11 Troubling Things in FBI’s Announcement Not to Pursue Charges Against Hillary Clinton

FBI Director James Comey held a surprise press conference on the Hillary Clinton email server case Tuesday morning.

At the press conference, Director Comey gave several troubling findings.

1. Classified and Top Secret Emails

From the group of 30,000 e-mails returned to the State Department, 110 e-mails in 52 e-mail chains have been determined by the owning agency to contain classified information at the time they were sent or received. Eight of those chains contained information that was Top Secret at the time they were sent; 36 chains contained Secret information at the time; and eight contained Confidential information, which is the lowest level of classification.

2. No Archive of Secretary Hillary Clinton’s Emails

Because she was not using a government account—or even a commercial account like Gmail—there was no archiving at all of her e-mails, so it is not surprising that we discovered e-mails that were not on Secretary Clinton’s system in 2014, when she produced the 30,000 e-mails to the State Department.

3. Hillary Clinton and Lawyers “Could” Have Deleted Emails

It could also be that some of the additional work-related e-mails we recovered were among those deleted as “personal” by Secretary Clinton’s lawyers when they reviewed and sorted her e-mails for production in 2014.

4. FBI Investigation Like Putting Together a “Jigsaw Puzzle”

For example, when one of Secretary Clinton’s original personal servers was decommissioned in 2013, the e-mail software was removed. Doing that didn’t remove the e-mail content, but it was like removing the frame from a huge finished jigsaw puzzle and dumping the pieces on the floor.

5. “Extremely Careless”

Although we did not find clear evidence that Secretary Clinton or her colleagues intended to violate laws governing the handling of classified information, there is evidence that they were extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information.

It should be noted that above in the FBI statement, Director Comey pointed out that it is “a felony to mishandle classified information either intentionally or in a grossly negligent way.”

6. “Reasonable Person” Should Have Known

There is evidence to support a conclusion that any reasonable person in Secretary Clinton’s position, or in the position of those government employees with whom she was corresponding about these matters, should have known that an unclassified system was no place for that conversation.

7. No Full-Time Security Staff Monitoring

None of these e-mails should have been on any kind of unclassified system, but their presence is especially concerning because all of these e-mails were housed on unclassified personal servers not even supported by full-time security staff, like those found at Departments and Agencies of the U.S. Government—or even with a commercial service like Gmail.

8. Absence of ‘Classified’ Marking is Not an Excuse

But even if information is not marked “classified” in an e-mail, participants who know or should know that the subject matter is classified are still obligated to protect it.

9. State Department Under Hillary Clinton Lax on Security

While not the focus of our investigation, we also developed evidence that the security culture of the State Department in general, and with respect to use of unclassified e-mail systems in particular, was generally lacking in the kind of care for classified information found elsewhere in the government.

10. If Hillary Clinton’s Email was Hacked, It Would Be Difficult to Discover

With respect to potential computer intrusion by hostile actors, we did not find direct evidence that Secretary Clinton’s personal e-mail domain, in its various configurations since 2009, was successfully hacked. But, given the nature of the system and of the actors potentially involved, we assess that we would be unlikely to see such direct evidence

11. ‘Hostile Actors’ Did Access Emails of Hillary Clinton’s Contacts

We do assess that hostile actors gained access to the private commercial e-mail accounts of people with whom Secretary Clinton was in regular contact from her personal account. We also assess that Secretary Clinton’s use of a personal e-mail domain was both known by a large number of people and readily apparent.

She also used her personal e-mail extensively while outside the United States, including sending and receiving work-related e-mails in the territory of sophisticated adversaries. Given that combination of factors, we assess it is possible that hostile actors gained access to Secretary Clinton’s personal e-mail account.

FBI Director Comey announced that the agency will not be recommending charges to The Department of Justice, and instead will accept the prosecutorial decision handed down by Attorney General Loretta Lynch.

What do you think?

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