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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 29, 2015: Congressional Republicans are increasingly concerned about Clinton’s lawyer possessing her emails.

Bradley Moss (Credit: public domain)

Bradley Moss (Credit: public domain)

Senator Ron Johnson (R), chair of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, writes a letter to Clinton’s personal lawyer David Kendall. He asks him what he’s done to “safeguard the classified material in (his) possession,” meaning a thumb drive containing Clinton’s emails.

Bradley Moss, a lawyer who handles national security information, comments: “As a general rule, private non-government individuals, even those maintaining a security clearance, are not authorized to privately store classified information. […] I’m not aware of any other private lawyer who has a clearance being allowed to do what is being permitted here.” (McClatchy Newspapers, 7/30/2015) 

The FBI will finally take all the copies of the emails from Kendall on August 6, 2015.

August 1, 2015—August 7, 2015: The company managing Clinton’s private server learns that another company has been making back-up copies of all the server data in the Internet “cloud” since 2013.

Clinton’s server has been managed by Platte River Networks (PRN) since June 2013. And since that time, PRN has subcontracted Datto, Inc. to make periodic back-ups of all the data on the server. PRN has thought that the back-ups have been only made through a device attached to the server called the Datto SIRIS S2000.

Sam Hickler (Credit: public domain)

Sam Hickler (Credit: public domain)

However, on August 1, 2015, an unnamed PRN employee notices that data from the server was possibly being sent to an off-site Datto location. On August 6, 2015,  Sam Hickler, PRN’s vice president of operations, contacts Datto employee Leif McKinley about this, CCing PRN employees Paul Combetta and Treve Suazo.

McKinley confirms that, due to a misunderstanding, Datto has been making periodic back-ups of the server data through the Internet “cloud” as well as locally through the device. Furthermore, periodic back-ups have been made this way since June 2013.

Treve Suazo (Credit: Platte River Networks)

Treve Suazo (Credit: Platte River Networks)

Suazo, the CEO of PRN, tells Datto on August 6, 2015, that “This is a problem.” This is because the Clinton Executive Services Corp. (CESC), the Clinton family company that hired PRN to manage the server, explicitly stated from the beginning that they didn’t want any remote back-ups to be made. Thus, PRN employees tell Datto not to delete whatever data was stored in the cloud, and instead work to get it back to the control of PRN.

On August 7, 2015, Datto and PRN employees discuss saving the data on a thumb drive and sending it to PRN. Then, according to an email from one unnamed PRN employee to another, they would have Datto “wipe [the data] from the cloud.”

This is according to a letter that will be sent in October 5, 2015 to Datto CEO Austin McChord by Senator Ron Johnson (R). Johnson is chair of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, and is conducting oversight of the FBI’s Clinton email investigation. However, Johnson will be unable to determine what happened next, such as if the thumb drive was sent and the data was wiped. Furthermore, McChord will not be able to reveal that information to Johnson because Datto needs PRN’s permission to share that information and PRN won’t give it. (US Congress, 9/12/2016) (US Congress, 9/12/2016)

August 8, 2015 and Shortly Thereafter: The company that manages Clinton’s server gives a presentation to Congressional investigators but fails to mention the deletion and wiping of Clinton’s emails.

Senator Ron Johnson (Credit: public domain)

Senator Ron Johnson (Credit: public domain)

Platte River Networks (PRN) is the computer company that has been managing Clinton’s private server since June 2013. On August 8, 2015, Senator Ron Johnson (R), chair of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, asks PRN for a staff-level briefing on the server. A July 2016 letter co-written by Johnson will indicate that there was an “initial production” by PRN later in August 2015 about various matters, “including maintaining Secretary Clinton’s private server.” (US Congress, 7/22/2016) (Politico, 11/13/2015)

However, it seems apparent that PRN says nothing about the later-revealed fact that PRN employee Paul Combetta deleted and wiped all of Clinton’s emails off her server in late March 2015,  because Johnson will show no knowledge of that in the above-mentioned letter or other letters. Furthermore, in September 2015, PRN will publicly state that it has no knowledge of the server being wiped.

Furthermore, when the FBI picks up Clinton’s server from a data center in New Jersey on August 12, 2015, they only pick up one server. But actually there are two servers there, both being managed by PRN, and Clinton’s emails had been transferred from the old one to the new one. The FBI will discover this on their own and pick up the newer server as well on October 3, 2015, so it seems probable that PRN is not honest with the Congressional committee about this basic fact either.

Additionally, when Johnson’s committee asks to interview PRN employees one month later, the company will refuse and will cease cooperating with Congressional investigators.

 

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)

October 5, 2015—October 19, 2015: The company managing Clinton’s private server gives permission for another company to cooperate with Congressional investigators, and then takes it away.

On October 5, 2015, Steven Cash, a lawyer for Datto, Inc., receives a letter from Senator Ron Johnson (R), chair of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee. Johnson’s is conducting oversight of the FBI’s Clinton investigation and he wants Datto to answer questions and turn over copies of documents by October 19, 2015. Platte River Networks (PRN) is managing Clinton’s private server, and they have subcontarcted with Datto to provide back-up services. As part of Datto’s contact with PRN, Datto needs PRN’s permission before they can share any information relating to the case.

Ken Eichner (Credit: public domain)

Ken Eichner (Credit: public domain)

So the next day, Cash emails Ken Eichner, lawyer for PRN, and asks permission.

Eichner emails him back later that same day, “Steven, no objection.” (US Congress, 9/12/2016)

However, on October 19, 2015, the date of the deadline set by the committee, Datto sends the committee saying the company can’t answer most questions because although PRN originally gave Datto permission, “counsel to Platte River withdrew their previous non-objection, and objected to any further disclosure of confidential information to the committee. Consequently, Datto is not authorized to disclose such information absent consent from its client, Platte River, or unless required by law or by order of court or governmental agency.”

Andy Boian (Credit: public domain)

Andy Boian (Credit: public domain)

On November 13, 2015, PRN spokesperson Andy Boian will be quoted in a Politico article, saying, “There was a suggestion by our legal counsel and the legal counsel of Datto that everything has been turned over regarding the Clinton matter by Datto, so there wasn’t an extraordinary need for Datto to do anything else. There wasn’t anymore information that Datto could provide that Platte River couldn’t, so there was a suggestion that any inquiry that goes to Datto … comes through us. And that’s just out of pure convenience.” (Politico, 11/13/2015)

The next day, Cash will email Eichner again and complain that the “description of communications between Platte River and Datto counsel attributed to Mr. Boian is not accurate, and leaves the reader with a distinctly false impression.” Cash points out that he is the only Datto lawyer who has talked to any PRN lawyers, so he knows this quote is untrue. He sends a copy of this complaint to Senator Johnson. (US Congress, 9/12/2016)

The idea that Datto has no other information to provide is clearly untrue. It will turn over documents containing previously released information after they are served subpoena to do so in September 2016.

February 23, 2016: Secretary of State Kerry declines to answer if Clinton’s emails harmed US intelligence.

Senator Ron Johnson (Credit: John Shinkle / Politico)

Senator Ron Johnson (Credit: John Shinkle / Politico)

Senator Ron Johnson (R) asks Secretary of State John Kerry if he knows whether the US intelligence community has had to “mitigate the harm by the potential that our enemies might have access to that classified material that’s on Secretary Clinton’s server.”

Kerry replies, “I would not be able to discuss that in an open session.”

Then when asked by Johnson about letting his staff use a private server to send and receive classified information, Kerry responds, “In today’s world, given all that we’ve learned and what we understand about the vulnerability of our system, we don’t do that, no.” (The Hill, 2/23/2016) (The Daily Caller, 2/23/2016)

March 14, 2016: A State Department official is refusing to answer questions about Clinton’s private server.

John Bentel (Credit: public domain)

John Bentel (Credit: public domain)

It is reported that Senate Republicans have been trying to interview John Bentel since December 2015. Bentel was the director of Information Resources Management (IRM) in the State Department’s Office of Executive Secretariat when Clinton was secretary of state, and thus he may have knowledge about both Clinton’s private email account and her private server. But he has refused to answer their questions about Clinton’s private server. Senators Charles Grassley and Ron Johnson, the leaders of the Senate Judiciary and Homeland Security Committees respectively, have told Bentel that they would prefer a “voluntary and informal” meeting, but “will consider other options if faced with a continuing lack of cooperation,” potentially referring to a subpoena.

Bentel was secretly questioned by the House Benghazi Committee in June 2015, and claimed he had “no memory or knowledge” about such issues.

But in May 2016, evidence will emerge suggesting otherwise, and that he might have played a role in a cover-up. (The Hill, 3/14/2016) (Yahoo News, 5/27/2016)

July 12, 2016: Congressional Republicans threatens subpoenas if the company that managed Clinton’s server fails to agree to employee interviews.

Treve Suazo (Credit: public domain)

Treve Suazo (Credit: public domain)

Representative Lamar Smith (R), the chair of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, and Senator Ron Johnson (R), the chair of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, jointly author a letter to Treve Suazo, the CEO of Platte River Networks (PRN). PRN is the company that managed Clinton’s private server from June 2013 until late 2015.

The letter notes that Johnson’s committee has been seeking to interview some PRN employees about the management and security of Clinton’s server since August 2015, while Smith’s has been asking to do the same since January 2016, but PRN has refused all interview requests.

The letter then asks again, specifically requesting to interview the following PRN employees:

  • Treve Suazo
  • Brent Allshouse
  • David DeCamillis
  • Paul Combetta
  • Sam Hickler
  • Bill Thornton
  • Craig Papke

The letter requests a response by July 26, 2016. If PRN does not comply, the letter threatens the use of the “compulsory process.” (US Congress, 7/22/2016)

Apparently, PRN will still refuse to agree, because on August 22, 2016 these committees will issue subpoenas for the interviews.

August 22, 2016: A Congressperson issues subpoenas to three companies that helped manage Clinton’s private email server.

160822LamarSmithpublicdomain

Representative Lamar Smith (Credit: public domain)

Representative Lamar Smith (R), chair of the Committee on Science, Space and Technology, issues subpoenas for Platte River Networks, which managed Clinton’s server from May 2013 until August 2015; Datto, Inc., which made back-up copies of the server; and SECNAP, which carried out threat monitoring of the network connected to Clinton’s server. Smith wants documents from the companies by September 9, 2016, after they declined to voluntarily produce them. Congressional committees requested information since August and November 2015, to no avail. The companies had been threatened with subpoenas on July 12, 2016.

Smith comments, “Companies providing services to Secretary Hillary Clinton’s private email account and server are not above the law.” He claims the information he is seeking is “critical to… informing policy changes in how to prevent similar email arrangements in the future.”

Smith is working with Senator Ron Johnson (R), chair of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. They are looking for information about breaches or potential breaches, and documents that detail the scope of the work of each company. (The Washington Post, 8/22/2016)

October 29, 2016: Both Republican and Democratic senators want more information from the FBI about the reopening of the Clinton email investigation.

On October 28, 2016, FBI Director James Comey sent a letter to eight Congressional committees, revealing that the FBI’s Clinton email investigation is being at least partially reopened due to the discovery of potentially relevant new evidence. But his letter is only three paragraphs long and is very vague. Subsequent media reports say the evidence is newly discovered emails belonging to top Clinton aide Huma Abedin.

Senators who sign the letter are from left to right

Democratic Senators who wrote to Lynch and Comey are from left to right, Patrick Leahy, Thomas Carper, Dianne Feinstein, and Benjamin Cardin. (Credit: public domain)

The next day, four Democratic senators – Patrick Leahy, Thomas Carper, Dianne Feinstein, and Benjamin Cardin – write a letter to Attorney General Loretta Lynch and Comey, asking for more information. They want to know, by October 31, 2016, more details of the investigative steps being taken, the number of emails involved, how many of the emails are duplicates of those already known.

Republican Senator Ron Johnson, chair of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, writes a similar letter to Comey. “In line with your commitment to be transparent with Congress and the public, I respectfully request that the FBI provide as much information as possible about these new developments without harming the integrity of its ongoing investigation.” (The Washington Post, 10/29/2016)