Vimeo)

In March 2013, Clinton confidant Sid Blumenthal’s email account was broken into by the Romanian hacker nicknamed Guccifer, and some emails between Blumenthal and Clinton were publicly revealed. Cody Shearer was a business partner with Blumenthal in a company called Osprey Global Solutions that is sometimes mentioned in the hacked emails.

When contacted by Gawker for a comment about such emails, Shearer says that “the FBI is involved and told me not to talk. There is a massive investigation of the hack and all the resulting information.”

Nothing else is known about this investigation, presuming it exists. Shearer is also described by Gawker as “a longtime Clinton family operative.” (Gawker, 3/27/2015)

Around Late March 2015: An Internet cloud back-up of Clinton’s server is deleted at this time, despite the company managing the server seemingly not knowing the cloud copy exists.

On November 19, 2015, an unnamed Datto executive will be interviewed by the FBI. Datto had provided back-up service and equipment to Platte Rivers Networks (PRN) when PRN was managing Clinton’s private server from June 2013 onwards. It will later be reported that in early August 2015, PRN employees discovered that in addition to a Datto back-up device attached to Clinton’s server, Datto had been also backing up Clinton’s server to the Internet “cloud.” Some internal PRN emails from early August 2015 show some employees acting surprised after being told about this.

A graphic of Datto's cloud structure. (Credit: Datto, Inc.)

A graphic of Datto’s cloud structure. (Credit: Datto, Inc.)

However, according to a later FBI summary of the Datto executive’s interview, he said that PRN must have known about the cloud back-up all along. “As evidence, [he] stated the partner portal, that PRN had log-in credentials to, had a feature displaying backed-up data an options to ‘delete cloud’ or ‘delete local.’ [He] stated PN would have seen their back-ups under ‘delete cloud.'”

More crucially, during the interview, the FBI will show him a Datto document “indicating email records were manually deleted from the Datto secure cloud back-ups of the [Clinton] server in March 2015.” He then will tell the FBI that it couldn’t have been a Datto employee who made the deletions, because there would have been a work ticket created showing that. Furthermore, IP addresses associated with the deletions indicate that someone from PRN must have done it, although PRN had a shared account so it can’t be proven who exactly made the deletions. (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 10/17/2016)

A Datto letter sent to the FBI in October 2015 will indicate that Datto technical experts reviewed administrative files and discovered through the device’s Internet interface that a series of deletions took place on the device on March 31, 2015, between 11:27 a.m. and 12:41 a.m. Furthermore, a much greater amount of data had been “deleted automatically based on the local device’s then-configured pruning parameters.” (US Congress, 9/12/2016) It is unclear if this refers to data deleted from the local Datto device or the Internet cloud back-up.

Although it is unknown who made these deletions, in a May 2016 FBI interview, PRN employee Paul Combetta will confess to deleting all of Clinton’s emails on her server as well as the Datto back-up device in precisely this time period, between March 25, 2015 and March 31, 2015.

March 31, 2015: A Platte River Networks employee talks to two of Clinton’s lawyers shortly after deleting and wiping all of Clinton’s emails from her server.

Platte River Networks (PRN) is a computer company managing Clinton’s private server. PRN employee Paul Combetta will later admit to the FBI that he deleted all of Clinton’s emails from her server and then used the computer program BleachBit to permanently eliminate the emails. This is despite the fact that he claims he had only been told by one of Clinton’s lawyers (and her former chief of staff) Cheryl Mills back in December 2014 to change the email retention policy on Clinton’s account.

On March 25, 2015, there was a conference call between PRN employees and members of former President Bill Clinton’s personal staff. On March 31, 2015, there is another conference call. Combetta will later say he made the deletions at some point between the two calls.

Details about the second call are murky because the FBI only discovered it took place due to discovering a PRN work ticket about it. The ticket mentions PRN employees talking to Clinton’s personal lawyer David Kendall as well as her lawyer Mills. But when Combetta was asked about it, according to the FBI, “PRN’s attorney advised [him] not to comment on the conversation with Kendall, based upon the assertion of the attorney-client privilege.”

In 2016, Mills will be interviewed by the FBI. She will state that she was unaware that Combetta made such deletions and modifications in March 2015. This presumably would mean they were not discussed in the second conference call, or any time after that. Clinton will also be interviewed in 2016, and she will also claim she was unaware of the March 2015 email deletions. (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/2/2016)

April 6, 2015: Former Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) Director Michael Flynn says it’s very likely foreign governments have Clinton’s emails.

Defense Intelligence Agency Director Michael Flynn (The Daily Caller)

Defense Intelligence Agency Director Michael Flynn (The Daily Caller)

He is asked in an interview, “What do you think the odds are that the Chinese, the Russians hacked into [Clinton’s] server and her email account?” He replies, “Very high. […] They’re very good at it. China, Russia, Iran, potentially the North Koreans. And other countries who may be ‘our allies’ because they can.” He adds that since Clinton’s only excuse for using the private server was convenience, she should have been fired.

The DIA is similar to the CIA, but focuses on military intelligence. Since retiring in 2014, Flynn has been notably critical of President Obama. (The Weekly Standard, 4/7/2015) (CNN, 2/13/2016) 

By January 2016, Flynn will occasionally advise Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. (Bloomberg News, 1/31/2016) In February 2016, Flynn will say, “I think Hillary Clinton, for the good of the country, should step down [from the presidential race] and let this FBI investigation play out.” (The Daily Caller, 2/10/2016)

April 23, 2015: Petraeus is given a remarkably lenient plea bargain despite his serious security violations.

CIA Director David Petraeus (Credit: public domain)

CIA Director David Petraeus (Credit: public domain)

A federal judge sentences former CIA director and general David Petraeus to two years of probation and a $100,000 fine for giving his biographer and lover, Paula Broadwell, access to notebooks, classified information about official meetings, war strategy, and intelligence capabilities. Petraeus had been the CIA director from 2011 to 2012, but he was forced to quit due to the scandal. (The New York Times, 4/23/2015) 

The FBI seeks jail time for him, but doesn’t get it due to the plea bargain with the Justice Department. The New York Times will later report that FBI Director James Comey made the case to Attorney General Eric Holder that “Mr. Petraeus deserved to face strenuous charges. But the Justice Department overruled the FBI, and the department allowed Mr. Petraeus to plead guilty to a misdemeanor.” (The New York Times, 10/16/2015) The sentence is considered surprisingly light, given the evidence.

In 2016, the Washington Post will report, “FBI officials were angered by the deal and predicted it would affect the outcome of other cases involving classified information.” One former US law enforcement official will complain the deal “was handled so lightly for his offense there isn’t a whole lot you can do.” (The Washington Post, 3/2/2016)

Early May 2015—Early July 2015: Patrick Kennedy and other State Department officials allegedly attempt to change or remove the classification codes of some Clinton emails to make their release less politically damaging for Clinton.

An unnamed State Department official who worked in the Office of Information Programs and Services (IPS) will be interviewed by the FBI on August 17, 2015. She will claim there was a deliberate effort to change some Clinton emails bearing the “B(1)” code, which classifies information due to “national security,” to the “B(5)” code, which classifies information mostly due to “interagency or intra-agency communications.”

This person “believed there was interference with the formal [Freedom of Information Act] FOIA review process. Specifically, [the State Department’s] Near East Affairs Bureau upgraded several of Clinton’s emails to a classified level with a B(1) release exemption. [Redacted] along with [redacted] attorney, Office of Legal Counsel called State’s Near East Affairs Bureau and told them they could use a B(5) exemption on an upgraded email to protect it instead of the B(1) exemption.”

Under Secretary of State Patrick Kennedy (Credit: Brendan Hoffman / Getty Images)

Under Secretary of State Patrick Kennedy (Credit: Brendan Hoffman / Getty Images)

The interviewee reported in early May 2015 that Under Secretary for Management Patrick Kennedy “held a closed-door meeting with [redacted]  and [redacted] [Justice Department’s] Office of Information Programs where Kennedy pointedly asked [redacted] to change the FBI’s classification determination regarding one of Clinton’s emails, which the FBI considered classified. The email was related to FBI counter-terrorism operations.” (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/23/2016)

In October 2016, Fox News will report, “This appears to be one of two emails that kick-started the FBI [Clinton email investigation] in the summer of 2015.” (Fox News, 10/6/2016) The email in question was sent on November 18, 2012 by department official Bill Roebuck and forwarded to Clinton by her aide Jake Sullivan. If Kennedy tried to change the classified code on this email he must have failed, because when the email is published on May 22, 2015, it is classified at the “secret” level (the medium level below “top secret”) due to a section using the B(1) code. (US Department of State, 5/22/2015)

However, classification codes may be changed on other emails. On August 26, 2015, Fox News will report that “Kennedy, who was deeply involved in the Benghazi controversy, is running interference on the classified email controversy on Capitol Hill. Two sources confirmed that Kennedy went to Capitol Hill in early July [2015] and argued [the November 18, 2012] email from Clinton aide Jake Sullivan [plus one other email] did not contain classified material. … One participant found it odd Kennedy insisted on having the discussion in a secure facility for classified information, known as a SCIF,” although Kennedy claimed the two emails were unclassified. (Fox News, 8/26/2015)

Then, on September 1, 2015, Fox News will report that “At least four classified Hillary Clinton emails had their markings changed to a category that shields the content from Congress and the public… in what State Department whistleblowers believed to be an effort to hide the true extent of classified information on the former secretary of state’s server. The changes, which came to light after the first tranche of 296 Benghazi emails was released in May [2015], was confirmed by two sources — one congressional, the other intelligence. The four emails originally were marked classified after a review by career officials at the State Department. But after a second review by the department’s legal office, the designation was switched to ‘B5’…”

Kate Duval (Credit: LinkedIn)

Kate Duval (Credit: LinkedIn)

One of the lawyers in the office where the changes are made is Kate Duval, who once worked for Williams & Connolly, the same law firm as Clinton’s personal lawyer David Kendall.  Duval also served as an attorney and advisor in the Obama Administration on oversight issues and high-profile investigations, most recently at the Department of State and, before that, as Counselor to the Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service. There are internal department complaints that Duval, and a second lawyer also linked to Kendall, “gave at the very least the appearance of a conflict of interest during the email review. A State Department spokesman did not dispute the basic facts of the incident, confirming to Fox News the disagreement over the four classified emails as well as the internal complaints. But the spokesman said the concerns were unfounded.” (Fox News, 9/1/2015)

Kennedy will also be interviewed by the FBI on December 21, 2015. Redactions will make the interview summary difficult to follow, but apparently he will be asked about these accusations. He will say that while the official who accused him “says it like it is” and has “no fear of telling truth to power,” he “categorically rejected” the allegations of classified code tampering. (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/23/2016)