September 23, 2011: According to a State Department official, Clinton engages in Middle East negotiations using her unsecure BlackBerry.

Catherine Ashton (Credit: European Parliament)

Catherine Ashton (Credit: European Parliament)

On this day, Clinton, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, and European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton meet in United Nations headquarters in New York City. The four of them work out a joint statement regarding an Israeli-Palestinian peace plan proposed by President Obama.

In a 2013 speech, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman will discuss what happens between Clinton and Ashton: “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.” Sherman will comment that, “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.” (The Hill, 1/26/2016) (United Nations, 9/23/2011)

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)

February 3, 2016: A State Department official claims someone tried to hack her private email account two years earlier, in early 2014.

Wendy Sherman (Credit: Alex Wong / Getty Images)

Wendy Sherman (Credit: Alex Wong / Getty Images)

Wendy Sherman is interviewed by the FBI. Sherman served as deputy secretary of state under Clinton (the third highest ranking post), and as under secretary of state for political affairs. Her name will later be redacted in the FBI summary of the interview, but the Daily Caller will identify the interviewee as Sherman due to details mentioned elsewhere in the interview.

Sherman served as chief negotiator on a nuclear deal between the US and Iran, which was agreed to in 2014. In the FBI summary of her interview, she said that she was not aware of any specific instances where she was notified of a potential hack of her State Department or personal email accounts or those of other department employees. However, she “explained [she] was sure people tried to hack into [her] personal email account and the accounts of [redacted] team approximately two years ago during [redacted] in the Iran negotiations. Specifically, [redacted] received a similar email. [She] reported the incident to [State Department] Diplomatic Security who reportedly traced the emails back to a [redacted].”

Elsewhere in the interview, she said that it “was not uncommon for [her] to have to use [her] personal Gmail account to communicate while on travel, because there were often times [she] could not access her [State Department] unclassified account.”

The Daily Caller will later comment, “While it is no surprise that hackers would attempt to infiltrate the negotiating teams’ email accounts — the US government has robust spy operations that try to do the same thing — Sherman’s use of a personal account while overseas likely increased her chances of being hacked.” (The Daily Caller, 9/24/2016) (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/23/2016)