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

April 26, 2018
Patrick Cockburn
As Trump Berates Iran, His Options are Limited
Daniel Warner
From May 1968 to May 2018: Politics and Student Strikes
Simone Chun – Kevin Martin
Diplomacy in Korea and the Hope It Inspires
George Wuerthner
The Attack on Wilderness From Environmentalists
CJ Hopkins
The League of Assad-Loving Conspiracy Theorists
Richard Schuberth
“MeToo” and the Liberation of Sex
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Sacred Assemblies in Baghdad
Dean Baker
Exonerating Bad Economic Policy for Trump’s Win
Vern Loomis
The 17 Gun Salute
Gary Leupp
What It Means When the U.S. President Conspicuously and Publicly Removes a Speck of Dandruff from the French President’s Lapel
Robby Sherwin
The Hat
April 25, 2018
Stanley L. Cohen
Selective Outrage
Dan Kovalik
The Empire Turns Its Sights on Nicaragua – Again!
Joseph Essertier
The Abductees of Japan and Korea
Ramzy Baroud
The Ghost of Herut: Einstein on Israel, 70 Years Ago
W. T. Whitney
Imprisoned FARC Leader Faces Extradition: Still No Peace in Colombia
Manuel E. Yepe
Washington’s Attack on Syria Was a Mockery of the World
John White
My Silent Pain for Toronto and the World
Dean Baker
Bad Projections: the Federal Reserve, the IMF and Unemployment
David Schultz
Why Donald Trump Should Not be Allowed to Pardon Michael Cohen, His Friends, or Family Members
Mel Gurtov
Will Abe Shinzo “Make Japan Great Again”?
Binoy Kampmark
Enoch Powell: Blood Speeches and Anniversaries
Frank Scott
Weapons and Walls
April 24, 2018
Carl Boggs
Russia and the War Party
William A. Cohn
Carnage Unleashed: the Pentagon and the AUMF
Nathan Kalman-Lamb
The Racist Culture of Canadian Hockey
María Julia Bertomeu
On Angers, Disgusts and Nauseas
Nick Pemberton
How To Buy A Seat In Congress 101
Ron Jacobs
Resisting the Military-Now More Than Ever
Paul Bentley
A Velvet Revolution Turns Bloody? Ten Dead in Toronto
Sonali Kolhatkar
The Left, Syria and Fake News
Manuel E. Yepe
The Confirmation of Democracy in Cuba
Peter Montgomery
Christian Nationalism: Good for Politicians, Bad for America and the World
Ted Rall
Bad Drones
Jill Richardson
The Latest Attack on Food Stamps
Andrew Stewart
What Kind of Unionism is This?
Ellen Brown
Fox in the Hen House: Why Interest Rates Are Rising
April 23, 2018
Patrick Cockburn
In Middle East Wars It Pays to be Skeptical
Thomas Knapp
Just When You Thought “Russiagate” Couldn’t Get Any Sillier …
Gregory Barrett
The Moral Mask
Robert Hunziker
Chemical Madness!
David Swanson
Senator Tim Kaine’s Brief Run-In With the Law
Dave Lindorff
Starbucks Has a Racism Problem
Uri Avnery
The Great Day
Nyla Ali Khan
Girls Reduced to Being Repositories of Communal and Religious Identities in Kashmir
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail