The FBI is still working to restore the data that was wiped from the private e-mail server that Hillary Clinton used during her tenure as secretary of state. Fortunately, voters will not need to wait for that investigation to be completed before getting a better picture of what to expect. More and more is coming out about her claims that she never sent or received classified information via that unsecured account. It turns out that both Mrs. Clinton and the State Department have been playing extremely loose with the facts.
Reuters is now reporting that dozens of her e-mails were classified at the time she sent and received them using her private e-mail account and private e-mail server. Neither the server nor the e-mail account met the security standards for handling that sensitive information. Reuters bases the claim of "dozens" of classified e-mails on the "work related" e-mails Mrs. Clinton made available to the Justice department on the USB drive she turned over before turning over the recently sanitized mail server. Of the 30,000 e-mails on that USB drive, a small percentage has been made public. Reuters used that public sampling to begin parsing through the e-mails. The results of that investigation were that, "at least 30 email threads from 2009, representing scores of individual emails, that include what the State Department's own 'Classified' stamps now identify as so-called 'foreign government information.' The U.S. government defines this as any information, written or spoken, provided in confidence to U.S. officials by their foreign counterparts."
So, with Mrs. Clinton and the State Department denying that she handled classified, sensitive information over an unsecured network, the small number of e-mails available for examination tell another story. Once the full trove of e-mails is available, the evidence is likely to be staggering.
The former secretary of state is holding her poker face and sticking to her story that "she did not mishandle any information." As reported by Reuters:
Reuters' findings may add to questions that Clinton has been facing over her adherence to rules concerning sensitive government information. Spokesmen for Clinton declined to answer questions, but Clinton and her staff maintain she did not mishandle any information.
While she may still have friends in the State Department sticking with her, it appears that the list of powerful people willing to help her out of this jam is fairly thin. In fact, State Department officials may not be as interested in helping their former boss as they are in covering their own hides. After all, the State Department failed to secure her e-mail server even after Sidney Blumenthal, her close friend and advisor, was the subject of a hack that exposed several of his e-mails with then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The data-breach — by a Romanian hacker — actually happened in 2013, but included e-mails from 2012 when Mrs. Clinton was still in that office. Those e-mails were made public by the hacker.
As McClatchy reported, the State Department did not act because the hack did not involve a government computer. Experts disagree with that decision:
National security and technology experts told McClatchy that the government should have taken immediate action, including implementing such security precautions as updating software and protecting passwords.
The failure to take any precautions also could have left Clinton's server vulnerable to hackers, experts said. Just this week, a Senate committee chairman asked FBI Director James Comey whether the bureau was investigating the possibility she was hacked.
So, it appears that the State Department is playing a rousing game of "circle the wagons" and hoping for the best. Even that hope seems to be vanishing. According to a report Thursday by The Hill, a federal judge has ordered the State Department to cooperate with the FBI's investigation. "Judge Emmet Sullivan told the department to "establish a dialogue" with the FBI about the machine, and be prepared to demand that the FBI turn over documents that may be related to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit," the report said. Politico quoted U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan as saying, "We wouldn't be here today if this employee had followed government policy." The case revolves around a Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) request by Judicial Watch about employment irregularities in the case of Huma Abedin, who served as Clinton's deputy chief of staff at the State Department.
Justice Department lawyer Peter Wechsler had argued that FOIA does not normally apply to the private accounts of government officials. But according to Judge Sullivan, this is not a usual situation and "we're not talking about a search of anyone's random email" because in this case "there was a violation of government policy" by Mrs. Clinton.
Judge Sullivan also suggested that he will give the FBI 30 days to conduct its investigation before he considers "demanding that Clinton determine whether a backup of her home server was made either by the company that managed it or by someone else, and prepare for the possibility of turning that over to the government," according to The Hill. This may set a precedent for the tone of future decisions in the way judges will handle this case.
Mrs. Clinton is treading a very fine line. She initially refused to surrender the e-mail server. By the time she reconsidered and did eventually turn it over, it had been been wiped of all data.
Her attitude is very much what it was when she refused to give any real cooperation during the Whitewater investigation. Speaking of the server she told Ed Henry of Fox News, "In order to be as cooperative as possible, we have turned over the server. They can do whatever they want to with the server to figure out what's there, what's not there. That's for the people investigating it to figure it out."
Her attorney, however has admitted the server was wiped before being turned over. The similarities with the way she is handling this and the way she handled the real estate development scandal that plagued the her and her husband when Bill was a newly elected president have given rise to referring to this as the "Wipewater Scandal." The FBI is "optimistic" that the wiped data can be restored. Once it is, it may become clear just what the former secretary of state is trying so hard to hide. What is there could put her behind bars.
As it is, her poll numbers continue to decline as she struggles to keep her head above water in this fight. Even if she doesn't go to jail — and more and more people think she will — her chances of getting the Democratic Party nomination are becoming slimmer and slimmer. Bernie Sanders — an avowed socialist — is becoming competitive while her poll numbers are now approaching free fall.
Photo of Hillary Clinton: AP Images