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Why Hillary’s EmailGate Matters

March 13, 2015

For the last couple weeks, Hillary Clinton’s budding 2016 presidential race has been buffeted by revelations she used her own private email account exclusively when she was Secretary of State during President Obama’s first term. Her ham-handed effort to make this rising scandal go away with a controlled press conference did Hillary no favors. At this point, EmailGate seems to have legs and may pose serious problems for her aspirations to move back into the White House in January 2017.

Let me get out up front that I’m no Hillary hater. I share much of the view of the late Christopher Hitchens that Bill and Hillary are, at root, political grifters, but I prefer corruption to fanaticism. I thought she was a far better choice for the Democratic nomination in 2008 than Barack Obama was, and I still believe that. I also think, security and email issues aside, Hillary was a pretty good Secretary of State. The country could have a lot worse outcome in a couple years than Hillary as our first female president.

That said, EmailGate reminds everyone who’s not on the Clinton payroll what they dislike about Bill and Hillary. The routine, indeed quotidian lies and dissimulations about, well, practically everything. The sense of entitlement that leads to hate campaigns against anybody who dares to ask awkward questions about Clinton family finances or business ventures. Predictably, talk of the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy has returned among the Usual Suspects. It’s hard to miss a whiff of the late 1990’s again, by which I don’t mean peace, a robust economy and solid Federal finances. It’s good to recall that Clintonian mores became tiresome even to many of their supporters by the time Bill and Hillary moved out of the White House at the beginning of 2001.

We can dispense with several of the notions already proffered by Hillary and her media minions to make EmailGate go away, especially the idea that Hillary never got near classified information in those tens of thousands of private emails she sent as Secretary of State. Since she wasn’t using the proper email channels for such things, we can dismiss out of hand the fantasy that Hillary kept every whiff of classified information out of her clintonmail account. Anybody who so flagrantly disregards the most basic Federal rules and regulations about record-keeping and control of sensitive information should be presumed guilty of a wide range of what spies term Security Violations, until proven innocent.

Every Hillary email she sent as Secretary of State was a Federal record and by using her private email, then destroying tens of thousands of those emails because she felt like it, transparently seems to be a criminal act, and perhaps several of them. Not to mention the archival implications surrounding the mass destruction of such Federal records. Good luck to future historians who have to reconstruct what was going on at Foggy Bottom between 2009 and 2013.

I’m not a lawyer, so I’ll leave the legal implications of Hillary’s misconduct in EmailGate to others. But when the former senior Federal official who administered the Freedom of Information Act for nearly two decades calls bullshit on Hillary’s excuses, we should listen. “What she did was contrary to both the letter and the spirit of the law … There is no doubt that the scheme she established was a blatant circumvention of the Freedom of Information Act, atop the Federal Records Act,” explained Daniel Metcalfe, who established the Department of Justice’s Office of Information and Privacy in 1981, and headed it until 2007. In other words Metcalfe, who’s a Democrat in case you wondered, was the top official in Washington, DC, on FOIA matters, so he is the expert on this one.

Legalities aside, we also need to discuss the grave security implications of what Hillary was up to. EmailGate establishes, even based on the partial view we’ve seen to date, that Hillary willfully violated a whole raft of State and U.S. Government rules and regulations regarding information security. Such rules are cumbersome and sometimes look silly to those not versed in security issues, but INFOSEC policies exist for valid reasons, above all the reality that others are listening in.

The communications of America’s foreign policy boss rank among the top espionage priorities anywhere for literally dozens of intelligence agencies worldwide — and all of our enemies. “On a [target] scale of 1 to 10, she’s a 10 … When you think of treaties, trade negotiations, any thing that the secretary of state would be involved in, she would be an incredibly lucrative target — maybe even more so than the president,” explained Richard Schaeffer, NSA’s former INFOSEC boss. The latest revelation, that for the first three months of Hillary’s tenure as Secretary of State her jury-rigged “private” email system had no encryption at all, indicates that this was a SIGINT bonanza for the other side.

Intelligence services like the Russians and Chinese look for high-level U.S. Government communications with intense interest, and their technical acumen is impressive. Kremlin spy penetration of the White House is not a new problem, but it has taken on new angles in the Internet age. Smart counterintelligence officers assume that all unclassified .gov networks are compromised — many have similar doubts about more secure networks too — and anything sent out unencrypted, with the Clinton name right on it, could be intercepted by many intelligence services with ease.

We are at the point now where, thanks to Team Clinton’s destruction of tens of thousands of “private” emails, the American public will never know what the Secretary of State was up to — but the Kremlin surely does. Kudos to the Associated Press for suing to see what can still be seen, but anybody acquainted with Clintonian ways should not expect much to emerge, ever.  If Hillary was up to anything shady in those destroyed emails — and given recent revelations of foreign fundraising by the Clinton Global Initiative that appears at least unethical, anyone sentient must wonder — people in Moscow who do not like us will be aware of it. The word you are looking for is kompromat.

The Snowden Operation was a bonanza for Russian intelligence and it hardly seems a coincidence that Vladimir Putin became much more audacious in foreign affairs, including his theft of Crimea and his resulting aggression against Ukraine, once the Kremlin knew exactly what U.S. intelligence was capable of, technically. Yet in light of EmailGate, it’s worth pondering whether Kremlin confidence in assessing — correctly — that the Obama administration would sit idly by as Moscow restarted the Cold War, had something to do with their excellent SIGINT look into American foreign policy-making at the highest level.

Someday, perhaps decades off, the public may be able to answer that important question. For now, the relevant question is whether Hillary, who at the very least broke all sorts of Federal rules and regulations that would destroy the careers of mere mortals, can be trusted with such authority ever again. The real issue isn’t what we know about EmailGate and the invariably tangled finances of Clinton, Inc. — it’s what the Russians and others may know.

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