Tom Fitton / March 21, 2016

National Security Agency Rebuffed Clinton Request for Blackberry

Apparently, there is at least one government agency that understands Hillary Clinton is not above the law and must follow the rules like the rest of us. Judicial Watch has just obtained State Department documents revealing that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton repeatedly sought to obtain “Blackberry-like communications,” but was rebuffed by the National Security Agency due to security and cost concerns. The National Security Agency’s Information Assurance Directorate response was “shut up and color.” The emails show that Clinton demanded Blackberry devices that could be used by her and her staff in her office’s Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility (SCIF).

Apparently, there is at least one government agency that understands Hillary Clinton is not above the law and must follow the rules like the rest of us. Judicial Watch has just obtained State Department documents revealing that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton repeatedly sought to obtain “Blackberry-like communications,” but was rebuffed by the National Security Agency due to security and cost concerns. The National Security Agency’s Information Assurance Directorate response was “shut up and color.” The emails show that Clinton demanded Blackberry devices that could be used by her and her staff in her office’s Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility (SCIF).

The documents were obtained in response to a court order in an April 28, 2015, Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit, filed after the Department of State failed to comply with a March 10, 2015, FOIA request seeking following:

Any and all records of requests by former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton or her staff to the State Department Office Security Technology seeking approval for the use of an iPad or iPhone for official government business; and

Any and all communications within or between the Office of the Secretary of State, the Executive Secretariat, and the Office of the Secretary and the Office of Security Technology concerning, regarding, or related to the use of unauthorized electronic devices for official government business.

In an email dated February 13, 2009, Senior Coordinator for Security Infrastructure, Bureau of Diplomatic Security Donald R. Reid reveals that the request to obtain secure Blackberry technology for Clinton was denied. When Clinton aides sought to compel the NSA’s cooperation by asking about the security arrangements for President Obama’s Blackberry, the exchange apparently became heated.  According to Reid:

[W]e began examining options for S [Secretary Clinton] with respect to secure “Blackberry-like” communications … the current state of the art is not too user friendly, has no infrastructure at State and is very expensive…each time we asked the question “What was the solution for POTUS?” we were politely told to shut up and color … NSA opened the door for us to establish requirements and they would try to help…

While our noses are out of joint for how this was handled, the issue will be what kind of support will NSA be offering to meet S demands (basically, wireless comm in Mahogany Row) …

In a subsequent email from Reid dated February 18, 2009, Clinton’s penchant for Blackberry technology is described as an issue of “personal comfort” growing out of her becoming “hooked” on her Blackberry during the 2008 presidential campaign:

Here’s the results of our meeting yesterday… as I had been speculating, the issue here is one of personal comfort … S [Secretary Clinton] does not use a personal computer so our view of someone wedded to their email (why doesn’t she use her desktop when in SCIF?) doesn’t fit this scenario … during the campaign she was urged to keep in contact with thousands via a BB … once she got the hang of it she was hooked … now everyday [sic], she feels hamstrung because she has to lock her BB up … she does go out several times a day to an office they have crafted for her outside the SCIF and plays email catch up … Cheryl Mills and others who are dedicated BB addicts are frustrated because they too are not near their desktop very often during the working day…

The February 17, 2009, meeting details showed that Hillary Clinton was personally pushing for a special Blackberry device:

Meeting: Ms. Mills described the requirement as chiefly driven by Secretary Clinton, who does not use standard computer equipment but relies exclusively on her Blackberry for e-mailing and remaining in contact on her schedule, etc. Ideally, all members of her suite would be allowed to use Blackberries for communication in the SCIF; [Redacted] was not the primary driver, but if possible would be a plus.

Apparently, Blackberry security waivers were issued during the tenure of former Secretary of State of State Condoleezza Rice, according to an email from an unidentified, redacted source dated February 17, 2009. But because the high volume of these waivers became an issue, they were phased out over time. The unnamed source wrote:

Ms. Mills has witnessed the use of Blackberries in other sensitive (but perhaps not SCI fed spaces); she asked some excellent questions about what might be possible and prudent. She also asked about precedent; former Secretary Rice had received waivers for her staff; however, use expanded to an unmanageable number of users from a security perspective, so those waivers were phased out and Blackberry use was not allowed in her suite …

Yesterday, Judicial Watch filed a plan in federal court for “narrowly tailored discovery” into Clinton’s email. Reid is among the proposed witnesses.

These documents show that Hillary Clinton knew her Blackberry wasn’t secure. So then, we have to ask, why did she use it to access classified information on her illicit email server? The FBI and prosecutors ought to be very interested in these new materials.

These new revelations received much deserved attention — and tell you why Hillary Clinton is obsessed with attacking us as “right wing.” The Associated Press account of our find was devastating, with simple factual reporting:

Newly released emails show a 2009 request to issue a secure government smartphone to then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was denied by the National Security Agency.

A month later, she began using private email accounts accessed through her BlackBerry to exchange messages with her top aides.

By the way, she used these “private” accounts despite additional warnings on security! Recall, we reported a few months ago, that in March 2009, Clinton was personally warned on the issue. It is worth quoting our prior report to you at length:

… Judicial Watch released new documents, obtained as the result of a federal court order, containing more than 50 State Department internal emails from 2009 and 2011 warning of serious security concerns involving the use of “highly vulnerable” Blackberries by then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her staff in the executive offices of the Foggy Bottom headquarters.

Keep in mind what this means for our nation’s security. An un-secured Blackberry or other Internet device (iPhone, iPad, etc.) are vulnerable to all sorts of hacking that could create opportunities for hostile foreign powers and non-state actors.

The new State records included a March 2, 2009, internal memorandum from Assistant Secretary for Diplomatic Security Eric Boswell entitled “Use of Blackberries on Mahogany Row,” in which he strongly advised that the devices not be allowed. According to the Boswell memo, sent to then-Secretary of State Clinton and her Chief of Staff Cheryl Mills, “the vulnerabilities and risks associated with the use of Blackberries in Mahogany Row [seventh floor executive offices] considerably outweigh their convenience.” Clinton has admitted she used a Blackberry during her early days in office despite Boswell’s memo with explicit written objections.

When Boswell’s internal memo was issued on March 2, 2009, it strongly warned of the security risks involved in the use of Blackberries by Clinton and her staff:

INFORMATION MEMO FOR CHERYL D. MILLS – S

FROM: DS – Eric J. Boswell

SUBJECT: Use of Blackberries in Mahogany Row

Our review reaffirms our belief that the vulnerabilities and risks associated with the use of Blackberries in the Mahogany Row [REDACTED] considerably outweigh the convenience their use can add to staff that have access to the classified OpenNet system on their desktops. [RECACTED] We also worry about the example that using Blackberries in Mahogany Row might set as we strive to promote crucial security practices and enforce important security standards among State Department staff.

I cannot stress too strongly, however, that any unclassified Blackberry is highly vulnerable in any setting to remotely and covertly monitoring conversations, retrieving e-mails, and exploiting calendars.

Leaving no doubt that Clinton was fully aware of the deep security concerns surrounding the Blackberry security issue early on, a March 11, 2009, email reads, “After this mornings ‘management meeting’ with the A/Secys, Secretary Clinton approached Ambassador Boswell [United States Assistant Secretary of State for Diplomatic Security] and mentioned that she had read the IM and that she ‘gets it.’ Her attention was drawn to the sentence that indicates we (DS) have intelligence concerning the vulnerability during her recent trip to Asia.” [Emphasis in original]

Is there more to come? Yes. More documents on this issue came in today, and we will report and share the details with you next week. In the meantime, consider this report from John Schindler, “a security expert and former National Security Agency analyst and counterintelligence officer,” who writes at The Observer:

The State Department has not released the full document trail here, so the complete story remains unknown to the public. However, one senior NSA official, now retired, recalled the kerfuffle with Team Clinton in early 2009 about Blackberrys. “It was the usual Clinton prima donna stuff,” he explained, “the whole ‘rules are for other people’ act that I remembered from the ‘90s.” Why Ms. Clinton would not simply check her personal email on an office computer, like every other government employee less senior than the president, seems a germane question, given what a major scandal email-gate turned out to be. “What did she not want put on a government system, where security people might see it?” the former NSA official asked, adding, “I wonder now, and I sure wish I’d asked about it back in 2009.”

Schindler also confirms that Sidney Blumenthal, a Clinton confidante at the Clinton Foundation, sent her classified information on Sudan:

Specifically, this information was illegally lifted from four different NSA reports, all of them classified “Top Secret / Special Intelligence.” Worse, at least one of those reports was issued under the GAMMA compartment, which is an NSA handling caveat that is applied to extraordinarily sensitive information (for instance, decrypted conversations between top foreign leadership, as this was). GAMMA is properly viewed as a SIGINT Special Access Program, or SAP, several of which from the CIA Ms. Clinton compromised in another series of her “unclassified” emails.

Currently serving NSA officials have told me they have no doubt that Mr. Blumenthal’s information came from their reports. “It’s word-for-word, verbatim copying,” one of them explained. “In one case, an entire paragraph was lifted from an NSA report” that was classified Top Secret / Special Intelligence.

I know there’s a lot of troubling material here to process — as the implication of it all suggests Hillary Clinton should face prosecution.

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