isn't she a criminal for using a private email server?

Q: Isn’t Hillary a criminal because she used a private email server?

A: No, an intensive FBI investigation concluded that there was no criminal wrongdoing. On July 5th, FBI Director James Comey took the unprecedented step of publicly criticizing Hillary for her use of private emails. However, he went on to say that the FBI investigation showed that there was insufficient evidence of any criminal wrongdoing.

Q: Even if it wasn’t a crime, wasn’t it against Department of State regulations?

A: There were no regulations against using a private email server while Hillary was Secretary of State. During their investigation, FBI agents found there was “no restriction on use of personal email accounts for official business.”

Q: OK, if it wasn’t a crime or against the rules, she was still negligent and exposed government secrets to the world, right?

A: No. Consider these facts:

  • The three emails Hillary received containing classified information were not properly marked to indicate their sensitive content. FBI Director James Comey stated that the emails lacked the proper headers and banners indicating they were classified. He went on to say that it would be a “reasonable inference” to assume that the emails were not classified.
  • Hillary strongly preferred in-person conversations and printed documents to emails. Most of her communications were done outside of email. To put things in perspective, of the approximately 40,000 emails sent and received on the private servers, only 0.0048 percent of those emails were even in question.
  • Hillary used Sensitive Compartmented Information Facilities (SCIFs) throughout her tenure as Secretary of State. A SCIF is a secure area or room where sensitive information is viewed or discussed, and where secure telephone conversations are conducted. She even had SCIFs in her homes in Washington DC and Chappaqua, NY.

Q: If she had nothing to hide, why did she destroy her old phones?

A: If Hillary had a government-issued Blackberry, it would have met a similar fate at the end of her tenure. Old government phones are completely wiped clean and recycled, or they are destroyed. Jonathan Zdziarski, iOS forensics expert and security researcher, stated that if he were to destroy a Blackberry, he’d use “a blender and fire.”

Q: And why did she delete those 33,000 emails?

A: FBI Director Comey explained that very well in his testimony to Congress:

She actually had deleted some I think over time as an ordinary user would. And then the State Department contacted her and other former secretaries and said we have a gap in our records, we need you to look and see if you have e-mails and give them back. She then tasked her lawyers to engage in this review process of that 60 some thousand and make that cut and then was asked by her lawyers at the end, do you want us to keep the personal e-mails. And she said I have no use for them anymore. It’s then that they issued the direction that the technical people delete them.

Q: Didn’t the FBI reopen their investigation because of new evidence?

A: As a technical matter, FBI investigations are never closed. According to Kurt Eichenwald:

The disclosure by the [FBI] late on Friday, October 28 that it had discovered potential new evidence in its inquiry into Hillary Clinton’s handling of her personal email when she was Secretary of State has virtually nothing to do with any actions taken by the Democratic nominee, according to government records and an official with knowledge of the investigation,

Instead, Eichenwald states:

In a communication to bureau employees, Comey described his letter to Congress as an attempt to thread a needle – amend his testimony while not disclosing details of an ongoing investigation.

Since the director testified that they were done reviewing e-mails in that case, and since there were e-mails that may be related to that case, Comey thought it was necessary to update congress.

Q: Doesn’t this late change mean that Hillary Clinton and her allies withheld evidence from the FBI?

A: It does not. Eichenwald again explains:

There is no indication the emails in question were withheld by Clinton during the investigation, the law enforcement official told Newsweek, nor does the discovery suggest she did anything illegal. Also, none of the emails were to or from Clinton, the official said.

The e-mails found were on Anthony Weiner’s laptop in an unrelated investigation, which his then-wife and Clinton aide, Huma Abedin, used to send e-mails. Back in April, Abedin had explained to the FBI that she “transferred emails from her unclassified State Department account” to print them from there.

Q: But doesn’t a reveal this close to election mean that the FBI found something of significance?

A: Comey released another statement on Sunday, November 6 after further investigation of the emails on Anthony Weiner’s laptop. He says that nothing new has come to light, and upholds the FBI statement from July indicating no criminal wrongdoing.

NPR reports that the emails obtained were largely copies of ones already investigated earlier in the year.