January 21, 2009—February 1, 2013: Clinton is unable to check her email in her office for the entire four years she is secretary of state.

She is said to be addicted to checking her email on her BlackBerry, but security officials refuse to let her take her BlackBerry into her office. Early in her tenure, security officials offer to install a secure computer with Internet access in her office to allow her to check email, but she doesn’t want it and never gets one.

In 2015, an unnamed senior NSA official will recall the conflict after retiring: “It was the usual Clinton prima donna stuff, the whole ‘rules are for other people’ act that I remembered from the ′90s. […] What did she not want put on a government system, where security people might see it? […]  I wonder now, and I sure wish I’d asked about it back in 2009.”

John Schindler (Credit: The Daily Telegraph)

John Schindler (Credit: The Daily Telegraph)

Former NSA counterintelligence officer John Schindler will later comment, “Why Ms. Clinton would not simply check her personal email on an office computer, like every other government employee less senior than the president, seems a germane question, given what a major scandal email-gate turned out to be.” (The New York Observer, 3/18/2016)

May 3, 2013: In a public speech, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman says Clinton conducts diplomacy on her unsecure BlackBerry.

Wendy Sherman giving a speech on May 3, 2013. (Credit: public domain)

Wendy Sherman giving a speech on May 3, 2013. (Credit: public domain)

Sherman says that technology “has changed the way diplomacy is done. […] Things appear on your BlackBerrys that would never be on an unclassified system, but you’re out traveling, you’re trying to negotiate something, you want to communicate with people – it’s the fastest way to do it.” She recalls the 2011 United Nations General Assembly, during which Clinton and European diplomat Catherine Ashton negotiated. “They sat there as they were having the meeting with their BlackBerrys transferring language back and forth between them and between their aides to multitask in quite a new fashion.”

The Hill will later note that Sherman’s comments “suggest that diplomats across the [State Department] routinely declined to use special protections for classified information to prioritize convenience.” (The Hill, 1/26/2016) 

Former NSA counterintelligence officer John Schindler will later make the general observation, “The State Department has a longstanding reputation for being less than serious about security, and its communications have often wound up in foreign hands. It’s something of a tradition at [State Department headquarters], to the chagrin of the Intelligence Community…” (The New York Observer, 1/28/2016)

November 2013 and December 2014: Clinton’s personal lawyer David Kendall and his law partner get security clearances, but they probably aren’t valid for the Clinton emails he possesses.

Katherine Turner (Credit: Williams & Connolly)

Katherine Turner (Credit: Williams & Connolly)

Kendall gets a “Top Secret/Sensitive Compartmented Information” (TS/SCI) security clearance from the Justice Department in November 2013. He and his Williams & Connolly law partner Katherine Turner also get a “top secret” clearance from the State Department in December 2014. This is so Kendall can review information related to the House Benghazi Committee’s on-going investigation.

At some point in late 2014, Kendall, Cheryl Mills (Clinton’s chief of staff), and Heather Samuelson (another lawyer) read and sort through all of Clinton’s over 60,000 emails from Clinton’s time as secretary of state. At least 22 of these will later be determined to have contained “top secret” information. Kendall then keeps a copy of over 30,000 of Clinton’s emails, including the 22 top secret ones, in a safe in the office he shares with Turner.

Only in July 2015 will government security officials give him first one safe and then a second more secure safe to hold the thumb drive containing Clinton’s emails, before Kendall gives up the thumb drive in August 2015.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chuck Grassley (R) will later suggest, “Neither Mr. Kendall nor Ms. Turner have a security clearance at a sufficient level to be a custodian of TS/SCI material. Thus, it appears Secretary Clinton sent TS/SCI material to unauthorized persons.” Politico will later point out, “Clearances, especially Top Secret ones, are normally granted in connection with specific matters and do not entitle recipients to all information classified at that level…” (Politico, 8/25/2015) 

Furthermore, Clinton’s emails are handed over to the State Department on December 5, 2014, making it likely that at least some of the time-consuming reading and sorting of 60,000 emails took place prior to the security clearances that were given in November 2014. (The Washington Post, 3/10/2015) 

John Schindler, a former NSA counterintelligence official, will later comment, “TS/SCI information must always be placed in a Secure Compartmented Information Facility (SCIF), a special, purpose-built room designed to protect against physical and electronic intrusion. A full-blown SCIF surely Kendall did not possess. […] Anything less is a clear violation of Federal law. Hillary has placed herself and her attorney in a precarious position here.” (John Schindler, 8/26/2015)

Additionally, it is unknown if Mills and Samuelson, who read and sorted all of Clinton’s emails with Kendall, had the security clearances to do so.

August 2, 2015: Tyler Drumheller, a former CIA officer, dies at 63 years of age of pancreatic cancer.

Tyler Drumheller (Credit: C-Span)

Tyler Drumheller (Credit: C-Span)

Although Drumheller retired from the CIA in 2005 after 25 years of service, he seems to have had access to intelligence information that got passed on to Clinton through emails sent to her by private citizen Sid Blumenthal. Drumheller and Blumenthal were business partners at least in 2011, and there are suspicions that during Clinton’s time as secretary of state, Blumenthal essentially ran a private intelligence service for Clinton using information from Drumheller. (The New York Times, 8/2/2015)

John Schindler, a former NSA counterintelligence officer, will later claim that Drumheller “was never particularly popular at CIA and he left Langley under something of a cloud. His emails to Mr. Blumenthal, which were forwarded to Ms. Clinton, were filled with espionage-flavored information about events in Libya. In many cases, Mr. Drumheller’s reports were formatted to look exactly like actual CIA reports, including attribution to named foreign intelligence agencies. How much of this was factual versus Mr. Drumheller embellishing his connections is unclear.” Schindler adds that answers to questions about Drumheller’s role may never be known due to his death. (The New York Observer, 10/19/2015)

January 28, 2016: Clinton’s email scandal could be linked to Clinton Foundation corruption.

John Schindler, a former National Security Agency (NSA) analyst and counterintelligence officer, writes, “Why Ms. Clinton and her staff refused to use State Department email for official business is an open and important question. Suspicion inevitably falls on widespread allegations of pay-for-play, a corrupt scheme whereby foreign entities gave cash to the Clinton Global Initiative in exchange for Ms. Clinton’s favors at Foggy Bottom [State Department headquarters]. […] Regardless of whether Ms. Clinton was engaged in political corruption, she unquestionably cast aside security as secretary of state.” The Clinton Global Initiative is one of the Clinton Foundation’s major projects. (The New York Observer, 1/28/2016)

January 31, 2016: Clinton suggests that even her “top secret” emails should be made public.

In the wake of revelations that 22 of Clinton’s emails have been retroactively classified “top secret,” she says, “Let’s just get it out. Let’s see what it is and let the American people draw their own conclusions. […] I think it’s pretty clear [the Republicans are] grasping at straws…” (CNN, 1/31/2016)

John Schindler, a former National Security Agency (NSA) counterintelligence officer, comments that “this is pure political theater: she surely knows that the emails are not going to be released on security grounds anytime soon, probably not for several decades, at least.” (The New York Observer, 2/1/2016)

February 1, 2016: Some of Clinton’s 22 “top secret” emails allegedly contain “operational intelligence” involving espionage sources and methods.

John Schindler, a former National Security Agency (NSA) counterintelligence officer, claims that, “Discussions with Intelligence Community officials have revealed that Ms. Clinton’s ‘unclassified’ emails included Holy Grail items of American espionage such as the true names of Central Intelligence Agency [CIA] intelligence officers serving overseas under cover. Worse, some of those exposed are serving under non-official cover. […] At a minimum, valuable covers have been blown, careers have been ruined, and lives have been put at serious risk.” Additionally, some names of foreigners who are on the CIA payroll are mentioned.

One unnamed senior Intelligence Community official says that because of the likelihood that foreign governments have accessed all of Clinton’s emails, “It’s a death sentence. If we’re lucky, only agents, not our officers, will get killed because of this.”

Schindler comments, “Her defense seems to be that neither she nor anybody on her staff were able to recognize that top secret information was actually top secret, which is hardly a ringing endorsement of Hillary’s qualifications to be our next commander-in-chief.” (The New York Observer, 2/1/2016)

Four days later, a NBC News article comments on the same topic with more modest claims. According to unnamed US officials, the references to undercover officers were indirect and Clinton made no comment about them.

The article adds, “Some of the references to covert intelligence officers, and other discussions of CIA drone strikes, were against classification rules and were ‘sloppy,’ one official said. But views are split on whether they were damaging to national security.” (NBC News, 2/4/2016)

March 4, 2016: A former NSA senior intelligence analyst claims concerns about Clinton’s email account getting hacked misses a bigger threat.

Computers in the White House Situation Room, with a yellow screensaver, indicating they are connected to a TOP SECRET/SCI computer network. (Credit: Screenshot from White House video)

Computers in the White House Situation Room, with a yellow screensaver, indicating they are connected to a TOP SECRET/SCI computer network. (Credit: Screenshot from White House video)

John Schindler, who spent time as the technical director of the NSA’s largest operational division, says that instead of focusing on hacking, foreign governments more often collect signals intelligence, or SIGINT remotely through high-tech means such as spy satellites.

He asserts that “unencrypted IT systems don’t need ‘hacking’—normal SIGINT interception will suffice. Ms. Clinton’s ‘private’ email, which was wholly unencrypted for a time, was incredibly vulnerable to interception, since it was traveling unprotected on normal commercial networks, which is where SIGINT operators lurk, searching for nuggets of gold. They hunt for data with search terms called ‘selectors’—a specific phone number, a chatroom handle, an email address: here Ms. Clinton’s use of the ‘clintonmail.com’ server was the SIGINT equivalent of waving a huge ‘I’m right here’ flag at hostile intelligence services. Since the number of spy agencies worldwide capable of advanced SIGINT operations numbers in the many dozens, with Russia and China in the top five, that Ms. Clinton’s emails wound up in the wrong hands is a very safe bet, as any experienced spy will attest.” (The New York Observer, 3/4/2016)