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)

January 15, 2008—September 30, 2013: The State Department has no permanent inspector general for the entire time Clinton is secretary of state.

080115HaroldGeiselpublicdomain

Acting Inspector General Harold Geisel (Credit: public domain)

Instead, an acting inspector with close ties to State Department leadership fills the role. An “inspector general” is an internal watchdog tasked with discovering mismanagement and corruption. The position goes vacant in January 2008. President Obama doesn’t nominate anyone to fill the position for more than four years, making it the longest time any department ever went without a permanent one.

Five months after Clinton leaves office, Obama nominates Steve Linick, who is confirmed as the new permanent inspector general three months later, on September 30, 2013.

In 2015, the Wall Street Journal will write, “The lack of a confirmed inspector general raises questions about oversight of the department under Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton. The department has been criticized for its failure to gather and archive the email records of Mrs. Clinton and other officials and for responses to public-record requests that lawmakers and advocacy groups say were insufficient… It isn’t clear whether Mrs. Clinton had any role in the lack of a nomination.”

The acting inspector general during Clinton’s term, Harold Geisel, is banned from taking the job permanently due to conflict of interest rules. Matthew Harris, a professor who researches inspectors general, will later comment, “It’s a convenient way to prevent oversight.” Acting inspectors general “don’t feel empowered; they don’t have the backing of their people. They’re in a position where they could be removed at any moment.”

Representative Ed Royce (R), chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, will later suggest, “A permanent IG [inspector general] would have objected to [Clinton’s] efforts to circumvent congressional oversight by keeping her emails off the books.”

The White House has yet to explain why it waited so long to nominate a replacement. (The Wall Street Journal, 3/24/2015)

January 21, 2009—March 29, 2009: State Department employees are prohibited from using nondepartmental computers for work matters, but Clinton’s usage is ignored.

According to a May 2016 State Department inspector general’s report, department employees often ask the department’s Information Resources Management (IRM) office for permission to use nondepartmental computer systems for work purposes, such as using outside video conferencing systems or file sharing software.

But these requests are typically denied. For instance, in 2012, a request is submitted to use an Internet-based teleconference service. But the IRM denies this request, citing regulations that normal day-to-day operations need to be conducted on authorized computer systems.

The IRM further notes that the department “expect[s] employees to use the tools provided by the department to protect sensitive information from unauthorized access or disclosure.”

However, Clinton is never warned not to use a personal email account and personal server for her day-to-day communications, despite some top department officials knowing that she does this. (US Department of State, 5/25/2016)

July 3, 2009: A possibly “top secret” email to Clinton mentions spy satellite information about North Korea.

Shelby Smith-Wilson (Credit: Department of State Archives)

Shelby Smith-Wilson (Credit: Department of State Archives)

An email is written by Shelby Smith-Wilson, an official in the State Department’s operations center. Parts of it will later be deemed “top secret,” then downgraded to “secret,” the medium classification level. The New York Times will later report, “Although that portion was entirely redacted, one government official familiar with the contents said it described a conference call among senior officials, including Mrs. Clinton, about the ballistic missile test that North Korea conducted that day in violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions.” Smith-Wilson’s initial email is addressed to “Dan,” possibly National Security Council official Dan Russel. It is titled “Summary of 1055 EDT DPRK Conference Call.” (“DPRK” stands for Democratic People’s Republic of [North] Korea.)

It is circulated amongst State Department officials, including Clinton aides Cheryl Mills, Huma Abedin, and Jake Sullivan. Abedin then forwards it to Clinton.

In 2015, the email will be included in a random sample of 40 Clinton emails reviewed by State Department Inspector General Steve Linick. He and Intelligence Community Inspector General Charles McCullough will deem parts of it “top secret.” The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency will later concur, suggesting it contains intelligence from US spy satellites. But the State Department will disagree, and after months of dispute, in February 2016 the email will be downgraded to “secret,” with parts of it publicly released. Even then, this will be called a “provisional” decision, suggesting the dispute is on-going. (Politico, 2/29/2016) (US Department of State, 2/29/2016)

March 2010: Clinton judges a possible department watchdog, raising independence concerns.

The permanent position of State Department inspector general has been vacant since 2008, before Obama became president. An inspector general serves as a department’s internal watchdog. Some time in March 2010, Clinton’s chief of staff Cheryl Mills emails Clinton about a possible nominee for the position. Mills writes, “Let me know if you DON’T want to proceed.”

Clinton writes back, “Are you ok [with] him?”

Then Mills writes, “Yes – he’ll be good.”

It is not known who they are talking about since the name will later be redacted, but Obama will not nominate anyone for the position until mid-2013, after Clinton’s term as secretary of state is over.

The Wall Street Journal will later comment, “The exchange raises questions about the independence of the inspector general’s office. Government inspectors general have broad latitude within government agencies to investigate cases of waste, fraud, mismanagement, and abuse.” (The Wall Street Journal, 2/20/2016)

Late 2010: A State Department official falsely claims Clinton’s computer system has legal approval and warns staffers never to speak of the issue again.

John Bentel (Credit: public domain)

John Bentel (Credit: public domain)

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.”

Bentel will later claim he has no memory of any of these issues and will refused to be interviewed by any investigators. (US Department of State, 5/25/2016) (Yahoo News, 5/25/2016)

2011: A “top secret” Clinton email contains intelligence from CIA sources and US spy satellites

The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency logo. (Credit: public domain)

The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency logo. (Credit: public domain)

Very little is known about Clinton’s 22 emails that are later deemed “top secret,” since all details about them have remained classified. However, it is known that one of them is sent sometime this year. A few details about just this one email are known because it will be included in a random selection of 40 emails that will get reviewed by State Department Inspector General Steve Linick in 2015.

After Linick decides the email should be top secret, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency will perform a second review and confirm that the email should be top secret. That indicates the email contains information obtained from both CIA sources and US spy satellites. (The New York Times, 9/7/2015) (The New York Times, 2/29/2016)

2011—2014: In yearly reports, the State Department’s inspector general identifies poor cybersecurity as a “significant deficiency” that puts the Department’s information at risk.

The department has only an acting inspector general for most of this time. (The Associated Press, 6/8/2016)

April 10, 2011: An email forwarded to Clinton appears to contain the most recent US military intelligence, which should have been classified.

US Ambassador Christopher Stevens. He dies from smoke asphyxiation on September 11, 2012, due to a terrorist attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi, Libya. (Credit: Reuters)

US Ambassador Christopher Stevens. He dies from smoke asphyxiation on September 11, 2012, due to a terrorist attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi, Libya. (Credit: Reuters)

The email discusses the current security situation in Libya. It says that due to violence in the town of Ajdabiyah, US Special Envoy Christopher Stevens “is considering departure from Benghazi.” It also discusses Stevens’ concerns about departing and it details the “phased checkout” of Stevens’ staff from the area, possibly in a few hours. Additionally, it contains the latest secret intelligence from AFRICOM (US Africa Command, the US military in Africa), detailing nearby troop movements in the Libyan civil war that could threaten Stevens and his staff. Tim Davis, a special assistant to Clinton, writes the email and then sends it to Clinton aide Huma Abedin, who forwards it to Clinton. Davis marks it “SBU,” which means “sensitive but unclassified.” The email will be released to the public in full on May 13, 2015.

However, the State Department’s inspector general will later conclude that the email should not have been made public without redactions. Furthermore, in August 2015, an unnamed government official familiar with the investigation into Clinton’s emails will tell CBS News that at least the part of the email containing current military intelligence should have been marked classified at the time. Additionally, because that information originated from the military, the State Department did not have the right to declassify it at the time it was sent or later. The unnamed official will say that this kind of mistake is not unusual for State Department officials when they discuss information from multiple sources, but the difference is that this email is stored on Clinton’s private server, which can be easily hacked or monitored. (CBS News, 8/19/2015) (US Department of State, 5/13/2015

In 2015, Fox News will claim that the email contained intelligence from the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), the National Security Agency (NSA), and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), which oversees satellite imagery. Furthermore, “all three agencies confirmed to the intelligence community inspector general that the intelligence was classified when it was sent four years ago by Abedin to Clinton’s private account, and remains classified to this day.” (Fox News, 8/26/2015) Even though the email will be made public in full in May 2015, it will be reclassified as “secret” in September 2015. “Secret” is the medium level of classification, below “top secret.” (The New York Times, 9/30/2015)

August 2, 2011: Charles McCullough is nominated by President Obama to be the first “Intelligence Community” inspector general.

Inspector General Charles McCullough (Credit: Politico)

Inspector General Charles McCullough (Credit: Politico)

This makes him the internal watchdog for the 16 US intelligence agencies and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. He will be unanimously confirmed by the Senate on November 7, 2011. (McClatchy, 1/20/2016) (The White House, 8/2/2011) (Office of the Director of National Intelligence, 9/15/2012)

June 1, 2012: Clinton aide Huma Abedin holds four paid jobs at once with obvious conflicts of interest.

Huma Abedin (Credit: The Hill)

Huma Abedin (Credit: The Hill)

Abedin is Clinton’s deputy chief of staff during Clinton’s time as secretary of state. For the last six months of Clinton’s tenure, she participates in a “special government employee” six-month program that allows her to simultaneously work four paid jobs: the State Department, the Clinton Foundation, Clinton’s personal office, and Teneo, a private consultancy with close ties to the Clintons. In autumn 2015, the State Department’s inspector general will subpoena the Clinton Foundation, requesting records about Abedin’s possible conflicts of interest. (The Washington Post, 2/11/2016)

Senator Charles Grassley (R) will later say he has “fundamental questions” about Abedin’s multiple jobs, asking her in a letter, “How can the taxpayer know who exactly you are working for at any given moment?” (The Washington Post, 8/27/2015)

August 2012: A US ambassador is forced to resign after using a private email account for government work.

US Ambassador Scott Gration (Credit: Capital News)

US Ambassador Scott Gration (Credit: Capital News)

The State Department criticizes US Ambassador to Kenya Scott Gration in part because he used a private email account to handle “sensitive but unclassified” material. Gration is forced to resign. (The Washington Post, 3/10/2015)

A 2012 State Department inspector general’s report faults him for flouting government rules, including the requirement that he use a State Department email account. “He has willfully disregarded Department regulations on the use of commercial email for official government business.” (The New York Times, 8/8/2015)

September 18, 2012—February 2013: A nuclear energy whistleblower is targeted for allegedly having classified information on a computer.

Lawrence Criscione (Credit: Michael Weaver / McClatchy)

Lawrence Criscione (Credit: Michael Weaver / McClatchy)

On September 18, 2012,  NRC [Nuclear Regulatory Commission] engineer Lawrence Criscione sends a long letter to NRC chair Allison Macfarlane about dangerous problems at the Oconee nuclear plant in South Carolina. He shares the letter with 13 members of Congress.

One day later, the NRC’s inspector general begins investigating if he illegally made information marked “For Official Use Only” public. Another government agency soon rules that such information is an “unofficial administrative marking that has no legal import.”

But in February 2013, the inspector general nevertheless asks the Justice Department to charge him with misusing his government computer to transmit sensitive information. Several days later, the department decides not to prosecute him. But it takes another 13 months before he is formally cleared.

Speaking in 2015, Criscione believes he was unfairly targeted to discourage other whistleblowers. Referring to Clinton’s email scandal, he says, “If a career civil servant had a server with ‘top secret’ information in his basement, he would without a doubt do time” in prison. (McClatchy Newspapers, 9/29/2015)

September 30, 2013: The State Department finally gets a new permanent inspector general.

Steve Linick is sworn in as inspector general by Secretary of State John Kerry on October 29, 2003. (Credit: US Department of State)

Steve Linick is sworn in as inspector general by Secretary of State John Kerry on October 29, 2003. (Credit: US Department of State)

Steve Linick becomes the new inspector general of the department. From 2008 until this time, including the entire duration when Clinton was secretary of state, the department had only a temporary acting inspector general. The inspector general is the department’s chief watchdog and is responsible for detecting and investigating waste, fraud, abuse, and mismanagement. (US Department of State, 9/30/2013) (The Wall Street Journal, 3/24/2015)

August 2014: A top watchdog non-profit is taken over by a Clinton ally; its effort to force the release of Clinton’s emails is shut down.

David Brock (Credit: Danny Johnston / The Associated Press)

David Brock (Credit: Danny Johnston / The Associated Press)

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) has been one of the top political watchdog organizations, targeting unethical and corrupt behavior in both major political parties. In August 2014, wanting to bring on a new board chair with a strong fundraising base, CREW hires David Brock. Brock does have ties to many Democratic donors, but he’s particularly tied to Hillary Clinton. He will found and run her main Super PAC [political action committee] for her 2016 presidential campaign, as well as leading other pro-Clinton groups.

Brock becomes chair of CREW, and moves the organization to a building housing the other groups led by Brock that heavily support Clinton.

A leadership change soon follows, as those who disagree with the new pro-Clinton focus depart and are replaced by Clinton supporters. CREW had published an annual list of the “most corrupt” members of Congress, as well as other critical reports, but that stops.

When Clinton’s email scandal becomes public in March 2015, CREW will stay silent, even though the State Department’s inspector general concluded that CREW’s request for Clinton’s e-mails had been improperly denied. (Bloomberg News, 4/11/2016)

October 28, 2014: Three more former secretaries of state are asked for their emails.

Secretary of State Madeleine Albright (Credit: NBC News)

Secretary of State Madeleine Albright (Credit: NBC News)

On the same day the State Department formally asks Clinton for her emails from when she was secretary of state, it also sends letters to her three predecessors as secretary of state—Madeleine Albright, Colin Powell, and Condoleezza Rice—asking if they have any emails or other federal records in their possession.

Albright replies that she did not use email during the years they were in office.

Rice did have a government email account, but only used it rarely.

Powell, who was secretary of state from 2001 to 2005, had a private email account through AOL [America Online] but did not keep his emails.

The State Department’s inspector general will later find that Powell’s personal email account had received two emails from staff that contained “national security information classified at the Secret or Confidential levels.” (The Washington Post, 3/27/2016) (The Wall Street Journal, 3/10/2015)

March 5, 2015: The RNC asks State Department Inspector General Steve Linick to investigate Clinton’s use of personal email to conduct government business.

RNC [Republican National Committee] Chief Counsel John Phillippe writes in a letter, “I urge you to launch immediately an investigation into Secretary Clinton’s use of a personal email address and the Department of State’s policies regarding such use.” (McClatchy Newspapers, 3/5/2015

Linick will initiate an investigation along those lines by the next month, if not sooner.

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)

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.

Late March 2015: Republicans want department watchdogs to see if Clinton’s emails contained classified information.

Senator Richard Burr (left) and Senator Bob Corker (right) (Credit: The Washington Post (left) and Getty Images (right))

Senator Richard Burr (left) and Senator Bob Corker (right) (Credit: The Washington Post (left) and Getty Images (right))

Shortly after Clinton claims in early March 2015 that her emails contained no classified information, senators Richard Burr and Bob Corker, the Republican chairmen of the Senate Intelligence and Foreign Relations Committees, ask the inspectors general of the State Department and the Intelligence Community to investigate if Clinton or other top State Department officials had classified information on their private email accounts.

State Department Inspector General Charles McCullough will only be given a random sample of 40 Clinton emails to investigate. He will conclude that four of them contained information that should have been marked classified. (The New York Times, 8/8/2015

One of those four emails will later be declassified and released publicly by the State Department. It will turn out that email was mistakenly thought to be based on a secret report, but the report actually was made slightly after the email was sent.

Another will be deemed “confidential” and partially released.

Another, written on July 3, 2009 about North Korea, will be deemed “top secret” at first and then downgraded to “secret” and partially released.

Finally, one will be permanently deemed “top secret,” and will be considered one of 22 of Clinton’s top secret emails. (The Washington Post, 3/27/2016) (The New York Times, 2/29/2016) (Politico, 11/6/2015)

April 2015: State Department Inspector General Steve Linick begins an inquiry into Clinton’s emails at John Kerry’s request.

Inspector General Steve Linick (Credit: US State Department)

Inspector General Steve Linick (Credit: US State Department)

The New York Times will later reveal, “Secretary of State John Kerry asked Mr. Linick’s office to conduct a review after the disclosure [in March 2015] that Mrs. Clinton had exclusively used a computer server installed in her New York home for official and personal email correspondence from 2009 to 2013…” The State Department inquiry started by Linick will eventually develop into an FBI investigation. (The Washington Post, 8/14/2015) (The New York Times, 3/10/2016)

Bloomberg News will also later report, “The State Department inspector’s entire review [is] part of an effort initiated by Janice Jacobs, the department’s transparency coordinator for managing information and records, who was appointed by Kerry…” (Bloomberg News, 3/4/2016) Jacobs donates $2,7000 to Clinton’s presidential campaign in July 2015, the maximum allowable by law. (CNN, 9/9/2015)

The State Department inquiry started by Linick will eventually develop into a formal FBI investigation, as well as a final inspector general’s report published in May 2016.

May 22, 2015: One email released to the public on this day by the State Department without any redactions will lead to controversy and investigation.

US Ambassador Stevens (right) talks to locals in Tripoli, Libya, in August, 2012. (Credit: The Associated Press)

US Ambassador Stevens (right) talks to locals in Tripoli, Libya, in August, 2012. (Credit: The Associated Press)

The email was written by State Department official Tim Davis on April 10, 2011, and forwarded to Clinton. It contained very time-sensitive information on evacuation plans by Special Envoy Christopher Stevens in Libya, as well as the latest US military intelligence on the Libyan civil war violence threatening Stevens.

As a result, the release of this email without redactions will start an internal government dispute. The State Department releases the email because they deemed the military intelligence in it was no longer important four years later.

However, Intelligence Community Inspector General Charles McCullough will claim that since the military intelligence originated from the US military, the State Department didn’t have the authority if it should be classified or not. This email will lead to the FBI starting an investigation into Clinton’s emails in late May 2015.

Clinton spokesperson Brian Fallon will later say the dispute about this email “lifted the curtain” and shows that the email scandal can be explained by excessive retroactive classification.

But CNN will report, “However, the Clinton interpretation doesn’t account for the fact that the [email] did contain particularly sensitive information at the time it was sent. Plans to move the envoy and staff would not have been appropriate to be sent on unclassified email systems and particularly not to a non-government email server.” (The New York Times, 5/22/2015) (CNN, 8/20/2015)

Shortly After May 22, 2015: Apparently, the FBI investigation into Clinton’s private emails and her private server begins around this time.

It will later be widely reported that after State Department Inspector General Steve Linick finds four emails with what he deemed classified information in a random sample of 40 of Clinton’s emails, Linick and another inspector general will formally ask the FBI for a “security referral” into Clinton’s emails in July 2015. The FBI’s investigation will formaly begin on July 10, 2015.

And while that is true, CNN will report in August 2015 that the FBI already began investigating Clinton’s emails in May 2015 due to one email being released on May 22nd that appeared to contain intelligence that should have been classified.

That email, written by State Department official Tim Davis on April 10, 2011, and forwarded to Clinton, contained the latest information about plans to evacuate US government officials from Libya that day, as well as the latest US military intelligence on the civil war raging near those officials. (CNN, 8/20/2015)

Early June 2015: Two inspectors general join forces to look into Clinton’s exclusive use of a private email address when she was secretary of state.

State Department Inspector General Steve Linick has already begun investigating Clinton’s emails and he and his staff read through hundreds of her emails. He has Intelligence Community Inspector General Charles McCullough get involved due to intelligence agencies having greater experience with classified records.

The concerns of the two inspectors general will continue to grow, leading them to ask the FBI to begin an investigation in early July 2015. (The Washington Post, 8/14/2015)

Mid-June 2015: One Clinton email containing classified information was accidentally released.

Patrick Kennedy (Credit: Brendan Hoffman / Getty Images)

Patrick Kennedy (Credit: Brendan Hoffman / Getty Images)

In mid-June 2015, Inspectors general Charles McCullough and Steve Linick discover that classified information mentioned in one of Clinton’s emails was publicly released by the State Department in May 2015. This appears to be an email written by State Department official Tim Davis on April 10, 2011, and then forwarded to Clinton. It contained very time sensitive US military intelligence about security of US officials in Libya.

The two inspectors general begin fighting with State Department official Patrick Kennedy over what information in Clinton’s emails can be released and what can’t. Kennedy and other State Department officials believe McCullough and Linick want to classify too much. Kennedy is a holdover from when Clinton was secretary of state. US intelligence agencies get involved with declassifying Clinton’s emails to make sure the mistake doesn’t happen again. (The Washington Post, 8/14/2015) (CNN, 8/20/2015)

July 6, 2015: Two department watchdogs refer the Clinton email case to the FBI.

Intelligence Community Inspector General Charles McCullough and State Department Inspector General Steve Linick jointly send the FBI a “security referral,” asking the FBI to investigate Clinton’s private emails and server. This grew out of McCullough and Steve Linick reviewing some of the over 30,000 Clinton emails handed over to the State Department in December 2014. (The Los Angeles Times, 3/27/2016) (The Washington Post, 8/14/2015) 

However, according to another account by CNN in August 2015, the FBI had already begun investigating Clinton’s emails in late May 2015, so presumably this referral would only have spurred on that effort. (CNN, 8/20/2015) The FBI formally begins their Clinton investigation four days later, on July 10, 2015.

July 23, 2015: Accounts differ if the FBI has started a criminal investigation into Clinton’s emails.

The New York Times reports that “two inspectors general have asked the Justice Department to open a criminal investigation” into whether sensitive government information was mishandled in Clinton’s emails. (The FBI works for the Justice Department.)

The next day, a Justice Department confirms the report. But later in the day, the Justice Department backs away from its characterization of the referral as “criminal.” (The New York Times, 7/24/2015) (The Washington Post, 7/24/2015) Indeed, such a request was made on July 6, 2015. But technically, the referral is called a “security referral” and not a criminal one.

However, it will later emerge that the FBI investigation into Clinton’s emails actually began in late May 2015, thus making the dispute over the type of referral largely a moot point. (CNN, 8/20/2015)

July 24, 2015: Many of Clinton’s emails contained classified information when they were sent, not just retroactively.

Intelligence Community Inspector General Charles McCullough and State Department Inspector General Steve Linick issue a joint statement about their inquiry into Clinton’s emails. The statement says that out of a random sample of 40 of Clinton’s emails, Linick found four emails containing information that should have been classified at the time they were sent. “These emails were not retroactively classified by the State Department; rather these emails contained classified information when they were generated and, according to [Intelligence Community] classification officials, that information remains classified today. This classified information should never have been transmitted via an unclassified personal system.” (US Department of State, 7/24/2015) 

One email will later be declassified by the State Department, and the department will dispute the classification of another one. (The Washington Post, 3/27/2016)

July 24, 2015: Clinton’s account conflicts with the account of two inspectors general.

Responding to news that several “top secret” documents were found among Clinton’s emails, her campaign says that any government secrets found on the server had been classified after the fact. But the State Department Inspector General Steve Linick and Intelligence Community Inspector General Charles McCullough write in a joint statement that the information they found was classified when it was sent and remains so now. (The Washington Post, 7/24/2015)

July 25, 2015: Clinton says, “I am confident that I never sent nor received any information that was classified at the time it was sent and received.”

This is a shift from previous statements where she claimed her emails didn’t contain any classified material at all. (The Washington Post, 8/14/2015) Clinton also says that very few issues have emerged in her publicly released emails so far. “We’re talking about four or fewer.” However, the Wall Street Journal notes, “The inspector general has reviewed only about 40 of Mrs. Clinton’s emails, though, suggesting that more secret or top-secret information could be found in the thousands… that remain.” (The Wall Street Journal, 7/25/2015)

August 2015: Secretary of State Powell received two classified emails, but under very different circumstances than Clinton.

Secretary of State Colin Powell (Credit: CBS News)

Secretary of State Colin Powell (Credit: CBS News)

Clinton’s personal lawyer David Kendall writes a letter to the State Department claiming that Clinton’s “use of personal email was consistent with the practices of other secretaries of state.” Kendall points in particular to Colin Powell, who appears to be the only other secretary of state to use a private email account while in office. But Powell had a government email account in addition to private one.

According to the Washington Post, “Powell conducted virtually all of his classified communications on paper or over a State Department computer installed on his desk that was reserved for classified information, according to interviews.” He also had a phone line installed in his office solely to link to his private email account, which he generally used for personal or non-classified communication. The State Department’s inspector general did find that Powell’s personal email account had received two emails from staff that contained “national security information classified at the ‘secret’ or ‘confidential’ levels.” (The Washington Post, 3/27/2016) 

It will later come out that the two emails were at the lowest ‘confidential’ level and did not actually contain any intelligence but were classified for other reasons. (ABC News, 3/4/2016)

August 11, 2015: The State Department won’t reveal which Clinton aides used her private server or other non-government accounts.

Bradley Moss (Credit: public domain)

Bradley Moss (Credit: public domain)

In March 2015, the House Benghazi Committee subpoenaed records, including work-related emails from personal accounts, from ten former Clinton aides, for a two-year period surrounding the 2012 Benghazi terrorist attack. The State Department then asked those ten people for their records. It is known that four of the aides—Cheryl Mills, Huma Abedin, Jake Sullivan, and Philippe Reines—have turned over records, including from personal email accounts. However, it is not known what happened with the other six, or even who they are.

Clinton wrote in a sworn affidavit on August 6, 2015 that Abedin had an email account on Clinton’s private server and that Mills did not. Otherwise, department officials and Clinton’s staff have failed to reveal who else had an email account on Clinton’s server or even which other aides had any kind of personal email account.

The Intelligence Community inspector general’s office says it is not currently involved in any inquiry into Clinton’s former top aides because it is being denied full access to the aides’ emails by the State Department.

The media outlet Gawker is suing for access to Reines’ emails. Bradley Moss, a lawyer for Gawker, says: “I think the headline is that there’s nothing but murkiness and non-answers from the State Department. I think the State Department is figuring this out as it goes along, which is exactly why no one should be using personal email to conduct government business.”  (McClatchy Newspapers, 8/11/2015)

August 11, 2015: One Clinton investigation has expanded to investigate Clinton’s top aides.

The State Department inspector general’s office says it is reviewing the use of “personal communications hardware and software” by Clinton’s former top aides, after requests from Congress. In March 2015, three Republican Senate committee chairs—Richard Burr, Ron Johnson, and Bob Corker—requested an audit of some of her aides’ personal emails.

Douglas Welty, a spokesperson for the inspector general’s office, says, “We will follow the facts wherever they lead, to include former aides and associates, as appropriate.” However, the office won’t say which aides are being investigated.  (McClatchy Newspapers, 8/11/2015)

August 11, 2015: Two out of a random sample of 40 Clinton emails are retroactively deemed “top secret.”

The email sample was examined by the inspectors general of the State Department and the Intelligence Community. Those two emails were not marked as classified at the time, but were given classified labels indicating they contain highly sensitive information from signal intercepts and spy satellites. One is a discussion of a news article about a drone strike operation. The other concerns North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. (Inspector General of the Intelligence Community, 8/11/2015) (The New York Times, 9/7/2015) 

One of the two emails is said to be designated “TOP SECRET//SI//TK/NOFORN.” “SI” stands for “special intelligence,” and usually indicates an intercepted communication. “TK” is an abbreviation for “Talent Keyhole,” which the New York Times reports “relies on satellite intercepts of conversations or imagery data. The program involves some of the most secure information in the intelligence agencies’ computer systems.” “NOFORN” means no foreigners should read the intelligence. (The New York Times, 8/14/2015)

In February 2016, the email about North Korea, written July 3, 2009, will be downgraded from “top secret” to “secret” and then partially released. This will leave one of the random sample of 40 emails “top secret.” All that is known about it is that it is from 2011. (The New York Times, 2/29/2016)

August 19, 2015: Clinton publicly claims that the investigations about her server “has nothing to do with me.”

She contradicts her own State Department’s inspector general Steve Linick by reiterating that she never sent or received classified material. She says, “what I did was legally permitted.” She calls the current controversy nothing more than a ‘disagreement between agencies.” (The Guardian, 8/19/2015)

Autumn 2015: State Department investigators issue a subpoena to the Clinton Foundation.

They are “seeking documents about the charity’s projects that may have required approval from the federal government during Hillary Clinton’s term as secretary of state,” according to the Washington Post. The subpoena includes a request for records about Huma Abedin, “a longtime Clinton aide who for six months in 2012 was employed simultaneously by the State Department, the foundation, Clinton’s personal office, and a private consulting firm with ties to the Clintons.” Steve Linick, the State Department’s inspector general, is behind the subpoena.

In February 2016, the Post will report that the “full scope and status of the inquiry” is not clear. Inspector general investigative powers are limited. For instance, they can obtain documents, but they cannot compel testimony. (The Washington Post, 2/11/2016)

January 19, 2016: Some of Clinton’s emails are too highly classified for an inspector general to read.

In the wake of media reports that Intelligence Community Inspector General Charles McCullough discovered some of Clinton’s emails contained above top secret (or “top secret / special access program”) intelligence, an unnamed US intelligence official tells NBC News “that the special access program in question was so sensitive that McCullough and some of his aides had to receive clearance to be read in on it…” (NBC News, 1/19/2016)

January 20, 2016: A Clinton spokesperson suggests an Obama appointed inspector general is coordinating against Clinton.

In the wake of a new revelation that some of Clinton’s private emails discussed top secret “special access programs,” Clinton spokesperson Brian Fallon suggests that Intelligence Community Inspector General Charles McCullough and Congressional Republicans have coordinated against Clinton. This claim comes after the contents of a letter McCullough sent to Congress were leaked to the media.

Fallon says, “I think that Republicans are continuing to try to trumpet up and resurface these allegations for the purposes of hurting her campaign.” After a reporter points out that McCullough isn’t a Republican, Fallon replies, “Actually, I think this was a very coordinated leak yesterday. Because two months ago, there was a political report that directly challenged the finding of this inspector general, and I don’t think he liked that very much. So I think that he put two Republican senators up to sending him a letter so that he would have an excuse to resurface the same allegations he made back in the summer that have been discredited.” (Politico, 1/20/2016

Fallon backtracks two days later, admitting he doesn’t know whether McCullough leaked the letter, but suggests he still bears responsibility for the fact it was leaked. McCullough was appointed by President Obama in 2011 and unanimously approved by the Senate. (CNN, 1/22/2016)

March 4, 2016: Clinton’s campaign accuses Inspector General Linick of bias without solid evidence; his staffers feel harassed.

Bloomberg News reports that “The Hillary Clinton campaign has gone on the attack against the government official who conducts oversight of the State Department she used to run [Inspector General Steve Linick], accusing him of partisanship and misconduct without any direct evidence.”

However, Linick is a difficult target because he “has never been regarded as a partisan official” and President Obama appointed him. So the attackers are focusing on Emilia DiSanto, who works in his office, and claim that she is influencing him too much. Clinton supporters argue DiSanto is biased against Clinton because she had previously worked as an investigator for Republican Senator Charles Grassley.

Bloomberg News reports that for Linick’s staff, “the accusations are impossible to confront head on because they are not authorized to speak on the record about ongoing investigations.” Furthermore, his office has been “receiving dozens of FOIA [Freedom of Information Act] requests aimed at gathering information on office staffers themselves. Sources in the inspector general office tell me they see the requests and accusations as an attempt to intimidate them and deter them from continuing Clinton-related work.” Bloomberg News concludes, “Accusing Linick’s staffers of misconduct due to their past work affiliations is a slippery slope; tons of government employees have connections on Capitol Hill.” (Bloomberg News, 3/4/2016)

May 25, 2016: The State Department’s inspector general issues a report that sharply criticizes Clinton’s email practices.

Cover of the Office of Inspector General's Report, May 25, 2016. (Credit: OIG)

Cover of the Office of Inspector General’s Report, May 25, 2016. (Credit: OIG)

The State Department’s Office of Inspector General releases a report with the title “Evaluation of Email Records Management and Cybersecurity Requirements.” The 83-page report is the main headline at the New York Times, the Washington Post, and elsewhere, because it sheds new light on Clinton’s email scandal. The Post calls it “a highly critical analysis of Hillary Clinton’s email practices while running the department, concluding that Clinton failed to seek legal approval for her use of a private server and that agency staff members would not have given their blessing if it had been sought because of ‘security risks.’”

The report did not cover the classified content of some of Clinton’s emails due to the on-going FBI investigation and instead focuses mainly on record management issues for Clinton as well as the four previous secretaries of state. The office’s inquiry was initiated by a request from Secretary of State John Kerry in 2015, and was led by Inspector General Steve Linick, who was appointed by President Obama in 2013. The report reveals:

  • There were “long-standing systemic weaknesses” in the State Department’s recordkeeping. Department officials were “slow to recognize and to manage effectively the legal requirements and cybersecurity risks” of widespread email use. This problem went “well beyond the tenure of any one secretary of state,” but most of the report focuses on Clinton’s tenure.
  • Former secretary Colin Powell is singled out for violating department policy by using a personal email account while in office, as Clinton did. But the report notes that in the four years between the end of Powell’s tenure and the start of Clinton’s, the department’s warnings about the “obligation” to mainly use government email accounts for work matters had become more detailed and frequent.
  • Dozens of department employees sometimes used personal email accounts for work matters. But only three were discovered who used such accounts exclusively: Clinton, Powell, and Scott Gration, who was US ambassador to Kenya in 2011 and 2012. Gration faced an internal rebuke for doing so and was forced to resign. Clinton was the only one to use a private server as well.
  • Clinton “had an obligation to discuss using her personal email account to conduct official business” with security and records management officials, but investigators “found no evidence” that she had requested or received approval from anyone to conduct work matters mainly by personal emails. Furthermore, department officials “did not—and would not—approve her exclusive reliance on a personal email account to conduct Department business.”
  • Similarly, Clinton had not sought permission to use a private email server, and would not have received it if she had.
  • Clinton was required to demonstrate to security and records management officials that both her server and her mobile devices “met minimum information security requirements,” but she never did so.
  • Clinton should have handed over copies of her work emails immediately upon stepping down in February 2013. Failure to do so violated department policies and the Federal Records Act. Instead, she provided only some work emails, and those only in December 2014, nearly two years later, after the Republican-led House Benghazi Committee began asking for some of her emails.
  • A video image from MSNBC's coverage of the inspector general's report, on May 25, 2016. (Credit: MSNBC)

    A video image from MSNBC’s coverage of the inspector general’s report, on May 25, 2016. (Credit: MSNBC)

    Clinton has claimed she effectively left copies of her emails with the State Department because she mainly emailed other department officials. However, the report says that was an inappropriate form of preservation. Additionally, four of her closest aides, whom she exchanged emails with most often, also made “extensive” use of personal email accounts, so none of those emails would have been preserved in State Department records just by being received by those aides.

  • There was “some awareness” of Clinton’s email account among senior department officials. But there also appear to have been efforts to keep her use of a private server a secret. For instance, in 2010, when two department computer technicians raised concerns that her server might not properly preserve records, a higher official told them her setup had been reviewed by lawyers and warned them “never to speak of the Secretary’s personal email system again.” Furthermore, no evidence of such a legal review has been found.
  • Clinton has claimed she exclusively used a private email account for “convenience.” However, this claim is belied by Clinton’s response to an email from Huma Abedin, Clinton’s deputy chief of staff, in November 2010. When Abedin prodded Clinton about “putting you on State email or releasing your email address to the department […] ,” Clinton replied that she would consider a |separate address or device, “but I don’t want any risk of the personal being accessible.”
  • Clinton turned over 30,000 work-related emails in December 2014, while deleting another 31,000 emails she said were personal in nature. However, the report claims her email handover was “incomplete,” and there are gaps and missing emails. For instance, the above-mentioned November 2010 email was not handed over by Clinton but was found through other means.
  • Several incidents were uncovered in which Clinton or some of her aides worried that Clinton’s private server had been hacked. For instance, a January 2011 email to a Clinton aide said Clinton’s server was shut down because “someone was trying to hack us.” It is unknown if the server actually was broken into at that time. However, Clinton and her aides failed to alert department computer security personnel to the hacking attempts, as required by department policy.
  • Clinton, as well as nine of her former top aides, refused to be interviewed for the report. By contrast, the four previous secretaries of state, as well as current Secretary of State John Kerry, were interviewed.

(The Washington Post, 5/25/2016) (The New York Times, 5/25/2016) (US Department of State, 5/25/2016)

May 31, 2016: A former State Department inspector general says he would not have allowed Clinton’s use of a private server.

Howard Krongard (Credit: Fox News)

Howard Krongard (Credit: Fox News)

Howard Krongard, who was the State Department’s inspector general from 2005 to 2008, says he “would have been stunned had I been asked to send an email to [Clinton] at a personal server, private address. I would have declined to do so on security grounds and if she had sent one to me, I probably would have started an investigation.”

Krongard also suggests that Clinton benefited from the lack of a permanent inspector general for the entire duration of her tenure as secretary of state. “They are the people who enforce the rules, and there was no one enforcing the rules during that time.” (Fox News, 5/31/2016)

June 6, 2016: The State Department won’t process a FOIA request with important political implications until after the presidential election.

David Sirota (Credit: David Sirota)

David Sirota (Credit: David Sirota)

In July 2015, journalist David Sirota filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to obtain all of Clinton’s correspondence regarding the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). In November 2015, the State Department told Sirota that the request would be fulfilled by April 2016. But on this day, the department pushes the deadline back to the end of November 2016—just after the general presidential election in early November.

While Clinton was secretary of state, she praised the TPP on over 45 different occasions and called it the “gold standard” of trade deals. Since then, she says she’s changed her mind and is against it. Sirota wants to know how involved she was in crafting the deal. This could have important political implications because Clinton’s chief primary opponent Bernie Sanders is strongly against the TPP and her likely general election opponent Donald Trump is against it as well. The average FOIA request made of the State Department takes 111 days to process, but based on the latest day, this one will take 489 days.

CNN journalist Jake Tapper comments, “The Department Inspector General [IG] in January noted that the State Department is particularly weak among Obama administration agencies when it comes to fulfilling the obligations of this law, the IG said that responses to these requests are deficient, that there aren’t enough personnel at the State Department to carry out all the requests, and that State Department leaders have not played a meaningful role in making any improvements. At a certain point, one begins to wonder if these weaknesses are deliberate and that these efforts to conceal information do not conceal a certain disdain for the public and your right to know.” (CNN, 6/6/2016)