To assess just how damaging a new State Department Inspector General’s report on Hillary Clinton’s email practices is to her political career, one need only take note of the fact that the former secretary of state has disappeared. When trouble arises, Clinton predictably scurries back into her bunker and allows the news cycle to sort itself out — presuming perhaps that the unfocused political media will tire of the story faster if she does not provide them with any new material to parse. That is not an invalid operating theory for dealing with an ADD-afflicted press. 16 months into this scandal however, Clinton should know by now that this story isn’t going away. Further, the IG’s report is objectively damning beyond its trite political value. The report casts doubt on the notion that Hillary Clinton can serve as an unprejudiced commander-in-chief of the armed forces. In fact, to swear Clinton into the presidency may seriously jeopardize American national security.
The IG’s report indicates clearly that, when it comes to the controversy surrounding her “homebrew” email server, Clinton is compulsively mendacious. The Washington Post’s fact-checker Glenn Kessler took a victory lap after the release of the report, noting that all ten of his department’s checks on Clinton’s claims regarding her server proved true. “[I]t appears Clinton often used highly technical language to obscure the salient fact that her private email setup was highly unusual and flouted existing regulations,” Kessler wrote.
The standard Clintonian methods for defusing a budding scandal – dueling claims that fresh revelations regarding the former first family’s behavior are “old news” and that those who dare make notice of this “old news” are partisan cranks with an ax to grind – were blunted by the IG’s report, as was the political contention from Team Clinton that the conduct of state business on an insecure email server had ample precedent. Although the report acknowledges that records keeping practices have occasionally been substandard under past secretaries of state, Clinton remains the first and only secretary to use a personal email exclusively to conduct both public and private business. Yes, that’s right: there were business-related emails in Clinton’s server, which she did not hand over to the State Department but which investigators obtained through other means.
This flagrant disregard for the law is disturbing, and Clinton’s dissimulations are unconscionable. What may be the most disturbing, though, is the former secretary of state’s utter contempt for practices designed to keep American national security secrets from becoming public. In choosing this course, she has compromised herself and her office. It is no longer certain that she can serve as President of the United States without exposing American national interests to an unacceptable level of risk.
“Notification is required when a user suspects comprise of, among other things, a personally owned device containing personally identifiable information,” the IG’s report revealed. The investigation turned up “no evidence” that either Clinton or her staff ever alerted the State Department to a possible breach. Possible breaches were, however, recorded. The report cites a January 2011 incident in which an aide to Bill Clinton warned a counterpart working for Hillary Clinton that the server had been temporarily shut down due to the fear that “someone was trying to hack us.” There was no reassessment of Clinton’s communication system after this or other similar incidents (including at least one Russian-linked “phishing” expedition), and the server was simply reactivated.
There’s a reason why top American officials are shielded from cyber hackers who may be working for sophisticated information warfare shops operated by foreign intelligence services. As a memo Clinton received in March of 2011 from the Assistant Secretary for Diplomatic Security warned, a “dramatic increase” in attempted hacks targeting personal and private email services used by State Department officials may be designed to enhance the “technical surveillance” capabilities of foreign actors or even to “blackmail” officials.
Hillary Clinton insists that none of her communications were hacked, but she provides no evidence beyond her dubious assertions to back that claim up. Her contention amounts to little more than a test of the faithful. In reality, it’s highly unlikely that her email server was not infiltrated by foreign actors. Even the State Department is unable to corroborate the former secretary’s claim. “We do know that there were hack attempts or that — but none of them were successful,” asserted State Department Spokesman Mark Tonner. When informed by a reporter that the IG’s report cannot confirm that no hacking attempt was successful, Toner paused for an agonizing four seconds before confessing that he “misspoke.”
“In my opinion, there is a 100 percent chance that all emails sent and received by her, including all the electronic correspondence stored on her server in her Chappaqua residence, were targeted and collected by the Russian equivalent of NSA,” former CIA case officer Jason Matthews, an expert in Russian intelligence, told the AP. Clinton’s personal-issue Blackberry device also provided foreign intelligence services a window into her email account when she used the device in places like Vietnam, Brazil, and South Korea. In Vietnam, in particular, experts believe her use of a device not hardened by State Department security on telecommunications systems owned and operated by Hanoi likely offered Chinese intelligence services an open door to access Clinton’s email account.
Last year, Beijing compromised the personal data and social security numbers of every person in America who ever worked for the government or accessed a federal facility by hacking the Office of Personnel Management. It’s unlikely that the Chinese hackers found the modest safeguards securing Clinton’s server to be anything more than a nuisance.
Clinton’s secretive email practices betray a level of obsessive paranoia that has typified her entire career in politics. As president, Clinton would not be bound by law. She would also perceive her political enemies to be a more potent threat to her presidency than they represent, and the power and authority of the Oval Office would prove a seductive instrument for neutralizing them. Perhaps more chillingly, there is a high likelihood that foreign intelligence services have compromised Hillary Clinton. We do not know what they know, and she may no longer be at liberty to act in America’s best interests. That alone should preclude Clinton from serving as the commander of the most powerful military force on earth, one responsible for maintaining global peace, security, and navigation rights. In 2016, however, all bets are off.