FBI begins investigation of Clinton e-mail server security

Less than two weeks after a pair of Inspectors General referred several unsecured transmissions of classified data to the Department of Justice, the FBI has begun an investigation into Hillary Clinton’s e-mail server. One obvious problem, of course, is that the server has reportedly been wiped clean, although no independent investigator has yet to confirm that. Instead, the FBI has started its investigation by contacting the support team that managed it for Hillary, the Washington Post reports, and they also want to know more about David Kendall’s thumb drive too:

The FBI has begun looking into the security of Hillary Rodham Clinton’s private e-mail setup, contacting in the past week a Denver-based technology firm that helped manage the unusual system, according to two government officials.

Also last week, the FBI contacted Clinton’s lawyer, David Ken­dall, with questions about the security of a thumb drive in his possession that contains copies of work e-mails Clinton sent during her time as secretary of state.

The FBI’s interest in Clinton’s e-mail system comes after the intelligence community’s inspector general referred the issue to the Justice Department in July. Intelligence officials expressed concern that some sensitive information was not in the government’s possession and could be “compromised.” The referral did not accuse Clinton of any wrongdoing, and the two officials said Tuesday that the FBI was not targeting her.

The Post’s Carol Leonig, Rosalind Helderman, and Tom Hamburger advance the Clintonemail server story in a few intriguing ways. First, it turns out that the server itself was repurposed from Hillary’s 2008 presidential primary campaign. Needless to say, that raises all sorts of questions about the possibilities that hackers had already made inroads into the system before it was reused as an e-mail server. Campaign server systems don’t require the kind of security needed to protect diplomatic communications, for instance, and are much more connected to public traffic. It’s staggering that the Clintons — who were making between $15 million and $19 million a year prior to 2008 — did not think to spring for an entirely new server rather than just reuse some campaign equipment for this task.

Next, the security arrangements were, shall we say, less than optimal. At first, the Clintons set up an old computer of Bill’s to handle family communications, and the task of managing the system fell to one of Bill’s researcher and personal assistant, Justin Cooper. What were Cooper’s qualifications for this task?

Cooper had no security clearance and no particular expertise in safeguarding computers, according to three people briefed on the server setup.

Cooper declined to comment on this, probably wisely. The recycled personal system gave way to the recycled campaign system in 2009. Interestingly, the man who ran the system, Bryan Pagliano, was paid by Hillary’s Senate PAC until April 2009, months after taking office as Secretary of State. At that point, Pagliano went to work directly for State as an IT specialist, where his job included the maintenance of the Clintonemail server.

Now, this is very interesting. As a State Department IT employee, Pagliano almost certainly had a security clearance, and he would have known the rules and regulations regarding the transmission of secured material in electronic format. In fact, it’s likely that Pagliano would have had a positive duty to report any violations to State’s internal security apparatus. Did he do so? The Post notes that Pagliano had to be called repeatedly to deal with operational problems, so he would have had plenty of opportunities to ascertain if violations had occurred. If not, both State and Justice should be having very intense discussions with Pagliano … and his attorney.

The Post includes one last interesting detail. The Clintonemail server crashed in late 2012 during Hurricane Sandy, and the Clintons finally decided they needed a more professional system than their home-brew server. And they got one … in 2013, after Hillary left State.

At the very least, the Clintons clearly took much less care in protecting the nation’s classified material than they did with their own interests. It’s shameful, and that’s just the start of it.

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Jazz Shaw 1:01 PM on April 01, 2023