In the very early days of Hillary Clinton’s tenure at the State Department, top agency officials signed off on a plan to allow the then-secretary of state to use a “stand-alone PC” set up on a non-departmental computer network system so that she could check her personal email account.
The emails, which were obtained by the watchdog group Judicial Watch through a lawsuit, are the first to show how the State Department decided to allow Clinton to avoid using a state.gov email account.
In the email chain, dated Jan. 23-24, 2009, Clinton’s chief of staff Cheryl Mills asks Lewis Lukens, the former deputy assistant secretary of state and executive director of the secretariat, about her and Clinton’s use of Blackberries and about accessing email through a “non-DOS [Department of State] computer.”
She also told Lukens that she spoke to someone else at State about “setting up Counselor office for HRC so she can go across hall regularly and check her email.”
The idea was well received by Lukens and by Patrick Kennedy, the under secretary for management.
Lukens responded to Mills the next day, informing her that IT staffers “will set up the office across the hall as requested.”
“Also think we should go ahead (but will await your green light) and set up a stand alone PC in the Secretary’s office, connected to the internet (but not through our system) to enable her to check her emails from her desk.”
At that point, Kennedy weighed in, asserting that “the stand-alone seperate [sic] network PC is on on [sic] great idea.”
Huma Abedin, Clinton’s deputy chief of staff, added to the conversation, writing: “Yes we were hoping for that if possible so she can check her email in her office.”
Lukens did flag one issue, the emails show.
“I talked to cheryl about this. She says problem is hrc does not know how to use a computer to do email — only bb,” he wrote, referring to Clinton’s Blackberry device. “But I said would not take much training to get her up to speed.”
The State Department has remained tight-lipped about who at the State Department approved Clinton’s use of a personal email account. Her exclusive use of the HDR22@clintonemail.com address allowed her to flout Freedom of Information Act requests throughout her tenure at the State Department and for nearly two years after she left.
But the new emails show that “the State Department was well aware that Mrs. Clinton was using a ‘non-state.gov’ system to conduct official government business,” Judicial Watch wrote in court papers filed in a lawsuit being handled by District Court judge Emmett Sullivan. “This evidence also shows that the senior management at the State Department knowingly aided Mrs. Clinton in establishing and using a ‘non-state.gov’ system.
The watchdog also argued in the court documents that the new emails show that there is “reasonable suspicion” that Clinton and the State Department “deliberately thwarted FOIA by creating, using, and concealing the ‘clintonemail.com’ record system for six years.”
“These emails are shocking,” Judicial Watch president Tom Fitton said in a statement. “They show the Obama State Department’s plan to set up non-government computers and a computer network for Hillary Clinton to bypass the State Department network”
“That these records were withheld from the American people until now is scandalous and shows the criminal probe of Hillary Clinton’s email system should include current and former officials of the Obama administration.”
One question that still remains unanswered is when State Department officials outside of Clinton’s inner circle became aware that she was also using a home-brew email server that resided at her house in Chappaqua, N.Y. Emails from Aug. 2011 show that Kennedy was included in an email chain in which Clinton’s email server was openly discussed.