In Nov. 2010, Hillary Clinton rejected a suggestion made by her top aide, Huma Abedin, that she begin using a government email account, saying that she did not want to risk making her personal records “accessible.”
The suspicious exchange is one of several damning pieces of new information contained in a report from the State Department’s office of the inspector general. It also seems to undermine Clinton’s claim that she used an off-the-books email system merely for “convenience.”
The long-awaited watchdog report also shows that Clinton’s server was apparently subject to hacking attempts in 2011. It also shows that a top State Department official who is refusing to talk to Congress about Clinton’s email arrangement instructed department IT staffers not to ask questions about her server because it had been approved by the office of legal affairs. The setup never was approved by that department, however.
Regarding Clinton’s Nov. 2010 refusal to adopt a government email account, Abedin emailed Clinton to tell her that emails from her personal account were not being received by others in the department.
“We should talk about putting you on state email or releasing your email address to the department so you are not going to spam,” wrote Abedin in the email.
The document is suspiciously absent from the trove of Clinton records published on the State Department’s website this year and last. It is unclear if Clinton turned over the email or if the State Department included it on its website but redacted the exchange.
Clinton shot down Abedin’s idea, writing: “Let’s get separate address or device but I don’t want any risk of the personal being accessible.”
The Democratic presidential front-runner never did use a government-issued account. She relied solely on a non-government BlackBerry to send and receive emails.
That exchange preceded by several months one that Abedin had with Stephen Mull, who then served as executive secretary at State. (RELATED: Emails: Clinton Aides Resisted State Department Suggestion That Clinton Use State.gov Account)
In that Aug. 2011 exchange, which The Daily Caller reported earlier this year, Mull discussed Clinton’s “malfunctioning” email server and suggested to Abedin that she be issued a state.gov email account.
The account “would mask her identity” but would also “be subject to FOIA requests,” Mull wrote.
But Abedin rejected the idea, saying that it “doesn’t make a lot of sense.”
That exchange, as well as the one unveiled by State’s IG, suggests that Clinton and company sought to avoid making her emails available to the public. Clinton has denied accusations that she operated a private email system in order to avoid oversight.
The State IG report is sharply critical of Clinton and her email practices.
The report notes that Clinton “should have preserved” her emails and also “surrendered all emails dealing with Department business before leaving government service.” Instead, Clinton held onto the records for nearly two years after she left State in Feb. 2013.
“Because she did not do so, she did not comply with the Department’s policies that were implemented in accordance with the Federal Records Act,” the report states.
But not only did Clinton’s decision to use a secret email system flout federal regulations, it posed cyber security risks, the watchdog determined.
Some of those threats were direct and are disclosed for the first time in the report.
On Jan. 9, 2011, the Bill Clinton aide who registered the clintonemail.com domain — a longtime staffer named Justin Cooper — “notified the Secretary’s Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations [Huma Abedin] that he had to shut down the server because he believed ‘someone was trying to hack us and while they did not get in i didnt [sic] want to let them have the chance to.'”
Cooper wrote another email to Abedin later in the day stating that, “We were attacked again so I shut [the server] down for a few min.”
Abedin emailed another top Clinton aide the next day urging them to not email “anything sensitive” to Clinton. She also offered to “explain more in person.”
Those exchanges raise questions because Clinton has publicly said that there is “no evidence” that her server was hacked.
Another incident arose on May 13, 2011. Clinton received an email that day containing a strange hyperlink sent from the personal account of Bill Burns, the then-under secretary of state for political affairs.
“Is this really from you? I was worried about opening it!” Clinton wrote to Burns the next day.
As the IG notes: “Department policy requires employees to report cybersecurity incidents to IRM security officials when any improper cyber-security practice comes to their attention.”
“However, OIG found no evidence that the Secretary or her staff reported these incidents to computer security personnel or anyone else within the Department,” the report reads.
When State Department IT staffers expressed concerns about Clinton’s private system, they were rebuffed by top agency officials, the watchdog found.
Two staffers within the State Department’s information resources management office of the executive secretariat expressed concerns with the set up during separate meetings with John Bentel, the director of information resources management at the office of the executive secretariat at the time.
“According to the staff member, the Director stated that the Secretary’s personal system had been reviewed and approved by Department legal staff and that the matter was not to be discussed any further,” the report reads, noting that the investigation found no evidence that anyone within the State Department had reviewed or approved Clinton’s personal system.
“According to the other S/ES-IRM staff member who raised concerns about the server, the Director stated that the mission of S/ES-IRM is to support the Secretary and instructed the staff never to speak of the Secretary’s personal email system again,” the report reads.
Bentel, who has reportedly denied knowing about Clinton’s server, recently entered the national news after he rejected a request to meet with Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Chuck Grassley to discuss his role at State. The now-retired Bentel hired Randy Turk, a powerful Beltway attorney, to represent him.
In the 1990s, Turk represented a Bill Clinton White House aide who was embroiled in the so-called “FileGate” scandal. The Clintons’ friends and allies contributed to a legal defense fund for the aide. (RELATED: ‘Filegate’ Attorney Represents State Dept. Official Who Is Silent On Hillary’s Emails)
The report also notes that Clinton’s failed to meet her “obligation to discuss using her personal email account to conduct official business” with State’s chief information officer and assistant secretary for diplomatic security.
But even if Clinton would have met with the officials, they “would not” have approved her exclusive reliance on a personal email account to conduct State Department business “because of the restrictions in the [Foreign Affairs Manual] and the security risks in doing so.”
The report also includes new information about the arrangement between Clinton and Bryan Pagliano, the 2008 campaign staffer who was hired by State’s IT department in May 2009.
The report notes that Pagliano’s immediate supervisors, the chief information officer and their deputy, believed that Pagliano was solely working on “supporting mobile computing issues across the entire Department” and not on Clinton’s server.
“They also told OIG that they questioned whether he could support a private client during work hours, given his capacity as a full-time government employee,” reads the report.
Clinton’s lawyers said that Pagliano was compensated “by check or wire transfer in varying amounts and various times between 2009 and 2013.”