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)

2008: A government guide explains how to deal with the accidental mention of classified information.

The US government posts an internal guide on how to deal with “spillage”—the common term for classified information accidentally getting onto an unclassified system. The guide, “National Instruction on Classified Information Spillage,” explains how such errors should be assessed and reported. One step mentioned for more severe cases is: “Determine whether the incident should be referred to the Department of Justice for investigation and/or criminal prosecution.” (The New York Times, 8/8/2015)

January 21, 2009: President Obama pledges to increase government transparency.

President Obama delivers a speech after being sworn in on January 21, 2009. (Credit: Jim Young / Reuters)

President Obama delivers a speech after being sworn in on January 21, 2009. (Credit: Jim Young / Reuters)

During his swearing-in ceremony, Obama says, “Let me say it as simply as I can. Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency.”

He adds, “Starting today, every agency and department should know that this administration stands on the side not of those who seek to withhold information, but those who seek to make it known. […] The Freedom of Information Act [FOIA] is perhaps the most powerful instrument we have for making our government honest and transparent, and of holding it accountable. And I expect members of my administration not simply to live up to the letter but also the spirit of this law.” (The White House, 1/21/2009)

In November 2016, Slate will comment, “Needless to say, the agencies have not taken this order seriously, nor has Obama pressured or prodded them to do so. Many crises crowded his agenda soon after his inauguration, leaving the cause of government openness on the back burner, if not in the freezer.” (Slate, 11/2/2016)

January 21, 2009—February 1, 2013: While Clinton is secretary of state, at least 181 companies, individuals, and foreign governments that donate to the Clinton Foundation also lobby Clinton’s State Department.

Clinton (right) texting while attending a dinner with Moroccan Foreign Minister Taib Fassi Fihri (center) and Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini (left), in Marrakesh, Morocco, on November 2, 2009. (Credit: Abdelhak Senna / Agence France Presse)

Clinton (right) texting while attending a dinner with Moroccan Foreign Minister Taib Fassi Fihri (center) and Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini (left), in Marrakesh, Morocco, on November 2, 2009. (Credit: Abdelhak Senna / Agence France Presse)

Bill Clinton also collects $26 million in speaking fees from Clinton Foundation donors. These numbers will be calculated by Vox in 2015. Vox will comment that no one “has produced anything close to evidence of a quid pro quo in which Hillary Clinton took official action in exchange for contributions to the Clinton Foundation.”

However, “public records alone reveal a nearly limitless supply of cozy relationships between the Clintons and companies with interests before the government. […] That’s not illegal, but it is scandalous.” Vox adds, “Ultimately, it is impossible to tell where one end of the two-headed Clinton political and philanthropic operation ends and where the other begins.” (Vox, 4/28/2015)

March 2009—2014: The Clintons and the Clinton Foundation benefit after Hillary Clinton helps Swiss bank UBS.

Clinton appears with Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey, (left), at the State Department on July 31, 2009, announcing a settlement in a legal case involving UBS. (Credit: J. Scott Applewhite / The Associated Press)

Clinton appears with Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey, (left), at the State Department on July 31, 2009, announcing a settlement in a legal case involving UBS. (Credit: J. Scott Applewhite / The Associated Press)

In 2007, a whistleblower gave information about thousands of US citizens who were putting money in Swiss mega-bank UBS to avoid paying US taxes. The IRS [Internal Revenue Service] sues UBS to learn the identities of US citizens with secret bank accounts. UBS faces either complying and violating strict Swiss banking secrecy laws, or refusing and facing criminal charges in a US court.

The US government decides to treat this as a political matter with the Swiss government instead of just a legal problem with the bank. In March 2009, Clinton meets with Swiss officials and brings up a number of unrelated issues where the US wants help from Switzerland, such as using Swiss neutrality to help release a US citizen imprisoned in Iran. The Swiss help with these other issues, and appear to get concessions in the UBS case in return.

On July 31, 2009, Clinton announces a legal settlement: the US government dismisses the IRS lawsuit, and UBS turns over data on only 4,450 accounts instead of the 52,000 accounts worth $18 billion wanted by the IRS.

Some US politicians criticize the deal. For instance, Senator Carl Levin (D), says, “It is disappointing that the US government went along.” A senior IRS official will later complain that many US citizens escaped scrutiny due to the deal.

Former president Bill Clinton and UBS Wealth Management Chief Executive, Bob McCann, took the stage at a Clinton Global Initiative event in 2011. (Credit: Brian Kersey /UPI/ Landov)

Former president Bill Clinton and UBS Wealth Management Chief Executive, Bob McCann, took the stage at a Clinton Global Initiative event in 2011. (Credit: Brian Kersey /UPI/ Landov)

UBS then helps the Clintons in various ways:

  • Total UBS donations to the Clinton Foundation grow from less than $60,000 through 2008 to about $600,000 by the end of 2014.
  • Starting in early 2010, UBS works with the foundation to launch entrepreneurship and inner-city loan programs, and lends the programs $32 million. In 2012, the foundation will tout these programs as one of their major accomplishments.
  • UBS gives the foundation $100,000 for a charity golf tournament.
  • In 2011, UBS pays Bill Clinton $350,000 for discussing the economy at a UBS event.
  • Also in 2011, UBS pays Bill Clinton $1.5 million to take part in eleven question and answer sessions with a UBS official, making UBS his largest corporate source of speech income.

In 2015, the Wall Street Journal will comment, “there is no evidence of any link between Mrs. Clinton’s involvement in the case and the bank’s donations to [the foundation], or its hiring of Mr. Clinton. But her involvement with UBS is a prime example of how the Clintons’ private and political activities overlap.”

Lawrence Lessig, a Harvard law professor and Democrat, will say of the Clintons, “They’ve engaged in behavior to make people wonder: What was this about? Was there something other than deciding the merits of these cases?” (The Wall Street Journal, 7/30/2015)

The Atlantic magazine will comment, “If you’re Bill Clinton and your wife has recently intervened in her capacity as a cabinet secretary to help a giant corporation avert a significant threat to its bottom-line, the very least you could do, if only to avoid the appearance of impropriety, is to avoid negotiating seven-figure paydays with that same corporation. [The fact he didn’t do that] is particularly jaw-dropping because ultra-wealthy Bill Clinton has virtually unlimited opportunities to give lucrative speeches to any number of audiences not directly implicated by decisions that his wife made as secretary of state.” (The Atlantic, 7/31/2015)

September 21, 2009: Clinton’s meeting with major business leaders on this day is just one of dozens of meetings later not listed on her official calendar.

Clinton attends a meeting with New York Stock Exchange president Duncan Niederauer and various business leaders on September 21, 2009. (Credit: public domain)

Clinton attends a meeting with New York Stock Exchange president Duncan Niederauer and various business leaders on September 21, 2009. (Credit: public domain)

In June 2016, the Associated Press will finally gain access to some planning schedules from when Clinton was secretary of state. A comparison of these planning schedules with Clinton’s official calendar from that time will show that at least 60 meetings with Clinton’s donors and other outside interests were omitted. The Associated Press will give one specific example of a meeting on this day that is omitted from the calendar, even though the names of attendees to other meetings on the same day are not. Clinton meets with 13 major business leaders for a private breakfast discussion at the New York Stock Exchange:

  • David M. Cote, CEO of Honeywell International Inc.;
  • Fabrizio Freda, CEO of the Estee Companies Inc.;
  • Lewis Frankfort, chair of Coach Inc.;
  • Robert Kelly, CEO of the New York Bank of Mellon;
  • Ellen Kullman, CEO of DuPont;
  • Harold McGraw III, chair of McGraw Hill Companies;
  • Duncan Niederauer, CEO of  the New York Stock Exchange;
  • Indra Nooyi, CEO of PepsiCo;
  • Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks Corp;
  • Steven Schwarzman, chair of the Blackstone Group;
  • James Taiclet, chair of the American Tower Corp.;
  • James Tisch, president of Loews Corp.; and
  • John D. Wren, CEO of Omnicom Group.

All the companies represented except Coach Inc. lobby the US government in 2009. Four companies—Blackstone, Honeywell, Omnicom, and DuPont—lobby the State Department that year. All the companies except for American Tower and New York Bank of Mellon donate to the Clinton Foundation, and two attendees—Schwarzman and Frankfort—personally donate to the foundation. Four of the companies—PepsiCo, the Blackstone Group, DuPont, and Honeywell International Inc.—also donate to what the Associated Press calls “Clinton’s pet diplomatic project of that period,” the US pavilion at the 2010 Shanghai Expo. (The Associated Press, 6/24/2016)

June 6, 2013: Chinese government hacker attacks on US government targets have steadily increased since 2008.

Shawn Henry (Credit: public domain)

Shawn Henry (Credit: public domain)

In the summer of 2008, the presidential campaigns of Barack Obama and John McCain had their computers successfully breached by hackers apparently working for the Chinese government. According to NBC News, “US officials say that Chinese intrusions have escalated in the years since, involving repeated attacks on US government agencies, political campaigns, corporations, law firms, and defense contractors—including the theft of national security secrets and hundreds of billions of dollars in intellectual property.”

Shawn Henry headed up the FBI’s investigation of the 2008 attacks and now is president of the computer security company CrowdStrike. He says there’s “little doubt” the Chinese government has an aggressive electronic espionage program targeting the US government and the commercial sector. “There’s been successful exfiltration of data from government agencies (by the Chinese) up and down Pennsylvania Avenue.” (NBC News, 6/6/2013)

December 31, 2015: The State Department hasn’t asked other departments to help find any missing Clinton emails.

In September 2015, the Defense Department gave the State Department some emails between Clinton and former Army General David Petraeus that Clinton had previously not turned over. However, in the months since, the State Department does not appear to have reached out to other departments to determine if they also have copies of emails Clinton failed to turn over. McClatchy Newspapers questioned over a dozen other departments. All of them either said they hadn’t been contacted by the State Department about this or failed to give an answer.

The State Department has not explained why it has failed to ask for help from other departments. It’s unclear how the Defense Department determined it had the emails between Clinton and Petraeus or why it turned them over. (McClatchy Newspapers, 12/31/2015)

June 16, 2016: Recent alleged Russian hacking attacks appear to have focused on Clinton and the DNC and not other presidential campaigns.

SecureWorks Logo (Credit: SecureWorks)

SecureWorks Logo (Credit: SecureWorks)

SecureWorks is a cybersecurity company that apparently has been hired to investigate recent leaks targeting US government officials, departments, and related entities. Focusing on the hacking group known as Fancy Bear (or APT 28), they conclude with “moderate confidence that the group is operating from the Russian Federation and is gathering intelligence on behalf of the Russian government.” They also conclude that the group targeted Clinton’s presidential campaign and the DNC [Democratic National Committee].

However, SecureWorks have not observed Fancy Bear “[target] the US Republican party or the other US presidential candidates whose campaigns were active between mid-March and mid-May [2016]: Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and John Kasich.” But they point out the other campaigns could have been targeted by other means not noticed by them. (SecureWorks, 6/16/2016)

June 28, 2016: The House Benghazi Committee releases their final report, which lacks any new politically damaging revelations.

The report is over 800 pages. and comes after 15 months of investigation, at a cost of over $7 million. However, the New York Times comments that the report “offers a handful of new details but nothing that will alter the conventional narrative about the events of September 11, 2012,” the date of the terrorist attack on the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya. The report does point out numerous failures regarding the US government’s response to the attack, but those were mostly outside the control of Clinton’s State Department, such as a slow response time from the US military.

The Times also comments that “after nearly four years and eight congressional investigations, Mrs. Clinton emerged largely unscathed. […] In the end, the biggest revelation unearthed by the [committee] came 15 months ago: the disclosure that Hillary Clinton had used a private email address and server during her four years as secretary of state.”

Clinton comments, “I’ll leave it to others to characterize this report, but I think it’s pretty clear that it’s time to move on.” (The New York Times, 6/28/2016)

 

June 28, 2016: A federal judge accuses the State Department of running out the clock on a FOIA lawsuit to politically protect Clinton.

US District Judge Richard Leon (Credit: public domain)

US District Judge Richard Leon (Credit: public domain)

In 2010, military contractor BAE Systems pled guilty to violating US arms export control laws and regulations, and paid a $400 million fine to the US government. Then in 2011, it settled a civil suit on the same issue, paying an additional $69 million fine, but maintaining the right to receive US government contracts and export licenses. In August 2013, the Associated Press filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to learn more about what many call a “sweetheart deal,” and Clinton’s possible role in it as secretary of state. In March 2015, that turned into a FOIA lawsuit after the State Department only turned over three documents out of 13,000 pages responsive to the request.

On June 28, 2016, US District Court Judge Richard Leon says that the department’s recent assertion that it will take until mid-October 2016 to hand over the document is a non-starter due to the proximity to the November 8, 2016 general election. He says: “This case has been dragging on for a long time […] We’re now reaching a point of mounting frustration that this is a project where State is running out the clock. There’s no way I’m ever going to grant you an extension to mid-October because that would effectively run out the clock.” Leon wants to not only get the documents released before the election, but also to have them released by early September 2016 so there is time to litigate whether the department’s redactions are legally justified. He openly threatens penalties on the State Department and other departments if they don’t speed up working together to release the documents. (Politico, 6/28/2016)

 

July 5, 2016: FBI Director Comey announces he will not recommend Clinton’s indictment on any charge, but he calls her “extremely careless” in handling highly classified information.

FBI Director James Comey announces his recommendation for Clinton and her aides on July 5, 2016. (Credit: Cliff Owen / The Associated Press)

FBI Director James Comey announces his recommendation in a press conference on July 5, 2016. (Credit: Cliff Owen / The Associated Press)

FBI Director James Comey gives a public speech in front of a group of reporters. The timing is surprising, since this brings an end to the FBI’s investigation of Clinton’s email practices, and just a Sunday and the Fourth of July holiday separate this from the FBI’s interview of Clinton on July 2, 2016. Comey spends most of his speech criticizing Clinton, but ends it by saying he will not recommend that the Justice Department pursue any indictment of Clinton or her aides.

Comey’s fifteen-minute speech includes the following information, in order, with key phrases bolded to assist in understanding.

Comey begins by describing the FBI investigation:

  • The investigation started with a referral from Intelligence Community Inspector General Charles McCullough, and “focused on whether classified information was transmitted” on Clinton’s personal email server during her time as secretary of state. It specifically “looked at whether there is evidence classified information was improperly stored or transmitted on that personal system, in violation of a federal statute making it a felony to mishandle classified information either intentionally or in a grossly negligent way, or a second statute making it a misdemeanor to knowingly remove classified information from appropriate systems or storage facilities.” The FBI “also investigated to determine whether there is evidence of computer intrusion in connection with the personal email server by any foreign power, or other hostile actors.”
  • The FBI found that Clinton “used several different servers and administrators of those servers during her four years at the State Department, and used numerous mobile devices to view and send email on that personal domain. As new servers and equipment were employed, older servers were taken out of service, stored, and decommissioned in various ways…”
  • The FBI analyzed the over 30,000 work emails that Clinton did turn over to the State Department in December 2014, working with other US government departments to determine which emails contained truly classified information at the time they were sent, and which ones were justifiably classified later.
  • James Comey (Credit: Fox News)

    James Comey (Credit: Fox News)

    From the group of 30,068 emails Clinton returned to the State Department, “110 emails in 52 email chains have been determined by the owning agency to contain classified information at the time they were sent or received. Eight of those chains contained information that was ‘top secret’ at the time they were sent; 36 chains contained ‘secret’ information at the time; and eight contained ‘confidential’ information, which is the lowest level of classification. Separate from those, about 2,000 additional emails were ‘up-classified’ to make them ‘confidential’; the information in those had not been classified at the time the emails were sent.”

  • It had previously been reported that the FBI had recovered most or all of the 31,830 emails that Clinton had deleted, allegedly because they contained personal information only. However, Comey reveals that was not the case, and thousands of emails were not recovered. He gives an example of how when one of Clinton’s servers was decommissioned in 2013, the email was removed and broken up into millions of fragments.
  • The FBI “discovered several thousand work-related emails” that were not included in the 30,068 emails Clinton returned to the State Department, even though Clinton claimed under oath that she had returned all her work-related emails. The FBI found these after they “had been deleted over the years and we found traces of them on devices that supported or were connected to the private email domain.” Others were found in the archived government email accounts of other government employees whom Clinton frequently communicated with. Still others were found “from the laborious review of the millions of email fragments” of the server decommissioned in 2013.
  • Out of these additional work emails, three were classified at the time they were sent or received – none at the ‘top secret’ level, one at the ‘secret’ level, and two at the ‘confidential’ level. None were found to have been deemed classified later.
  • Furthermore, Comey claims “we found no evidence that any of the additional work-related emails were intentionally deleted in an effort to conceal them. Our assessment is that, like many email users, Secretary Clinton periodically deleted emails or emails were purged from the system when devices were changed. Because she was not using a government account—or even a commercial account like Gmail—there was no archiving at all of her emails, so it is not surprising that we discovered emails that were not on Secretary Clinton’s system in 2014, when she produced the 30,000 emails to the State Department.”
  • 160705DeletingAttorneys

    The three Clinton attorneys who deleted emails are David Kendall (left), Cheryl Mills (center), and Heather Samuelson (right). (Credit: public domain)

    However, he also admits that “It could also be that some of the additional work-related emails we recovered were among those deleted as ‘personal’ by Secretary Clinton’s lawyers when they reviewed and sorted her emails for production in 2014.” He claims that the three lawyers who sorted the emails for Clinton in late 2014 (David Kendall, Cheryl Mills, and Heather Samuelson) “did not individually read the content of all of her emails…” Instead, they used keyword searches to determine which emails were work related, and it is “highly likely their search terms missed some work-related emails” that were later found by the FBI elsewhere.

  • Comey states it is “likely” that some emails may have disappeared forever. because Clinton’s three lawyers “deleted all emails they did not return to State, and the lawyers cleaned their devices in such a way as to preclude complete forensic recovery.” But he says that after interviews and technical examination, “we believe our investigation has been sufficient to give us reasonable confidence there was no intentional misconduct in connection with that sorting effort.”

Comey then begins stating his findings:

  • “Although we did not find clear evidence that Secretary Clinton or her colleagues intended to violate laws governing the handling of classified information, there is evidence that they were extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information.”
  • As an example, he points out that “seven email chains concern matters that were classified at the ‘Top Secret/Special Access Program’ [TP/SAP] level when they were sent and received. These chains involved Secretary Clinton both sending emails about those matters and receiving emails from others about the same matters. There is evidence to support a conclusion that any reasonable person in Secretary Clinton’s position, or in the position of those government employees with whom she was corresponding about these matters, should have known that an unclassified system was no place for that conversation.”
  • He adds that it was a similar situation with emails classified at the “secret” level when they were sent, although he doesn’t specify how many.
  • He comments, “None of these emails should have been on any kind of unclassified system, but their presence is especially concerning because all of these emails were housed on unclassified personal servers not even supported by full-time security staff, like those found at departments and agencies of the US government—or even with a commercial service like Gmail.”
  • He notes that “only a very small number of the emails containing classified information bore markings indicating the presence of classified information. But even if information is not marked ‘classified’ in an email, participants who know or should know that the subject matter is classified are still obligated to protect it.”
  • He then criticizes the State Department as a whole. The FBI found evidence that “the security culture” of the State Department “was generally lacking in the kind of care for classified information found elsewhere in the government.” This was especially true regarding the use of unclassified email systems.
  • Then he addresses whether “hostile actors” were able to gain access to Clinton’s emails. Although no direct evidence of any successful hacking was found, he points out that “given the nature of the system and of the actors potentially involved, we assess that we would be unlikely to see such direct evidence. We do assess that hostile actors gained access to the private commercial email accounts of people with whom Secretary Clinton was in regular contact from her personal account. We also assess that Secretary Clinton’s use of a personal email domain was both known by a large number of people and readily apparent. She also used her personal email extensively while outside the United States, including sending and receiving work-related emails in the territory of sophisticated adversaries. Given that combination of factors, we assess it is possible that hostile actors gained access to Secretary Clinton’s personal email account.”

After laying out the evidence of what the FBI found, Comey moves to the FBI’s recommendation to the Justice Department. He admits that it is highly unusual to publicly reveal the FBI’s recommendation, but “in this case, given the importance of the matter, I think unusual transparency is in order.”

James Comey (Credit: NPR)

James Comey (Credit: NPR)

Then he comes to these conclusions:

  • “Although there is evidence of potential violations of the statutes regarding the handling of classified information, our judgment is that no reasonable prosecutor would bring such a case. Prosecutors necessarily weigh a number of factors before bringing charges. There are obvious considerations, like the strength of the evidence, especially regarding intent. Responsible decisions also consider the context of a person’s actions, and how similar situations have been handled in the past.”
  • To justify this decision, he claims he examined other cases involving the mishandling or removal of classified information, and “we cannot find a case that would support bringing criminal charges on these facts. All the cases prosecuted involved some combination of clearly intentional and willful mishandling of classified information; or vast quantities of materials exposed in such a way as to support an inference of intentional misconduct; or indications of disloyalty to the United States; or efforts to obstruct justice. We do not see those things here.”
  • He then says, “To be clear, this is not to suggest that in similar circumstances, a person who engaged in this activity would face no consequences. To the contrary, those individuals are often subject to security or administrative sanctions. But that is not what we are deciding now. As a result, although the Department of Justice makes final decisions on matters like this, we are expressing to Justice our view that no charges are appropriate in this case.”
  • He concludes by saying the FBI’s investigation was done competently, honestly, and independently, and without any kind of outside influence.

He doesn’t address the possibility of recommending the indictment of any of Clinton’s aides or other figures like Sid Blumenthal or Justin Cooper. He also doesn’t make any mention of the Clinton Foundation, though there have been media reports the FBI has been investigating it as well. After finishing his speech, he leaves without taking any questions from the media. (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 7/5/2016)

July 28, 2016: Director of National Intelligence James Clapper shows reluctance to blame Russia for recent hacks on US political entities.

160728JamesClapperpublic

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper (Credit: public domain)

Clapper says the US government is not “quite ready yet” to “make a public call” about who is responsible for the hacking on the Democratic National Committee’s (DNC) computer network that resulted in almost 20,000 emails being released by WikiLeaks. However, he hints that one of “the usual suspects” is likely to blame. He also says, “We don’t know enough [yet] to … ascribe a motivation, regardless of who it may have been.”

Yahoo News reports that there is a vigorous debate inside the Obama administration about whether to publicly blame the Russian government for the hacking. One unnamed senior law enforcement official says the Russians are “most probably” involved, but investigation is ongoing.

Clapper is said to be amongst a faction who is resisting publicly blaming the Russians, since it is the kind of activity that intelligence agencies regularly engage in, including the US at times. Clapper also publicly comments, “[I’m] taken aback a bit by … the hyperventilation over this,” He adds in a sarcastic tone, “I’m shocked somebody did some hacking. That’s never happened before.” (Yahoo News, 7/29/2016)