August 2008: State Department rules prohibit the way some sensitive information will later be used on Clinton’s private server.

According to the State Department’s Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM), department employees are allowed to send most Sensitive But Unclassified (SBU) information unencrypted over the Internet only when necessary.

In August 2008, the FAM is amended to further toughen the rules on sending SBU information on non-department-owned systems at non-departmental facilities – such as Clinton’s later use of a private email server. Employees have to:

  • ensure that SBU information is encrypted
  • destroy SBU information on their personally owned and managed computers and removable media when the files are no longer required
  • implement encryption certified by the National Institute of Science and Technology (NIST)

The FBI will later determine that SBU information was frequently and knowingly sent to and from Clinton’s private server, but none of these steps were taken. (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/2/2016)

January 21, 2009—February 1, 2013: Clinton’s mobile devices and private server are never approved by her department’s security officials.

The Diplomatic Security Service Logo (Credit: public domain)

The Diplomatic Security Service Logo (Credit: public domain)

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)

June 2011—August 2012: A US ambassador is warned not to use private email for daily work matters, but Clinton’s identical behavior does not result in any warnings.

Scott Gration (Credit: New Republic)

Scott Gration (Credit: New Republic)

In June 2011, shortly after Scott Gration becomes the new US ambassador to Kenya, the State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DS) learns that he has sent out a revised policy allowing himself and other personnel in his embassy to use private email addresses for the daily communication of official government business.

Gration’s new policy happens to take place the same month the department sends out a cable warning all embassies to “avoid conducting official department business from your personal email accounts” due to a surge in hacking attacks of the personal emails of government employees. DS warns Gration they will be sending an experienced computer security officer to Kenya to reestablish proper communications procedures. DS officials also email him that this visit will be “especially timely in the wake of recent headlines concerning a significant hacking effort directed against the private, web-based email accounts of dozens of senior [government] officials…”

However, Gration continues to use his private email for work matters. Then, on July 20, 2011, a DS cable quotes from the department’s Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM): “it is the department’s general policy that normal day-to-day operations be conducted on an authorized [system].” The cable then warns, “Given the threats that have emerged since 2005, especially in regard to phishing and spoofing of certain web-based email accounts, we cannot allow the proliferation of this practice beyond maintaining contact during emergencies,” and there is nothing in his situation that would warrant an exception.

But Gration ignores these warnings and continues to use his personal email account.

The department then initiates disciplinary proceedings against him for this and several other infractions, but he resigns in August 2012, just weeks before any disciplinary measures are due to be imposed.

However, even though Clinton uses only a private email account for all her emailed work matters, she is not warned or disciplined like Gration. Furthermore, Clinton doesn’t change her email habits after the measures taken against Gration’s email habits are reported internally and in the press.  (US Department of State, 5/25/2016) (US Department of State, 3/5/2015) (The New Republic, 6/20/2012)

March 5, 2015: Key questions about Clinton’s email scandal go unanswered.

Politico reports, “State Department officials and Clinton aides have offered no response to questions in recent days about how her private email system was set up, what security measures it used, and whether anyone at the agency approved the arrangement. It’s unclear how such a system, run off an Internet domain apparently purchased by the Clinton family, could have won approval if the department’s policies were as the [State Department’s] inspector general’s report describes them.” (Politico, 3/3/2015

According to State Department regulations in effect at the time, the use of a home computer was permitted, but only if the computer was officially certified as secure, and no evidence has emerged that Clinton’s server was given such a certification. Additionally, the department’s Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM) states, “Only Department-issued or approved systems are authorized to connect to Department enterprise networks.” (US Department of State) 

An April 2016 article will indicate that many of the same questions still remain unanswered. (The Hill, 3/4/2016)

May 25, 2016: The State Department’s top two security officials say they would never have approved Clinton’s exclusive use of a personal email account.

Left: Gregory Starr Right: Steven C. Taylor (Credit: public domain)

Left: Gregory Starr Right: Steven C. Taylor (Credit: public domain)

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)