The Denver-based IT company hired by Hillary Clinton in 2013 to oversee her private email server was a small “mum and pop shop” that seemed like a “bizarre” choice for the former Secretary of State, an ex-employee told The Daily Mail in a story published Tuesday.
“At the time I worked for them they wouldn’t have been equipped to work for Hilary Clinton because I don’t think they had the resources, they were based out of a loft, so [it was] not very high security, we didn’t even have an alarm,” Tera Dadiotis, a former consumer-relations consultant for the firm, told the paper.
“We were like your local IT company,” she added. “Nothing special or fancy, we had a really good reputation but that was on a local level.”
It’s unclear if any sensitive information was stored on the server while under Platte River Networks’ oversight.
Platte River “is not cleared” to have access to classified material, Cindy McGovern, chief public affairs officer for the Defence Security Service, told The Daily Caller last week.
In any case, Clinton’s decision to hire Platte River to secure her private system is facing scrutiny.
“My big issue here is do you want a small firm with little/no government experience or contracting (according to what’s being reported) and no stated security expertise to be in charge of the email system for our [former] secretary of state?” cybersecurity expert Alex McGeorge, a senior security researcher at Immunity Inc., told Business Insider over email last week.
“That is fundamentally ridiculous.”
Clinton’s unusual email system was originally set up by a staffer during her 2008 presidential campaign, replacing a server used by her husband, former President Bill Clinton.
Before handing it over to Platte River in 2013, Clinton reportedly sent the server to a data center in New Jersey to be wiped of any sensitive information, according to The Washington Post.
In March, Clinton turned over approximately 55,000 pages of work-related emails for the State Department to make public after facing criticism for exclusively using a private server during her time as secretary of state.
She did not break any State Department rules with the arrangement, but critics have noted it makes public-record keeping more difficult and opens up questions about vulnerabilities to her system. Clinton also deleted about 31,000 pages of emails that she says were personal.
It is unclear whether it was fully erased before it was turned over to the FBI earlier this month. The nature of her server means there might still be ways for investigators to recover old data.
“A hard disk drive is very difficult to manipulate,” computer scientist Darren Hayes, director of cybersecurity at Pace University’s School of Computer Science and Information Systems, told The Associated Press.
“Once you get your hands on a hard drive, there’s a lot you can recover.”
Files that are deleted from a disk can be recovered from the hard drive, he noted, and data deleted from the drive altogether may still leave fragments that can be accessed with enough digging.
“They may have deleted a lot of data, but there’s a lot of data that a good forensics team would be able to recover,” Hayes said.
Additionally, Platte River told ABC on Sunday that it is “highly likely” a backup copy of the server was made, meaning any emails Clinton deleted before she handed the server over to investigators may still be readily accessible.
“The reason you back up a server is fairly straightforward, and it would be standard practice to do so,” McGeorge told BI. “There’s a lot they [investigators] can learn from the server, but not having the backups would probably make that job much more difficult.”
ABC News chief White House correspondent Jonathan Karl said Platte River was “cooperating with the FBI,” which is running the investigation out of its Washington, D.C., headquarters in what The New York Times called “an unusual move.”
“Nearly all [FBI] investigations are assigned to one of the bureau’s 56 field offices,” The Times said.
“But given this inquiry’s importance, senior F.B.I. officials have opted to keep it closely held in Washington in the agency’s counterintelligence section, which investigates how national security secrets are handled.”
Clinton, for her part, insists she never broke the law by knowingly mishandling national security secrets, and there is no evidence that she did.
“I was permitted to and used a personal email and, obviously in retrospect, given all the concerns that have been raised, it would have been probably smarter not to,” she told Iowa Public Radio last week. “But I never sent nor received any classified email, nothing marked ’Classified.’ And I think this will all sort itself out.”
Nevertheless, the investigation has cast a dark shadow on her presidential campaign. Clinton is the front-runner for the Democratic nomination for president.
Authorities sifting through the emails say they have reportedly found more than 60 emails containing classified information, not including two emails discovered by the intelligence community’s inspector general, Charles McCullough III. These allegedly contained information classified as Top Secret/Sensitive Compartmented Information, among the government’s highest levels of classification.
Investigators have flagged another 305 emails that may contain classified information for intelligence agencies to review.
Clinton’s team has consistently said that none of the information in the emails was marked “classified” at the time it was sent or received by Clinton.
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