There’s a lot of talk about Clinton’s handing of email while she was boss of the State Department, and for all the yakkin’ by both parties, there hasn’t been a lot of movement. A big problem with the whole discussion is this: it’s not a single issue. There are two accusations, (almost) completely unrelated, but the whole “Hillary Email” debate treats it like a single thing.
Clinton is accused of behaving irresponsibly by keeping her emails on a server that was not secured by the US government, and she is also accused of sending email with secret information to people who should not have seen those secrets. Important to remember through this whole thing: she could just as easily have forwarded those emails from an official State Department server.
So we can separate the two accusations and not get all mixed up when people refute arguments about one accusation with evidence concerning the other. Two separate debates, focussed on the two separate questions.
Here’s my take on each.
Using her own server was clearly against the rules. No one is disputing this. Clinton’s defense is entirely about the circumstances, which she claims justifies the choice. Looking at the circumstances, she has some pretty strong points. Basically, the State Department’s own email servers sucked so bad that Colin Powell advised her to use her own server. We know this because Clinton released her personal emails, including her conversation with Powell on the subject.
And don’t forget, the State Department servers were hacked. If Clinton hired me, I guarantee I can secure emails better than the United States Department of State does. And I’m by no means a security expert.
Conclusion: “Everyone’s doing it” is not really a defense, but I’d listen to her accusers more if they also put the heat on “everyone”.
The question here is “did Clinton knowingly share information that was secret?” Knowingly is of course a trap word, but we can change the question to “did Clinton share information that was marked as secret with the wrong people?” While investigators have made fairly broad accusations in public, when grilled under oath they have not come up with much. Things that are secret now were shared, that’s pretty certain. Much less clear: were they secret when they were shared, and were they marked as secret when Clinton got that information?
By the way, does it seem faintly absurd to classify information after the fact?
This issue is made more complex by the whole network of security classifications and clearances. People who can juggle plutonium can’t read ships’ manifests.
At this point, with only a small sample of emails reviewed, and millions of taxpayer dollars to go to review the rest, no smoking gun has been found. The whole “(c) is for Classified” argument is apparently false, or at best misleading. The people who talk big clam up when under oath.
Still, I’m sure if we dig hard enough we’ll find a Leaked Secret or ten. None as bad as Dick Cheney blowing the cover of a CIA agent for petty political reasons, but Cheney’s not the criminal under investigation here. I’d go so far as to say that it’s not possible for the Secretary of State to do her job, moving information all around the world, without tripping over information restrictions occasionally.
Still, “honest mistake” isn’t the best defense. People in a position like that aren’t supposed to make mistakes, as unrealistic as that expectation is. I’d listen to her accusers more if they also investigated other, more flagrantly dishonest officials as well.
In summary, my take on these two issues can be expressed thus: Clinton did some things wrong, and I look forward to the day when everyone in Washington is held to the same standards she is. That will be a very good day.