Hillary Clinton must be very happy after the FBI Director James Comey announced that there will be no criminal charges with regards to her use of her personal email system while she was Secretary of State. However, the debate rages on and here are a few answers to questions posed about these emails:
I. Did Clinton set up a private server, and if she did where is it located?
As per reports released by the independent inspector general of the State Department in May, Clinton did use a personal email system for business purposes while she was a Senator and during her presidential campaign in 2008. She continued using her personal email system while she was Secretary of the State Department, with the account being maintained on a private server. The server was located in her residence in New York, and she used mobile devices to operate the personal email system. According to the FBI director, Clinton was using several servers, each of which had a different administrator. She kept adding new servers and decommissioning the old ones, all while she was serving her four year term as Secretary.
II. Did Clinton use personal email for government business?
Yes she did, maybe because under certain circumstances using one’s personal email was permitted, especially during emergencies. However, the National Archives and Records Administration make it mandatory for all work-related emails to be preserved in a proper manner. Federal rules stipulate that Clinton needed to have preserved all work emails and turn them over before demitting office. However, what Clinton did was turn over the emails only 21 months after she demitted office.
III. Did Clinton have permission to use a private server?
No, because it has been the department policy that all official operations be conducted only on government servers. However, Clinton hasn’t been doing that since 2005 as she was using her personal server ever since. The State department’s Foreign Affairs Manual was updated in November 2005 saying that it is the Department’s policy that daily operations need to be conducted on an authorized server, meaning an automated system.
Did she at least have permission to use a private server for personal emails?
Again, no, although Clinton had an obligation to keep the department informed about her email system. There was no evidence to show that she had kept the department informed, nor did she have permission to maintain such an unusual email arrangement while still Secretary. Even if she had requested for permission, it would have certainly been denied by the bureaus of Information Resource Management and Diplomatic Security. She never gave it a thought even once that using a personal server would be glaringly evident.
IV. Did any of her predecessors use private email systems for official government business?
Colin Powel, one of Clinton’s predecessors used his personal email account to conduct government business. Madeleine Albright never used email throughout her tenor, and Condoleezza Rice never used her personal email system to conduct government business. Clinton’s successor John Kerry admitted that he did use his personal email account to conduct government business, but this happened only when anyone emailed him on his personal account.
V. When did the public come to learn about Clinton’s faux pas?
This blunder of Clinton’s first became public in March 2013. The ‘Smoking Gun’ wrote a series of stories about a hacker who gained access to the AOL account of Clinton aide Sidney Blumenthal. Several emails and memos sent by Blumenthal to Clinton were on her personal email account. The emails were sent to a private email address through the web domain clintonmail.com. Although Clinton did not use her personal email account exclusively for conducting government business, she did so on many occasions.
VI. How many emails were there on Clinton’s private server?
While Clinton was demitting office there were 62,320 emails in her private server. Of these, 30,490 were work related emails and 31,830 were private emails. It was only 21 months after Clinton demitted office that she handed over the 30,490 work related emails to the State Department, claiming that she had deleted the others as she said she had no reason to keep them. However, it is a known fact that not all the emails were surrendered as Clinton had several private servers that she was using.
VII. Did she deliberately delete any of the work related emails?
The FBI hasn’t been able to find any supporting evidence that shows that Clinton deleted any work related emails. According to Comey of the FBI Clinton had no intention of trying to conceal anything by deleting those emails.
VIII. What was the motive behind FBI’s investigation?
The inspectors general for the State department instituted enquiries in July 2005 to review 40 of Clinton’s emails. They found that four of the emails did contain classified information, hence handed over the investigation to the FBI. It was the FBI’s task to investigate whether any of the classified information was stored or transmitted improperly, which would have been a violation as mishandling classified information is a felony.
IX. Was there any classified information in Clinton’s emails?
Indeed, 2,000 of the 30, 490 emails that were turned over to the State Department had classified information. There were 110 emails in 10 email threads that contained classified information. Although some of the emails were marked as containing classified information, several were not.
XI. Were her email accounts hacked?
Although attempts were made to hack into Clinton’s email accounts no conclusive evidence was found by the FBI. However, there may have been instances where hackers gained access that the FBI was not aware of. In one instance when an attempt was detected, it was successfully foiled as the technical support adviser of Clinton ordered the servers shut in order to deny access. The FBI director is of the view that just because there is no evidence pointing to hackers gaining access, the possibility cannot be ruled out.
XII. Did Clinton or any of her staff members violate any federal laws or policies?
According to Comey, the FBI detected evidence of potential violations of federal law. However, depending on the severity such cases are seldom prosecuted. No prosecutor would be interested in pursuing a case like this. However, this does not mean that any such violation would be condoned without any legal action. Although most such cases are subjected to administrative sanctions, this case was not subjected to any such action.