The Real Obstructionists

History
Sept. 11: The U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, was aflame after coming under attack.

Following the horrific attack on the Benghazi Embassy in Libya on September 11, 2012, an investigation into the communications which transpired between the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and the key figures involved, led to the revelation that Secretary Clinton was not using her government-sanctioned email account. There were no government-regulated backups of her correspondence, in any form. In fact, the secure @gov account appeared to have never been used.

How, then, had she corresponded since 2009?

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton responds forcefully to intense questioning on the September attacks on U.S. diplomatic sites in Benghazi, Libya, during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Through a ‘clintonemail.com’ account hosted from her own private, unsecured server located within her own home in Chappaqua, New York. The use of the server was clearly outside the secured, government-protected archive required by law as a classified-level employee of the Obama administration. According to her signed agreement, she had been trained on the specific guidelines for proper handling of her Secretary of State communications, including legal expectations of the handling of both classified and potentially classified communications.

The search for the emails began, essentially through requests for Clinton to provide her own archives of communication.  Clinton instructed her staff to filter the tens of thousands of emails from her account, reportedly separating out the “personal” content — such as discussions on yoga, grandchildren, etc. — from the work-related, potentially classified content. It was effectively left up to the Clinton staff, led by chief of staff Cheryl Mills, to determine which content should be reviewed by the investigation.

In an overlapping yet seemingly separate investigation of sexual misconduct allegations of Anthony Weiner, Clinton aide Huma Abedin’s husband, thousands (now confirmed at 48,982 by assistant director of the FBI Counterintelligence Division E.W. Priestap) of Clinton’s emails were discovered on Weiner’s personal laptop. It became clear that Abedin had shared the laptop with her husband and thus corresponded with Clinton, and others, in work-related communications on this shared device. Thus a second unsecured repository of both classified and potentially classified correspondence had been discovered.

Platte River Network, the company employed to install and supervise the private Clinton server, had shared their concerns over the lack of sufficient security being provided for Clinton’s content, and eventually discussed the need to initiate a Clinton email “cover-up” operation. Their suspicions were warranted since it has since been discovered that at least twice a Serbian hacker had scanned the server in August and December of 2012. Despite the installation of threat monitoring software in 2013, the server was also the target during 2014 of intrusions originating in Germany, China, and South Korea.

Clinton, after being subpoenaed for the remaining missing emails,  further instructed her staff to physically destroy devices containing correspondence and electronically delete content using BleachBit software rather than turn over reportedly tens of thousands of additional correspondence. This destruction of potential evidence took place after the subpoena, effectively serving to obstruct the ongoing investigation. According to Priestap, Clinton became the subject of a grand jury investigation related to those BlackBerry email accounts.

Priestap had further testified that additional “email repositories were obtained” from Bryan Pagliano, Cheryl Mills, Heather Samuelson, Jacob Sullivan, Justin Cooper, the U.S. State Department, U.S. Secret Service, law firm Williams & Connolly LLP, and others. Pagliano was the former IT specialist for the Obama State Department and was granted immunity from prosecution by the Obama DOJ in 2016. Justin Cooper was a longtime aide to former POTUS Bill Clinton, had no security clearance, and managed the Clinton server in 2008 prior to Pagliano taking over during Hillary Clinton’s Secretary of State years. Prior to the public release of the server’s existence on March 2, 2015, chief of staff Mills had instructed Platte River Networks in December 2014 to reduce the server retention period to 60 days, giving permission for 31,830 older emails to be automatically deleted (a request PRN failed to carry out in time).

Despite these findings, the investigation into Hillary Clinton and the email security issues was sidelined by the FBI, specifically then-Director Comey and deputy Peter Strzok.

The story continues…