At least 400 emails that Hillary Clinton sent or received through her private computer server while secretary of state contained classified material, according to the State Department’s latest update Wednesday from its ongoing review of more than 30,000 emails.
In response to a public records lawsuit, the department released another 6,300 pages of the Democratic presidential candidate’s emails after partially or entirely redacting any containing sensitive U.S. or foreign government information on a range of issues.
None was marked as classified during Clinton’s tenure, department officials say, but intelligence officials say some material was clearly classified at the time. Clinton has insisted she did not send or receive any information marked as classified.
But amid a furor over her unusual decision to route her emails through a server in her home in Chappaqua, N.Y., for her entire term, questions persist. Here are seven:
Did anyone approve of her email setup?
Clinton has said State Department employees were permitted to use personal email accounts when she took office, and she “fully complied” with every applicable rule. But State Department and White House officials have declined to say whether she sought or received prior approval from anyone or whether anyone objected to it later.
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest has said that federal employees have been given “guidance” to use government email accounts for business.
Regulations discourage the use of personal email. But the National Archives permits the use of personal email for government business, so long as all records are retained.
Why didn’t Clinton turn over her emails when she left office in 2013?
Clinton has said that most of her emails already had been collected by the State Department, because she sent them to and received them from government addresses.
But dozens of other people, including lobbyists for foreign governments, emailed her directly, and Clinton has not explained how she thought the State Department would have collected those emails.
It wasn’t until the State Department asked former secretaries to turn over their emails in late 2015 – nearly two years after Clinton left office – that she surrendered hers. The National Archives only recently instituted a 20-day timetable for former employees to turn over such records.
Was her computer system secure?
Clinton said she used a computer server set up years earlier for her husband, former President Bill Clinton, in their New York home that is protected by the Secret Service.
Technology experts say using a private server exposed her to possible breaches and hacks by China, Russia or other foreign countries – intercepts she would not necessarily have known about. Clinton, however, said there is “no evidence” her computer server has been hacked. She and her aides have yet to disclose the basis for that statement.
Clinton has said her server had “numerous safeguards.” Her aides called them “robust protections,” including upgrades and techniques advised by third-party experts, but they provided no specifics, citing security concerns.
How many emails from her tenure did Clinton fail to turn over to the State Department?
Clinton provided 30,490 work emails to the State Department, the earliest dated March 18, 2009, the day she began using the personal account routed through a private server. She said she deleted another 31,830 personal emails.
Clinton said she was unable to turn over emails she sent or received in her first weeks as secretary of state, from late January to March 18, 2009, because she continued to use the AT&T Blackberry account she had when she was a senator, and no emails were being captured on her private server.
The State Department said last week it obtained a chain of emails from the Defense Department from January and February 2009 between Clinton and former Gen. David Petraeus, who at the time headed the military’s U.S. Central Command. Those emails were not among those she has produced.
Did anyone try to wipe her server clean?
Republican Rep. Trey Gowdy of South Carolina, who chairs a House panel investigating the 2012 fatal attacks in Benghazi, Libya, announced last spring that Clinton had “wiped her server clean” after giving the State Department her work emails.
Merely deleting emails is not the same as wiping a server clean, which would require steps such as overwriting it several times with encrypted material. That would make it very difficult for forensic computer experts to recover the emails, technology experts say.
The FBI has recovered some of her emails, according to published reports. It is unclear how many were personal or about State Department business.
Was her private server backed up?
Clinton has declined to say whether her server and all of the emails on it were backed up. The FBI is investigating whether Clinton’s arrangement may have compromised national security and would be the most likely entity to find out the answer.
In June 2013, about five months after Clinton left office, she turned the server over to a Colorado firm, Platte River Networks.
A company spokesman, Andy Boian, told McClatchy in August that “no backups have ever been located in Denver or in Platte River’s possession at any time. . . . We follow our clients’ requests to a T. We don’t have any information on backups.”
Why has the technician who managed Clinton’s server during her tenure as secretary of state invoked the Fifth Amendment?
Lawyers for Clinton aide Bryan Pagliano have advised the FBI and two Senate committees that, if compelled to answer questions, he would invoke his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination.
The development puts Justice Department lawyers in a position of having to decide whether to grant Pagliano immunity from prosecution in return for his cooperation, a decision that only can occur in a criminal investigation. Some former prosecutors say that setting up a private server that Clinton used exclusively for State Department communications might violate the espionage statutes covering the negligent handling of classified information. Violators can face 10 years in jail.
Another question is whether any emails were destroyed after the State Department began to ask Clinton to produce them last year.