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)

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)

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)

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)

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.

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)

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 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 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 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)