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

September 25, 2018
Binoy Kampmark
Parasitic and Irrelevant: The University Vice Chancellor
September 24, 2018
Jonathan Cook
Hiding in Plain Sight: Why We Cannot See the System Destroying Us
Gary Leupp
All the Good News (Ignored by the Trump-Obsessed Media)
Robert Fisk
I Don’t See How a Palestinian State Can Ever Happen
Barry Brown
Pot as Political Speech
Lara Merling
Puerto Rico’s Colonial Legacy and Its Continuing Economic Troubles
Patrick Cockburn
Iraq’s Prime Ministers Come and Go, But the Stalemate Remains
William Blum
The New Iraq WMD: Russian Interference in US Elections
Julian Vigo
The UK’s Snoopers’ Charter Has Been Dealt a Serious Blow
Joseph Matten
Why Did Global Economic Performance Deteriorate in the 1970s?
Zhivko Illeieff
The Millennial Label: Distinguishing Facts from Fiction
Thomas Hon Wing Polin – Gerry Brown
Xinjiang : The New Great Game
Binoy Kampmark
Casting Kavanaugh: The Trump Supreme Court Drama
Max Wilbert
Blue Angels: the Naked Face of Empire
Weekend Edition
September 21, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Alexandra Isfahani-Hammond
Hurricane Florence and 9.7 Million Pigs
Andrew Levine
Israel’s Anti-Semitism Smear Campaign
Paul Street
Laquan McDonald is Being Tried for His Own Racist Murder
Brad Evans
What Does It Mean to Celebrate International Peace Day?
Nick Pemberton
With or Without Kavanaugh, The United States Is Anti-Choice
Jim Kavanagh
“Taxpayer Money” Threatens Medicare-for-All (And Every Other Social Program)
Jonathan Cook
Palestine: The Testbed for Trump’s Plan to Tear up the Rules-Based International Order
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: the Chickenhawks Have Finally Come Back Home to Roost!
David Rosen
As the Capitalist World Turns: From Empire to Imperialism to Globalization?
Jonah Raskin
Green Capitalism Rears Its Head at Global Climate Action Summit
James Munson
On Climate, the Centrists are the Deplorables
Robert Hunziker
Is Paris 2015 Already Underwater?
Arshad Khan
Will There Ever be Justice for Rohingya Muslims?
Jill Richardson
Why Women Don’t Report Sexual Assault
Dave Clennon
A Victory for Historical Accuracy and the Peace Movement: Not One Emmy for Ken Burns and “The Vietnam War”
W. T. Whitney
US Harasses Cuba Amid Mysterious Circumstances
Nathan Kalman-Lamb
Things That Make Sports Fans Uncomfortable
George Capaccio
Iran: “Snapping Back” Sanctions and the Threat of War
Kenneth Surin
Brexit is Coming, But Which Will It Be?
Louis Proyect
Moore’s “Fahrenheit 11/9”: Entertaining Film, Crappy Politics
Ramzy Baroud
Why Israel Demolishes: Khan Al-Ahmar as Representation of Greater Genocide
Ben Dangl
The Zapatistas’ Dignified Rage: Revolutionary Theories and Anticapitalist Dreams of Subcommandante Marcos
Ron Jacobs
Faith, Madness, or Death
Bill Glahn
Crime Comes Knocking
Terry Heaton
Pat Robertson’s Hurricane “Miracle”
Dave Lindorff
In Montgomery County PA, It’s Often a Jury of White People
Louis Yako
From Citizens to Customers: the Corporate Customer Service Culture in America 
William Boardman
The Shame of Dianne Feinstein, the Courage of Christine Blasey Ford 
Ernie Niemi
Logging and Climate Change: Oregon is Appalachia and Timber is Our Coal
Jessicah Pierre
Nike Says “Believe in Something,” But Can It Sacrifice Something, Too?
Paul Fitzgerald - Elizabeth Gould
Weaponized Dreams? The Curious Case of Robert Moss
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail