Tuesday, March 01, 2016

It's not just Hilary Clinton's emails. It's her private and unsecured email server.

Real Clear Politics is running a very interesting article about a possible criminal investigation of Hilary Clinton over her email server - not that this is not just about her emails - this is about her own private email server. That's not the only article by any means, but I like the source since Real Clear Politics is setting a high standard for polling analysis. The article notes that the public has shown little interest in the potential of this scandal and that mainstream media has just a bit more interest than the public on it.

The issue of the emails might be a non-issue except for a few relevant facts:

  • Many of the emails contained classified and highly classified information. (each disclosure is a felony)
  • Hilary Clinton intentionally directed her staff to remove the classified markings on many of those emails. 
  • As far as I can tell, no encryption was used to secure the messages in those emails.
  • The email server itself was a private server and was not built according to federal security standards.

But here's the kicker: email is insecure. Anyone familiar with how email servers work knows that email travels over the internet in plain text. This means that you shouldn't send sensitive information over the email, you know, like your social security number, credit card number or your tax returns.

To put this in context, anyone interested in Hilary's emails could find the public IP address of that email server, point a packet sniffer like Wireshark at it, and start collecting packets sent to and from it. Then they could reconstruct the packets without even hacking the server. Furthermore, email transmission often requires a few hops to go from sender to receiver. Each hop has a sort of cache, where information can sit for months.

So what we have here is a presidential candidate who knew she was passing classified information to and from her associates over clear text, meaning that anyone with the means to listen can intercept those transmissions. All this while she was Secretary of State.

It gets worse. Everyone in the State Department gets extensive training on security. There are signs on walls at numerous and highly visible locations in the building where she worked to remind people about security. Each employee, including the Secretary, must prove that they have read and retained the training materials. They must aver that they will follow the protocols and keep that information secure. Hilary must have passed the test or she might have been passed over.

I can't think of a bigger fail for an employee at the State Department. But does she stop there? No. At the same time, we find out that her family foundation has been receiving donations from businesses and countries with business before the State Department. So far, no one is calling it "pay to play", but it's probably not that far off. Conflict of interest? They're still trying to figure that out.

Let's see if we can put this in a personal context. Imagine that you're hired to work at a firm that handles confidential information for customers. You're a high level manager. You've gone through all the training and proven that you've retained the information and understand that you're not to disclose confidential information. Do you forward confidential emails to your friends? No. If you did and it were found out, you'd lose your job, your reputation and any chance at working in that industry again. You place a greater value on sleeping at night than being stupid, right?

That's the kind of context we're talking about, but now, we're talking State Department where lives matter. Let the names of operatives in the Middle East slip and they're probably dead or useless as far as intelligence gathering is concerned. This is not a game, yet, for a cabinet level official to run her own unsecured email server passing classified information, it must be. Perhaps she is expecting the investigation to run past the time that the last delegate vote is cast. Maybe she is expecting some "helpful" delays, you know, just in case a grand jury could be convinced by the evidence.

If this the kind of "experience" Clinton has, I'm not sure I'd want her as president.

But don't worry all you Hilary Clinton fans. You won't hear that much about it the press. Apparently, there are more than a few talking heads who are not willing to disclose their financial ties to Clinton or her family foundation. Yet, at the same time, they are happy to appear on news shows as "analysts" and "former Democratic Higher-Ups", while extolling the virtues of Hilary Clinton.

The ongoing investigation of the email server is being run by career investigators at the FBI. I'm sure that a few of them would love to bag an indictment this big. If we're lucky, an aspiring investigator will get an indictment before the Democratic National Convention this summer. If not, Hilary fans can vote for her and pretend like nothing happened.

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