Six open questions about Clinton’s emails

Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton addresses the press at the UN headquarters in New York on March 10, 2015.
Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton addresses the press at the UN headquarters in New York on March 10, 2015. TNS

Even after Hillary Clinton’s news conference, many questions remain about her use of a private email account for business while she was secretary of state.

Here are six:

– Did anyone approve of this?

Clinton said at the news conference Tuesday that the use of personal email by State Department employees was permitted at the time, but she and her office have not said whether she sought or received prior approval from anyone.

State Department and White House officials decline to say whether someone approved of Clinton’s use of a personal account or whether anyone objected to it later.

President Barack Obama has said he learned about it after it was reported in the media last week, though he and his former Cabinet secretary did email.

– Was this really secure?

Clinton said she used a computer server that was set up for her husband, former President Bill Clinton. She said it had “numerous safeguards” and was located at their Chappaqua, N.Y., house, which is protected by the Secret Service.

She didn’t provide any details, though aides later called them “robust protections” that included additional upgrades and techniques devised after consulting third-party experts.

“While the curiosity in the specifics of this setup is understandable, given what people with ill-intentions can do with such information in this day and age, there are concerns about broadcasting specific technical details about past and current practices,” her office wrote in a statement.

Jerry Reisman, a government ethics expert and partner in the Garden City, N.Y., law firm Reisman, Peirez, Reisman and Capobinaco, said that using a private server exposed Clinton’s email to security breaches and that she would not have necessarily known if a breach had occurred. He said Clinton would have needed “a very sophisticated government-approved security system,” and not merely the existence of Secret Service protection of a building.

– Did she save all her work-related email?

Clinton’s office said that she asked her attorneys to identify any work-related email produced during her four-year tenure as secretary of state. They turned over 30,490 emails to the State Department.

It appears they did not look at each email, but rather searched for “.gov” emails in the email chains, U.S. officials Clinton communicated with, and certain issues including Benghazi and Libya.

Technology experts say that is the normal way to conduct such a search, but that they can’t be sure that every single work email was captured.

Darren Hayes, an expert in computer forensics and a cybersecurity professor at Pace University’s Seidenberg School of Computer Science and Information Systems, said such a search is “pretty standard practice,” but that usually an independent third party conducts the search.

– Why couldn’t she use a government email address on the same phone as her private email?

Clinton said she used a personal email account out of “convenience” because she did not want to carry two phones.

Heather Bearfield, the national technology assurance services practice group leader for Marcum LLP, a national accounting and consulting firm, said BlackBerrys like the one Clinton used are – and have been – able to accommodate multiple email accounts.

Other administration officials, including former Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, have said they had one device for multiple email accounts. Emily Miller, a State Department employee during the George W. Bush administration, tweeted that “we had both unclassified State email and personal email on the same BlackBerry.”

It’s possible, though, that some federal employees had different email configurations. Obama’s former speechwriter, Jon Favreau, tweeted that having two devices was typical for federal employees wanting to access two email accounts.

– Did she violate rules or regulations?

Clinton said the she “fully complied with every rule I was governed by,” saying that using personal email was permissible.

Here’s what she didn’t explain: The State Department updated the foreign affairs manual in 2005 to indicate that normal day-to-day operations should be conducted on an authorized computer system for security reasons, and that “sensitive but unclassified” information should not be transmitted through personal email accounts.

The State Department warned employees in 2011 to “avoid conducting official department business from your personal email accounts.”

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said several times in the last week that “the administration has given guidance to all of our employees that they should use their official email address when they’re conducting official government work.”

“There are different rules governing the White House than there are governing the rest of the executive branch,” Clinton said at news conference in response to a question about White House standards.

– Did Bill and Hillary Clinton send emails to each other?

Clinton said she destroyed 31,830 personal emails that were “not in any way related to my work.” She said those included correspondence about her daughter’s wedding, her mother’s funeral, yoga routines and family vacations as well as correspondence with her husband.

An aide to Bill Clinton said the former president sent only two emails in his life, both as president, one to former senator and astronaut John Glenn and another to U.S. troops.