Allyne Caan / March 12, 2015

‘I Did Not Exchange Classified Information With That Woman’

Hillary Clinton’s lax email security is cause for concern, and her answers are unsatisfactory.

As news continues to unfold about Hillary Clinton’s secret email servers, which she vowed resulted in “no security breaches” (evoking memories of her finger-wagging husband denying sex allegations with “that woman”), a lesser-reported story broke. The FBI continues to investigate what officials are calling the “worst ever” cyberattack against several federal agencies – including the State Department.

On Tuesday, CNN reported that “suspected Russian hackers have bedeviled State Department’s email system for much of the past year and continue to pose problems for technicians trying to eradicate the intrusion.” Additionally, the same hackers who compromised the State Department’s email system are suspected of being the same hackers who penetrated the systems of the White House and other federal agencies.

While the State Department may not be as secure as it should have been, and the hack appears to have occurred after Clinton departed State, the convenient timing of the story suggests a subtle attempt to soften the blow against the former secretary. Perhaps we’re supposed to believe her violation of federal regulations and consequent placing of our national security at risk were somehow less terrible since the State Department’s email system was hacked, too.

In truth, even the cyberattack against the State Department underscores the seriousness of Clinton’s blatant disregard for federal regulations. At least the hack against State was identified. Clinton, however, wants us to simply take her word for it that her “personal” email system was never compromised.

At her now-infamous press conference Tuesday, she claimed her personal email system “had numerous safeguards” and suffered “no security breaches.” But without analyzing the emails and email data, there is simply no way to know whether the system was breached. And it’s especially troubling that during the early months of her tenure – while she was negotiating the “reset” with Russia – her email servers had very little protection.

Political analyst Sean Davis notes that we already know the email account of Sid Blumenthal, a longtime Hillary confidant, was breached by the famed hacker “Guccifer,” and among the emails exposed were “numerous sensitive work-related e-mails that Blumenthal sent to Hillary” while she was secretary. Of course, as Clinton kept no government email account, these hacked emails would have been sent to her private email account – presumably the one with those “numerous safeguards.”

Amid it all, Hillary’s attempts to reassure the nation fall somewhere between laughable and outrageous. A reporter asked her, “Were you ever specifically briefed on the security implications of using your own email server and using your personal address to email with the president?” Clinton served up a meticulously crafted non-answer: “I did not email any classified material to anyone on my email. There is no classified material. So I’m certainly well-aware of the classification requirements and did not send classified material.”

As Davis points out, Clinton’s reply is fraught with problems. For one thing, the question had nothing to do with classified information but specifically with the threat of hacking. Why the prepackaged answer?

Additionally, while Clinton insisted she never sent classified material, she also clearly did not say she never received classified material. And while she claimed there “is” no classified material, as we’ve all come to learn from the Clintons’ history, “is” can be a nebulous word. Perhaps “is” should have been “was,” which then begs the question of what happened to any classified material that “was” but no longer “is” – especially after she deleted thousands of emails. Furthermore, “classified” and “sensitive” are two different things, and Hillary notably did not address sending or receiving “sensitive” information.

One unnamed official wondered, “Was every single email of the secretary of state completely unclassified? Maybe, but it’s hard to imagine.” Indeed it is.

Obama’s spokesman Josh Earnest conveyed he is “not particularly interested in” talking about Clinton’s email. And Clinton herself is obviously hoping Americans adopt her classic “what difference does it make?” approach to the scandal. Yet far beyond a violation of protocol, Clinton’s actions represent a willful and arrogant breach of America’s national security. And that, indeed, does make a difference.

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