Hillary Clinton’s Tuesday press conference did little to quell concerns about her exclusive use of personal emails as secretary of state
Clinton, the Democratic front-runner for president in 2016, repeatedly insisted she elected not to use government email out of “convenience.” At the same time, she said she deleted about 30,000 “private, personal” emails that her lawyer deemed not relevant to her government position.
She described the tens of thousands of deleted messages as “emails about planning Chelsea’s wedding or my mother’s funeral arrangements, condolence notes to friends, as well as yoga routines, family vacations.”
But many substantive questions remain about Clinton’s email use and conduct after she left the administration, according to Republicans, editorial boards, and others.
Poor security harming National Security
Many experts said Clinton’s personal email server was less secure than an official government one. Accordingly, they argue, Clinton could have left classified material vulnerable to hackers looking to undermine the White House or obtain crucial national security information.
Clinton dismissed these concerns during her press conference. She said she used a secure server set up for her husband, former President Bill Clinton, and it was guarded by the Secret Service. She said there was no evidence of a security breach. And Clinton claimed she never used her email to send classified material in the first place.
But those statements didn’t satisfy a number of experts and critics.
“To say it wasn’t compromised is to say, ‘I don’t know it was compromised,” Stewart Baker, who served as General Counsel to the National Security Agency (NSA) under George W. Bush, told Politico. “It would be pretty easy for a nation-state to compromise that account, and pretty easy to hide the fact that they had compromised that account.”
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky), a likely 2016 presidential candidate, scoffed at Clinton’s claims during a Fox News interview Tuesday night. Paul said he would “guarantee” that sensitive material ended up in Clinton’s inbox.
“I don’t think convenience should trump national security,” Paul said. “Even her conversations about things could be classified. She wants us to believe, ‘Well, I didn’t transmit classified documents.’ But I guarantee that if you [file] a Freedom of Information Act and you want to know about Hillary Clinton’s or the secretary of state’s conversations with the president, my guess is you’ll get back a notice saying it’s classified.”
The Washington Post’s editorial board echoed this sentiment.
“Clinton said she did not discuss classified material in email, but surely her days and messages were taken up with ‘sensitive but unclassified’ matters that would be of interest to snoopers,” the paper opined Tuesday. “She didn’t address that security issue, nor did she say anything about whether the State Department had security concerns about her private arrangement.”
The New York Times reported Wednesday that security and government experts remain sceptical of Clinton’s claim about classified information. A former senior State Department estimated as much as 50% of Clinton’s daily workload would have been on classified material.
“I would assume that more than 50 per cent of what the secretary of state dealt with was classified,” the anonymous official said of Clinton. “Was every single email of the secretary of state completely unclassified? Maybe, but it’s hard to imagine.”
Hidden info about the deadly Benghazi attack
Glass, debris and overturned furniture are strewn inside a room in the gutted US consulate after the Benghazi attack.
Perhaps there’s no greater point of controversy during Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state than the 2012 attack on a diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya. Four Americans died in the attack, including US Ambassador Christopher Stevens.
Partially because the federal government abruptly shifted its narrative of the incident — from a spontaneous protest to a planned terrorist attack — a number of conspiracy theories have emerged. Many people believe the Obama administration knowingly handed out false information or was involved in a cover-up of the attack.
Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-South Carolina), who is leading the House’s Benghazi investigation, told Fox News on Tuesday that he was completely unsatisfied with Clinton’s press conference and will call her before his committee to answer additional questions.
“I have no interest in her yoga routine. Trust me, I have no interest in that,” Gowdy said. “But I have every interest in public record, whether it’s related to Libya or not. And I no interest in her personal attorney determining what is a public record and what is not a public record. That should be done by a neutral, detached person.”
The House Intelligence Committee concluded last year that there was no evidence of “deliberate wrongdoing” on the part of the Obama administration. However, questions remain about the CIA’s role at the Benghazi site and how the State Department contributed.
“The U.S. effort in Benghazi was at its heart a CIA operation, according to officials briefed on the intelligence,” The Wall Street Journal reported at the time. “Of the more than 30 American officials evacuated from Benghazi following the deadly assault, only seven worked for the State Department. Nearly all the rest worked for the CIA, under diplomatic cover, which was a principal purpose of the consulate, these officials said.”
‘Follow the foundation money’
Hillary Clinton speaking at her foundation’s annual meeting at the Sheraton New York Hotel & Towers on September 24, 2014 in New York City.
National Journal columnist Ron Fournier speculated this week that Clinton’s “private” email stash could contain messages relating to the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation, which has reportedly collected $US2 billion from sources that include oppressive foreign governments and corporations.
“The emails are a related but secondary scandal,” a Clinton source told Fournier. “Follow the foundation money.”
While she served as secretary of state, the Clinton foundation struck a deal with the White House to limit foreign contributions to the organisation. However, the foundation broke that agreement in 2010 when it accepted $US500,000 from Algeria, which was actively lobbying the State Department over its human rights issues at the time.
After Clinton left the State Department in 2013 and began preparing for a presidential campaign, the foundation raised eyebrows by accepting contributions that would have been forbidden when she was at the State Department.
The Canadian government agency lobbying for the construction of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline gave hundreds of thousands of dollars to the foundation in 2014. Clinton says she’s undecided on the measure, which is only being blocked by the current president’s veto pin. Fournier suggested this kind of apparent conflict of interest could be what Clinton is interested in shielding from public disclosure.
“Is the foundation clean? Is it corrupt? Or is the truth in the muddy middle, where we so often find the Clintons? Due to the fact that Hillary Clinton chose to skirt federal regulations and house her State Department emails on an off-the-books server, even the most loyal Democrat can’t honestly answer those questions,” Fournier said. “Could that be why she hasn’t coughed up the server?”
Michael B. Kelley contributed to this report.
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