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March 4 2015

The Secretary of Secrecy

Charlotte Hays

The Associated Press, hardly an anti-Hillary venue, has a fascinating story on just how much forethought went into the putative Democratic presidential nominee’s hiding her official email from scrutiny.

The AP reports:

The computer server that transmitted and received Hillary Clinton's emails - on a private account she used exclusively for official business when she was secretary of state - traced back to an Internet service registered to her family's home in Chappaqua, New York, according to Internet records reviewed by The Associated Press.

The highly unusual practice of a Cabinet-level official physically running her own email would have given Clinton, the presumptive Democratic presidential candidate, impressive control over limiting access to her message archives. It also would distinguish Clinton's secretive email practices as far more sophisticated than some politicians, including Mitt Romney and Sarah Palin, who were caught conducting official business using free email services operated by Microsoft Corp. and Yahoo Inc….

Operating her own server would have afforded Clinton additional legal opportunities to block government or private subpoenas in criminal, administrative or civil cases because her lawyers could object in court before being forced to turn over any emails.

From what we know, particularly the startling information in this AP report, Mrs. Clinton, who set up the account on the eve of her confirmation hearings to be secretary of state, set about establishing a wall of secrecy with a great degree of purpose. It is as if a candidate for the highest office wanted to make sure that not everything she did in the capacity of our top diplomat was discoverable by the public?

It is against the law for a public official to conduct public business on a private email account. Mark Hemingway points out that, given Mrs. Clinton’s trouble with keeping track of records in the 1990s, she could hardly be unaware of the legal problems. There are security concerns about a secretary of state’s emails being on a homebrew email service.

The discovery of the former secretary email system also raises serious questions about her transparency with regard to the Benghazi massacre of four Americans, including our ambassador, and Mrs. Clinton’s response. Hemingway writes:

But one aspect of this story that deserves special focus is what this revelation about the former secretary of state's peculiar email habits tell us about how thorough the investigations of Benghazi have been to date. Indeed, the notion that investigators did not have access to Hillary Clinton's email would suggest that investigators lacked crucial information. And yet, the media largely bought the spin from Clinton's camp and the White House that GOP investigations into Benghazi had crossed into overreach. Journalists even propagated a cutesy social media gimmick to make this point. …

Now the question is, what else about Benghazi do we not know? The Times report also includes this remarkable detail: "It was only two months ago, in response to a new State Department effort to comply with federal record-keeping practices, that Mrs. Clinton’s advisers reviewed tens of thousands of pages of her personal emails and decided which ones to turn over to the State Department." In other words, Hillary Clinton was allowed to decide which of her emails she would turn over to the State Department. It seems very unlikely that any of those emails would happen to provide evidence of any incriminating behavior.

At the State Department, shielding Hillary Clinton from Benghazi scrutiny has been standard operating procedure since the beginning. In her most recent book, Hard Choices, Clinton presented the findings of the State Department's Administrative Review Board (ARB) as central to her defense of her conduct regarding Benghazi. And should Benghazi come up again in, say, a presidential campaign, it seems likely that Clinton would also point to the ARB for exoneration. So then, it's worth pointing out again that the ARB was deeply, deeply flawed.

Among other things, the ARB report, for which the secretary of state was not even interviewed before being exonerated, didn’t even have access to her emails.

What this betrays to me is that Mrs. Clinton, rather than regarding her office as an opportunity to serve her country, regarded it as an opportunity to serve herself by positioning herself for the presidency. Never mind the public’s right to be assured that there are records of her tenure at the Department of State, the point for Mrs. Clinton seems to have been Mrs. Clinton.

Such secretive and high-handed behavior would likely put finished to any other presidential hopeful, but this is Hillary Clinton.

Still, some Democrats must be becoming at least slightly apprehensive in the lead up to the coronation. A lot will depend for Republicans on having a standard bearer who is not afraid to exploit Mrs. Clinton’s weaknesses—and this email scandal is a biggie—at the risk of being smeared as anti-woman. 



Independent Women's Forum is an educational 501(c)(3) dedicated to developing and advancing policies that aren’t just well intended, but actually enhance people’s freedom, choices, and opportunities. IWF is the sister organization of the Independent Women’s Voice.​
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