Before she set up a secret, private email account, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton was warned by former Secretary of State Colin Powell that government emails could become part of the official record and “subject to the law.”
“Be very careful,” Clinton said Powell told her. “I got around it all by not saying much and not using the systems that captured the data.”
She told FBI agents that Powell’s advice did not figure in her decision to use a personal email account rather than a government account.
Her account of that conversation, offered in a three-and-a-half hour interview with the FBI, was part of a summary released Friday of the bureau’s investigation into her private emails. The FBI said it released the additional information because of the enormous interest in the presidential candidate’s actions, even though it did not recommend criminal charges and none were filed by the Justice Department.
A theme running through the summary: New details illustrating why the FBI concluded that, while not criminal, Clinton was “extremely careless” in her handling of the matter.
Among the examples:
▪ Clinton said she never received training about how to send or receive emails, some of which contained classified information. She even told the FBI that she didn’t get guidance about how to communicate with the president, confirming she sent Barack Obama a message from her plane during a visit to Russia.
▪ She revealed a surprising lack of awareness about the federal government’s system for classifying documents. Presented with eight separate emails, each containing at least one paragraph highlighted with a capital “C,” indicating that it was classified at the level of “confidential,” Clinton said she didn’t know what it meant. She suggested that it might be a reference to the alphabetical order of the paragraphs.
These documents demonstrate Hillary Clinton's reckless and downright dangerous handling of classified information during her tenure as secretary of state.
House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis.
▪ “CLINTON was not concerned the displayed email contained classified information,” the FBI summary said at another point. “CLINTON believed the email amounted to ‘condolence call’ and questioned the classification level.”
▪ Asked by the FBI about an email from a Defense Department employee concerning deliberations over a possible drone strike, she said she knew the sender “was well acquainted with handling classified information” and thus didn’t worry about it coming over unsecured means of communication.
▪ She told the FBI several times that she relied on the judgment of people working for her to appropriately determine what was and wasn’t classified information. But employees hired to manage the system often made mistakes that she either didn’t know about or didn’t question. At one point, a staffer forgot to delete emails that he was supposed to from one of her computers. At another point, her staff misplaced a laptop and thumb drive of emails that still have never been found.
After reading these documents, I really don’t understand how she was able to get away from prosecution.
▪ She appeared to be largely reliant on others for most anything related to phone and email technology, reinforcing earlier correspondence made public that show her staff exasperated by her lack of tech savvy. Upgrades to her new phones or tablets, including security upgrades, were handled by aides, not the agency’s IT officials, the FBI said. When changing phones, her data-carrying SIM card was disposed of by aides. Clinton could not recall how they destroyed data on the SIM card.
Clinton used a total of 13 cellphones associated with her two phone numbers while secretary of state and five iPads to send emails. The FBI was able to locate only three of the iPads – and no cellphones.
▪ Clinton told the FBI she did not recall why the State Department could not issue her a secure BlackBerry. Obama had one “and it seemed convenient,” Clinton said, according to the FBI.
Though Clinton has said she wanted to carry only one device, the FBI said she’d carried a BlackBerry and a flip phone because she was more comfortable using the flip phone while looking at the BlackBerry.
▪ When it came to secure communications, Clinton said she got little guidance and was incurious. She “did not recall receiving guidance from State regarding email policies outlined in the Foreign Affairs Manual,” the FBI said.
▪ Clinton also conceded she was unfamiliar with a number of State Department procedures on record-keeping. She told the FBI she was unaware of how other staff kept records or the department’s State Messaging and Archive Retrieval Toolset. “CLINTON could not recall any briefing or training by State related to the retention of federal records or handling of classified information,” the FBI report’s summary said. It added, “CLINTON could not give an example of how classification of a document was determined.”