FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Eel of History: Hillary Clinton, Emailgate and the FBI

Tactics of minimisation have been central to Hillary Clinton’s political career. When stumbling takes place, go for the established book of deflective rules. When violations of the law take place, explain that it was normal at the time. Suggest that others had engaged in a form of conduct only subsequently frowned upon.

Such tactics should be kept in the dustbin of history. For the Clintons, they have consistently worked, giving that particular not so holy family a particularly nasty sense of political entitlement. They remain the ghouls of the US political establishment, paying (or rather withholding) tribute to the dead ideas of liberalism.

Evidently, the inappropriate use of a private server to conduct what were classified communications and potentially accessible to third-parties, did not seem grave enough a breach to warrant criminal charges.

That was the preliminary finding by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which is concluding its investigation into Clinton’s use of a personal email system during her time as Secretary of State. The Bureau had received the referral from the Intelligence Community Inspector General seeking answers on whether classified information had been transmitted on that personal system during her time in office.

The statement by its director, James B. Comey, is worth noting, as it shows the extent the former First Lady and Secretary of State has managed to escape yet another pickle of systematic indiscretion.[1] It also shows the degree of singularity Comey was offering his own statement.

He claimed, for instance, to have “not coordinated or reviewed this statement in any way with the Department of Justice or any other part of the government. They do not know what I am about to say.”

A rum sort of thing, especially given the prior remark that “the American people deserve those details in a case of intense public interest”. The only assumption one can draw from Comey here is that the FBI preferred to go it alone in this venture, bringing out the gory details less to inculpate the former Secretary than exonerate her.

There was a potentially two-pronged trap for Clinton: a felonious violation of a federal law on the subject of mishandling classified information either intentionally or a grossly negligent way; or the misdemeanour of knowingly removing classified information from “appropriate systems or storage facilities.” Investigations into possible intrusions were also made.

Comey’s statement describes a mess. As Secretary of State, she used several email servers and relevant administrators, along with a host of mobile devices to view and convey emails via personal domains.

During the course of her stewardship at the Department, processes of replacement, storage and decommissioning took place. This compounded the problem, rendering the trail of messages fuzzy. The decommissioning in 2013 of one of the original servers, for instance, saw the removal of email software that was “like removing the frame from a huge finished jigsaw puzzle and dumping and pieces on the floor.” Hardly a picture of well drawn propriety on the part of the Secretary.

As for the emails Clinton proudly claimed she supplied to the Bureau for perusal – roughly 30,000 or so – 110 in 52 chains were “determined by the owning agency to contain classified information at the time they were sent or received.” Additional emails were also uncovered from the ether of deletions and archived email accounts of former employees, though these were generally deemed less significant.

The Bureau suggested that there was no clear evidence that Clinton or her aides “intended to violate laws governing the handling of classified information, there is evidence they were extremely careless in their handling of very extensive, highly classified information.”

Comey speaks of his concern that many of the emails “should have been on any kind of unclassified system” a point made even graver by the fact that they “were housed on unclassified personal servers not even supported by full-time security staff, like those found at Departments and Agencies of the US Government – or even with a commercial service like Gmail.”

Taking a snipe at another government organisation, the FBI also found that the State Department was distinctly lacking in a “security culture” of which use of unclassified email systems was symptomatic. As to the issue of intrusion into the personal domains by “hostile actors,” a frank admission followed. While no evidence was detected, “we assess that we would be unlikely to see such direct evidence.”

The final assertion is interesting, if only because it shows how the FBI has an inherently soft view about Clinton’s conduct. This may not be surprising: the Clintons have been regular subjects of investigations by Comey’s outfit. The failed Arkansas real estate deal which became Whitewater and the Presidential pardons in January 2001 remain key events.

Evidence of potential violations of the relevant statutes may well exist, but in the view of the Bureau, “no reasonable prosecutor would bring such a case.” There was, in the view of the investigators, no instance of wilful mishandling or clear intent in dealing with classified information, or exposure on a scale suggesting “inference of intentional misconduct”.

Officials have lost their jobs for less. Administrative and legal sanctions, as admitted by Comey, have been levelled in similar circumstances. State bureaucracies, as Max Weber reminds us with solemn gravity, guard secrets and their use with fanatical intensity.

Not, it would seem, on this occasion. Clinton was spared, even if the FBI recommendation remains just that. It was a textbook outcome pointing to the failures of consistent approaches all too familiar to that of her husband. Yet again, this eel of history escapes the realms of legality with institutional dispensation.

Notes.

[1] https://www.fbi.gov/news/pressrel/press-releases/statement-by-fbi-director-james-b.-comey-on-the-investigation-of-secretary-hillary-clintons-use-of-a-personal-e-mail-system

More articles by:

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

July 23, 2018
Pam Martens
Koch Industries Is Staffing Up with Voter Data Scientists to Tip the November Election to the Extreme Right
Binoy Kampmark
Ecuador’s Agenda: Squeezing and Surrendering Assange
Vijay Prashad
America’s Reporter: the Hersh Method
Colin Jenkins
Exposing the American Okie-Doke
Patrick Cockburn
What Boris Johnson Doesn’t Know About British History
Jack Random
Asylum Seekers in the 21st Century
Howard Lisnoff
How We Got Sold on Endless Wars
Ed Meek
Trump Has Taught Us Some Valuable Lessons About Executive Power
Myles Hoenig
Trump, the Mr. Magoo of American Diplomacy
Winslow Myers
The Mind Reels
Thomas Mountain
Ethiopia’s Peaceful Revolution
Weekend Edition
July 20, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Paul Atwood
Peace or Armageddon: Take Your Pick
Paul Street
No Liberal Rallies Yet for the Children of Yemen
Nick Pemberton
The Bipartisan War on Central and South American Women
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Are You Putin Me On?
Andrew Levine
Sovereignty: What Is It Good For? 
Brian Cloughley
The Trump/NATO Debacle and the Profit Motive
David Rosen
Trump’s Supreme Pick Escalates America’s War on Sex 
Melvin Goodman
Montenegro and the “Manchurian Candidate”
Salvador Rangel
“These Are Not Our Kids”: The Racial Capitalism of Caging Children at the Border
Matthew Stevenson
Going Home Again to Trump’s America
Louis Proyect
Jeremy Corbyn, Bernie Sanders and the Dilemmas of the Left
Patrick Cockburn
Iraqi Protests: “Bad Government, Bad Roads, Bad Weather, Bad People”
Robert Fantina
Has It Really Come to This?
Russell Mokhiber
Kristin Lawless on the Corporate Takeover of the American Kitchen
John W. Whitehead
It’s All Fake: Reality TV That Masquerades as American Politics
Patrick Bobilin
In Your Period Piece, I Would be the Help
Ramzy Baroud
The Massacre of Inn Din: How Rohingya Are Lynched and Held Responsible
Robert Fisk
How Weapons Made in Bosnia Fueled Syria’s Bleak Civil War
Gary Leupp
Trump’s Helsinki Press Conference and Public Disgrace
Josh Hoxie
Our Missing $10 Trillion
Martha Rosenberg
Pharma “Screening” Is a Ploy to Seize More Patients
Basav Sen
Brett Kavanaugh Would be a Disaster for the Climate
David Lau
The Origins of Local AFT 4400: a Profile of Julie Olsen Edwards
Rohullah Naderi
The Elusive Pursuit of Peace by Afghanistan
Binoy Kampmark
Shaking Establishments: The Ocasio-Cortez Effect
John Laforge
18 Protesters Cut Into German Air Base to Protest US Nuclear Weapons Deployment
Christopher Brauchli
Trump and the Swedish Question
Chia-Chia Wang
Local Police Shouldn’t Collaborate With ICE
Paul Lyons
YouTube’s Content ID – A Case Study
Jill Richardson
Soon You Won’t be Able to Use Food Stamps at Farmers’ Markets, But That’s Not the Half of It
Kevin MacKay
Climate Change is Proving Worse Than We Imagined, So Why Aren’t We Confronting its Root Cause?
Thomas Knapp
Elections: More than Half of Americans Believe Fairy Tales are Real
Ralph Nader
Warner Slack—Doctor for the People Forever
Lee Ballinger
Soccer, Baseball and Immigration
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail