In March 2015 it became publicly known that Hillary Clinton, during her tenure as United States Secretary of State, had exclusively used her family’s private email server for official communications, rather than official State Department email accounts maintained on federal servers. Those official communications included thousands of emails that would later be marked classified by the State Department retroactively.
The controversy unfolded against the backdrop of Clinton’s 2016 presidential election campaign and hearings held by the United States House Select Committee on Benghazi. Some experts, officials, and members of Congress have contended that her use of private messaging system software and a private server violated State Department protocols and procedures, as well as federal laws and regulations governing recordkeeping. In response, Clinton has said that her use of personal email was in compliance with federal laws and State Department regulations and that former secretaries of state had also maintained personal email accounts, though not their own private email servers.
After allegations were raised that some of the emails in question contained classified information, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) initiated an investigation regarding the origin and handling of classified emails on Clinton’s server. The FBI Report found that some of the emails originated in five other intelligence agencies. The FBI found that all classified emails on Clinton’s server were drafted on “unclassified systems,” meaning that they were stored and sent from unclassified servers, violating the same policies as those on Clinton’s personal server.
FBI Director James Comey identified 110 emails as containing information that was classified at the time it was sent, including 65 emails deemed “Secret” and 22 deemed “Top Secret.” None of these had classification markings. However, as noted in Clinton’s non-disclosure agreement, unmarked classified information should be treated the same as marked classified information. An additional three email chains contained “portion markings,” simply a “(C)” indicating “Confidential” in front of one or more paragraphs. These were not included in Comey’s list of 110 because the State Department failed to confirm they were classified at the time they were sent. Clinton told the FBI she did not know the meaning of “(C).” Nearly 2,100 emails on the server were retroactively marked as classified by the State Department.
In May 2016, the State Department’s Office of the Inspector General released an 83-page report about the State Department’s email practices, including Clinton’s. On July 5, 2016, Comey announced that the FBI’s investigation had concluded that Clinton was “extremely careless” in handling her email system but recommended that no charges be filed against her. On July 6, 2016, Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced that no charges would be filed.
On July 7, the State Department reopened its probe into the email controversy. On October 28, 2016, Comey notified Congress that the FBI has started looking into newly discovered emails that may be pertinent to the case. Law enforcement officials stated the emails were found on a laptop belonging to Clinton aide Huma Abedin‘s husband, Anthony Weiner(involved in his sexting scandals).
Clinton’s use of BlackBerrys
Clinton holding a Blackberry phone in 2009
Prior to her appointment as Secretary of State in 2009, Clinton and her circle of friends and colleagues communicated via BlackBerry phones. State Department security personnel suggested this would pose a security risk during her tenure. The email account used on Clinton’s BlackBerry was then hosted on a private server in the basement of her home inChappaqua, New York, but that information was not disclosed to State Department security personnel or senior State Department personnel. It proved impractical to find a solution, even after consulting the National Security Agency, which would not have allowed Clinton to use her BlackBerry, or a similarly unsecured device, linked to a private server in her home. Setting up a secure desktop computer in her office was suggested, but Clinton was unfamiliar with their use and opted for the convenience of her BlackBerry, not the State Department, government protocol of a secured desktop computer. Efforts to find a secure solution were abandoned by Clinton, and she was warned by State Department security personnel about the vulnerability of an unsecured BlackBerry to hacking. She affirmed her knowledge of the danger, and was reportedly told that the Bureau of Diplomatic Security had obtained intelligence about her vulnerability while she was on a trip to Asia, but continued to use her BlackBerry outside her office.
Domain names and email server
At the time of Senate confirmation hearings on Hillary Clinton’s nomination as Secretary of State, the domain names clintonemail.com, wjcoffice.com, and presidentclinton.com wereregistered to Eric Hoteham, with the home of Clinton and her husband in Chappaqua, New York, as the contact address. The domains were pointed to a private email server that Clinton (who never had a state.gov email account) used to send and receive email, and which was purchased and installed in the Clintons’ home for her 2008 presidential campaign.
The email server was located in the Clintons’ home in Chappaqua, New York, until 2013, when it was sent to a data center in New Jersey before being handed over to Platte River Networks, a Denver-based information technology firm that Clinton hired to manage her email system.
The server itself runs a Microsoft Exchange 2010