Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Email scandal

I was recently talking to my mother, who is at least fairly well informed about politics, and I was really surprised to learn that she didn't understand that there was a difference between Clinton's being investigated for the private server and the hacking of the DNC emails.  She thought it was all the same thing.

Husband: "At least she knows what email IS."

On discussing this more with my husband, I discovered that even I don't understand the email scandal with the private server, despite the fact that I read the news all the time.  My husband, who has worked with classified government information, asked if I could explain it and I explained it incorrectly.  

Can you explain what Clinton did wrong with her email server, if anything?


  1. I'm going to play just to see if I am right. From what I understand, she asked if she could have a private email server running out of her house instead of using the government one and she was told no. She went ahead and did it anyways. Classified emails were then processed using this server. Because this was not a government server, the thought is that it was less secure then if she did it the right way and these emails could have been hacked. However, they were NOT hacked.

    I believe she is also claiming that this was a new rule that went into effect after her term started so she thought she would be grandfathered in. This is also why it was ok that past Sec of States did this. I have no idea if this is true or not.

    How did I do?

    1. As trump would say, wrong. ;)

    2. Drats. I swear I just read an article on this. What's the answer?

  2. I'm voting for Hilary, but if even Obama had to give up his personal blackberry, then she should've followed the rules too. I don't know if she's ever used the excuse that it was a new rule, but Obama managed to follow it so what makes her so special that she can ignore it because it was inconvenient?

    I believe she had her own server so she could use her own ISP (eg., Comcast) which means her emails would be beyond the reach of government eyes unless they obtained a warrant.

    As a side note, Anyways is not a word. They used it over and over again on NYPD Blue, not because it was a word, but because that's how some New Yorker talk (similar to she don't want to eat her dinner).

    1. Yes, but why would that be worthy of an FBI investigation?

      Who says "anyways"? That's definitely not a word.

    2. .....I do.... did not know it was not a real word - but I should have figures since I use it as slang. A long the lines of filling in empty word space along the same lines as Anyhoo.

    3. Anyways was used by the 1st commenter @ 538 am.

      I think the investigation was needed to find out if any classified info was transmitted to or from the private server.

    4. That's awesome. Anyways, I'm from the south!

    5. Not so awesome when it holds you back financially. Right or wrong, among the things employers and clients use to make decisions about your value as an employee include speaking the language correctly and wearing clean clothes, etc.

      Talk like you didn't graduate 6th grade and you probably won't have a successful career or be able to utilize the full extent of your intelligence. Challenging work is often more fun and cuffulfilling than waitressing or being a cafeteria worker at your kid's school.

    6. No, I mean that is awesome you found my typo. Good job! Anyways, I guess in my career I have found it to be just as important, or maybe even more so, to be polite and respectful. I work in science though, so it doesn't really matter what I write anonymously on a medical blog (that I greatly enjoy). ;)

  3. Imagine using see-through envelopes to send HIPPA protected pt information through US Mail. That is a close analogy of the Clinton email scandal. It is unlikely anything important or classified was actually compromised, but it could have been.

    1. Actually, no. It's more like using Gmail instead of your work email address to talk about meetings and other stuff. Clinton never intended to use this email address to discuss classified information, and actually classified information is so highly protected, it would not have even gone on the government address. Classified information is never meant to be sent through simple email. Ever.

  4. Here are some good links on the subject:



    I've worked with classified info in the past, although not at present. I've already voted for Trump.

    Also, scroll down on Dr. Pournelle's web site:


    Lastly, as i have to get back to work:


    My first choice was Scott Walker, but he imploded early on. I wanted to vote for David Castle, the Constitution party, but when I voted last week before leaving for my contract, I voted for Trump.


    1. These aren't exactly what I'd call reputable sources.

  5. IT person here. It is no mean feat to set up a "private email server." (See http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2015/03/how-to-set-up-a-clinton-style-home-server/387841/ for a good description of how it is done.) When the scandal first broke, I was sure they didn't mean that she had a real, internet-connected server, but instead was using some publicly available email service, like GMAIL. Which, yes, would have been a bonehead move. Because I would have bet money that neither Bill nor Hillary had the technical chops to either set up or maintain a real server. (Servers need constant maintenance.) But then I thought, she's a Sec'y of State so maybe the government hired IT guys to do it for her. Frankly, it's possible for a "private" server to be as secure as our current technology permits. You just have to install the right software and follow the right protocols. (FWIW, I've worked for private companies that had better security than some parts of the government do.) But the thing is, it still isn't clear to me whether Clinton really had a "private server," and if she did, who was maintaining it (which would help to estabish the impregnability of her server), and what exact security precautions were being taken. I seriously doubt that Clinton knows enough to have done any of this on her own, so who did? Is it possible the media and gov't types are using the phrase "private email server" but really mean she had a GMAIL account? If so, the bunch of them are boneheads. And if she did just have an email account through some service like Google, she should never have used it for work communication, even of the most trivial, although I would disagree with some of the more paranoid writers who seem to think even intercepting an email in which Clinton wished someone happy birthday would be a bonanza to our enemies. That's just ridiculous. Does anyone actually KNOW whether she really had a server and who was maintaining it for her?

  6. The news seems to focus on the fact that, being private, the security on the server was in question and thus could have represented a leakage point of classified information. However, the more worrisome parts come from these two facts:

    1) Government communications made on government servers tend to be reviewed and some are archived. This helps the government keep a "paper trail" and maintain some accountability. Jokes about the NSA aside, anything on a private server is beyond the government's eyes and archiving. Which leads to...

    2) When it was initially discovered that the Clintons' private email server was being used for government business and the government made moves to review it, some Clinton aids scrambled to delete a number of emails and make them unrecoverable. While it could just be that they were trying to prevent some embarrassing private conversations from going public, it also raises the possibility that there were some bad things they were trying to cover up.

    The investigation has more to do with that, I think, than simply trying to find out if the server was hacked or accessed by anyone else. But I could be wrong there, too - these days it seems the investigations keep taking slightly different angles in an effort to pin some sort of blame and declare massive guilt rather than have justice served properly.

  7. I've heard varying numbers on how many statutes may have been violated, but here's three that are fairly clear-cut.

    1. Mishandling Classified Information

    Executive Order 13526 and 18 U.S.C Sec. 793(f) of the federal code make it unlawful to send or store classified information on personal e-mail.

    2. Violation of The 2009 Federal Records Act

    Section 1236.22 of the 2009 National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) requirements states that:

    “Agencies that allow employees to send and receive official electronic mail messages using a system not operated by the agency must ensure that Federal records sent or received on such systems are preserved in the appropriate agency record keeping system.”

    3. Destruction of evidence

    Clinton had the private server wiped sometime after October 28, 2014, when the Department of State for the first time asked the Secretary to return her public record to the Department.

  8. OK, so my new understanding is this:

    Clinton used her own email server instead of the govt server, which several others (including Rice) had done before her. Powell used an AOL address, speaking of not being secure. Her server wasn't secure for classified info but neither is the govt one. It was never meant to transmit classified info.

    Classified information is not just sent via email. Classified information is protected very carefully under lock and key. It should never have been sent out under either of those servers.

    HOWEVER, some info was emailed out that later *became* classified. Also, there was apparently some parts of classified docs that were unclassified that were emailed to Clinton (and probably shouldn't have been, but that wasn't her fault). That would be like if someone emailed you patient info and then you got in trouble for it.

    As for the deletion of emails, there's evidence that this was done by a neutral third party before the FBI asked for them. I'm not sure why deleting emails is so ominous... hell, I've probably deleted at least 30,000 emails in the last few years, which would look really bad if someone suddenly subpoenaed me for them.

  9. To Ledgem: Thanks. I didn't realize the lack of backup copies bothered the gov't. (But I'm guessing someone was backing up her server, so if there were no backups, it does look suspiciously like the deletions were no accident.)

    To Fizzy: Well...delete doesn't really delete. If I subpoenaed your hard drive, I could probably recover a great deal of the material you think you deleted. (Lots of software makes tons of copies of everything, unbeknownst to users.) The only way to really delete data is to blow up the hard disk. So you're OK if indicted.

  10. No one seems to remember that George W Bush's administration lost over 20 MILLION emails, incuding those on a private server that happened to be run by the RNC.


    explains it all.

  11. It's all politics. The messages became classified after being sent. The government servers got overloaded during Benghazi and they could not respond using govt systems (probably being backed up at the time). If there were really secret messages do you think the FBI would have just let her go? I'm more curious about secret communication from Trump and Putin on private telephone systems. Did anyone read Trumps early books bragging about being "connected" the only ones who could get concrete poured during strikes? Oh my I was not going to do politics today. I predict four more years of obstructionism and non- cooperation.