A former federal prosecutor asked an appeals court Thursday to give him access to Hillary Clinton’s private email server and other records that might show whether, as secretary of state, she’d leaked classified information about the Obama administration’s cyber attacks on Iran’s nuclear program.
Larry Klayman, who heads the conservative-leaning group Freedom Watch Inc., charged before a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit that the State Department had “fraudulently induced” a federal judge when to throw out his Freedom of Information Act suit.
The department has already backtracked. In court papers filed in advance of the hearing, government lawyers said State Department officials would reopen their records search because of the recent disclosure that Clinton had conducted official business over a private email account.
They also acknowledged that department officials had conducted only a limited search of records in Clinton’s office in response to Klayman’s 2012 request under the Freedom of Information Act to see all documents relating to the leak to a New York Times reporter.
The court case underscores the degree of scrutiny and suspicion suddenly facing Clinton, widely seen as the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination, since the revelations about her email account. Last week, she advised a House of Representatives select committee that the server was wiped clean after she turned over 30,490 official emails to the State Department.
Freedom Watch and at least two other conservative groups are demanding official records relating to her tenure in the Cabinet from 2009 to 2013, while the House committee is investigating her role in the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on U.S. compounds in Benghazi, Libya, that cost the lives of U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans. Klayman also has filed a racketeering suit accusing Clinton of trading favorable policy positions for foreign government donations to a foundation run by her husband, former President Bill Clinton.
Klayman sued the State Department on June 28, 2012, less than a month after the Times’ David E. Sanger reported that President Barack Obama, since shortly after taking office, had sped up “increasingly sophisticated attacks on the computer systems that run Iran’s main nuclear enrichment facilities.” One part of the program, a computer worm called Stuxnet that was developed jointly by the United States and Israel, entered the Internet and was detected in computers around the world, the report said.
Sanger said his story was based on interviews over 18 months “with current and former American, European and Israeli officials involved in the program.”
Klayman alleged to the court that the administration had leaked the information to make America appear “tough” toward Iran during negotiations with the Tehran government in advance of the 2012 presidential election.
He said the records released so far showed that then-Secretary Clinton was “consulting” with Sanger before the story ran. He also said department officials had “blatantly lied” in saying that they’d conducted a full records search.
Two of the panel members, Judges David Tatel and Judith Rogers, whom President Clinton nominated to the appellate bench, questioned whether Klayman had grounds for an appeal given that the State Department was reopening its search.
But Klayman pressed the appeals court to order a federal district judge to let him take depositions from department officials, to review “in camera” the material they’d declined to release and to allow a forensics expert to try to re-create the emails deleted from Clinton’s server.
Outside the courthouse after the hearing, he declared: “Based on the documents we do have, it would appear that Mrs. Clinton was behind the leaks in conjunction with the National Security Council and the Obama White House. This is serious.”