FBI seizes State Department servers in Hillary email probe
The investigation into Hillary Clinton's emails expanded dramatically yesterday when the FBI siezed four State Department servers to discover if any classified emails were exposed.
In addition, a second tech company turned over servers that stored Clinton emails to the FBI. Clinton had hired a Connecticut company, Datto, Inc., to back up her emails on a cloud storage system.
The disclosure came as a Republican Senate committee chairman, Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson, also asked the firm to turn over to the committee copies of any Clinton emails still in its possession.
There were conflicting accounts as to whether the development could lead to recovery of any of Clinton’s more than 31,000 personal emails, which she said she deleted from her private server upon turning over her work-related emails to the State Department, at its request, in December 2014.
Congressional Republicans have voiced skepticism as to whether the 30,940 business emails that the Democratic presidential candidate handed over represented all of those related to her position as secretary of state. The FBI is separately investigating whether Clinton’s arrangement put classified information at risk but has yet to characterize it as a criminal inquiry.
Datto Inc., based in Norwalk, Conn., became the second data storage firm to become entangled in the inquiry into Clinton’s unusual email arrangement, which has sparked a furor that has dogged her campaign. In August, Clinton and the firm that had managed her server since June 2013, Colorado-based Platte River Networks, agreed to surrender it for examination by the FBI.
On Friday, Clinton’s attorney, David Kendall, and Platte River agreed to allow Datto to turn over the data from the backup server to the FBI, said the person familiar with Datto’s storage, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.
Datto said in a statement that “with the consent of our client and their end user, and consistent with our policies regarding data privacy, Datto is working with the FBI to provide data in conjunction with its investigation.”
The source said, however, that Platte River had set up a 60-day retention policy for the backup server, meaning that any emails to which incremental changes were made at least 60 days prior would be deleted and “gone forever.” While the server wouldn’t have been “wiped clean,” the source said, any underlying data likely would have been written over and would be difficult to recover.
In other words, if someone was scrubbing Hillary's emails in the last two months, those documents will be extremely difficult to recover. It doesn't seem likely that anything of value will result from an examination of these servers.
The feds may have more luck with State Department servers.
The four servers, which were located at the State Department’s headquarters building, were seized by the FBI several weeks ago. They are being checked by technical forensic analysts charged with determining how Top Secret material was sent to Clinton’s private email by State Department aides during her tenure as secretary from 2009 to 2013, said two people familiar with the probe. The people spoke on condition of anonymity because it is an ongoing investigation.
State Department spokesman John Kirby referred questions about the computer servers to the FBI. An FBI spokeswoman, Carol Cratty, declined to comment.
No other details about the servers, including whether they are part of the department’s classified system, or used for unclassified information networks, could be learned.
A spokesman for the Clinton campaign did not respond to an email request for comment.
Clinton has offered varying explanations for her use of a private email server, initially claiming she had done nothing wrong. Then, under pressure from critics, she said she was sorry people were confused by the practice, later admitting in early September that her use of a private email system had been a mistake.
The State Department uses two separate networks, one for classified information and one for unclassified information. The two networks are kept separate for security reasons. Most classified networks are equipped with audit systems that allow security managers to check who has accessed intelligence or foreign policy secrets.
The FBI is trying to determine the origin of the highly classified information that was found in Clinton emails.
However, the task is said to be complicated because those with authority to create classified information have broad authority to label information in one of three categories: Confidential, Secret, and Top Secret.
The FBI is primarily concerned with trying to determine how Top Secret information made its way on to the private server.
The investigation would appear to be centering on the email activities of Clinton aides Huma Abedin and Cheryl Mills, and whether they sent the classified information to Clinton's private server. Clinton herself may be liable for allowing the classified information to pass through or stored on her private server.
The State Department is still claiming that the classified information found by the inspector general was not classified at the time. A strict reading of the law makes that point irrelevant, but in practical terms, it may make prosecution of Clinton and her aides problematic.
But the investigation is far from over, and there are still a lot of question marks surrounding Clinton's private server and how much classified information was potentially exposed.