emptywheel

Hillary Clinton’s Three Devices

I really don’t want to get bogged down in the Hillary email story. But given the ongoing discussions about whether claims she used the personal server to avoid oversight have merit, I did two more things. First, I did this timeline. Without going into too much detail, there are decisions made after requests for emails that suggest avoiding oversight was driving some of this. That’s especially true given the conflicting stories from Paul Combetta pertaining to his actions in late 2014 and March 2015; he ended up deleting Hillary’s emails after being informed of the House Oversight request for them. He may have only revealed that with an immunity deal.

The other detail I want to focus on is the number of devices Hillary had. Hillary defenders often point to her claim that she used the Blackberry for convenience to claim she surely wasn’t avoiding oversight. But I think the FBI report shows that she had three devices, not just one.

Most of the attention on the number of her devices focuses on the fact that she had 13 serial BBs, none of which were handed over to the FBI (instead of her actual BBs,, Williams & Connolly turned over two other BBs, though without SIM or SD cards).

It is true that her 13 BBs were used serially, not at once, which makes Hillary Clinton just like Tom Brady in her serial use of phones: she’s just a famous person who likes to swap out her phones all the time. The difference being that Tom Brady was told he didn’t need to keep his phone, whereas Hillary was under record-keeping obligations even before any investigation started. And Brady at least had had his comms reviewed by lawyers before he deleted his phone.

But it’s not the 13 BB detail that poses problems to Hillary’s single device claim. It’s this passage.

screen-shot-2016-09-08-at-5-14-21-am

Justin Cooper, the Bill Clinton staffer who ran much of the tech in the Chappaqua basement, says that Hillary used both a Blackberry and a flip phone for calls. Huma Abedin and Cheryl Mills dispute that, though in terms that leave some wiggle room (curiously, FBI apparently didn’t ask Monica Hanley, who bought all of Hillary’s Blackberries). There were 2 phone numbers Hillary used, the latter of which only became the Blackberry number after her tenure as SoS. But footnote 8 reveals that there were 4 mobile devices that used what appears to be the second number during her tenure as SoS. This seems to indicate that Cooper is right: Hillary had both an email phone and a series of 4 telephony phones, the latter of which were not email capable.

The footnote makes clear FBI didn’t pursue these telephony phones because they were, by definition, outside the scope of an email leak investigation (which is one of the many reasons one needs to come to this report with an understanding of the narrow scope of the investigation). But any use of flip phones would not be outside the scope of an FRA investigation, because they undermine Hillary’s claim that she adopted the BBs for singe-device convenience.

Then there’s the passage on page 9 that shows there were also 5 iPads that were potentially used for emails, 3 of which were turned over to the FBI (indeed, one of them actually had draft emails from 2012). This suggests that at least during 2012, Hillary had still another device: 3 devices, not 1. She may not have used the iPads for email throughout her tenure, but she did, apparently, use them in some sense.

Finally, there are two more mysterious devices that aren’t accounted for: a personally-owned computer in both of Hillary’s 2 household SCIFs. Amid the discussion of those SCIFs (including the detail that both were not secure at times, which undermines claims that her only SCIF violation was bringing her BB just inside the State SCIF) is this detail.

According to Abedin, Cooper, and [redacted] there were personally-owned desktop computers in the SCIFs in Whitehaven and Chappaqua. Conversely, Clinton stated to the FBI she did not have a computer of any kind of the SCIFs in her residences. According to Abedin and Clinton, she did not use a computer, and she primarily used her BlackBerry or iPad for checking e-mails.

There is admittedly another conflict in the testimony here, between every aide asked and Hillary, but given that even Abedin and Hillary’s [redacted] staffer say there were personally-owned computers in the SCIFs, I tend to believe it.

But Abedin says Hillary didn’t use them, and I sort of believe that too. But that raises questions about 1) why personally-owned computers were in the SCIF in the first place, which is surely also a violation of SCIF rules, especially if Hillary didn’t use them, but also 2) who was using them. The passage also makes it clear Hillary’s aides had access to the SCIF so perhaps they were?

In any case, we can’t be certain given the redactions and conflicting testimony, but according to my count, Hillary probably had three parallel devices during her tenure as Secretary of State: her BB, a flip phone, and an iPad (the latter of which may or may not have been regularly used for comms, though it was at least briefly in 2012), as well as two SCIF desktops that she personally didn’t use.

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

5 replies
  1. bevin says:

    At risk of sounding like a ‘fan’, thank you for this and all your posts. they are invariably useful and honest. You are an island of common sense, plain speaking and decency in an ocean of …well, a notoriously polluted ocean.

  2. Evangelista says:

    When Hillary Clinton was working for the U.S.Government she was working for the world’s largest corporate subsidiary. She was also working for the world’s most powerful client-state. She was a decision-maker and a decisions-advocate in her capacities at the corporate subsidiary, and not so in her capacities as an official of the client-state.

    On both counts she needed to check with superiors before decision making or advocating. She needed to affirm impending decision-making with ‘Corporate’ or various ‘Corporate’ officers, and receive and communicate changes in positions, circumstances and conditions effecting conditions and receive instructions from the United States’ primary-state decision-makers in matters where she was representing.

    Hillary Clinton needed private, off-record means to send and receive in courses of dealings where she was sending and receiving ‘private’ and ‘attorney-client’ privileged information from those outside the United States government for whom she was working.

    These facts, and this data were clear from the moment Hillary Clinton set up her ex-parte email system. Anyone with two hands and enough fingers to put two and two together could not help recognizing that there needing to be a need for a doing of something already set up to be, and being, done in a regular way in different way, need for off-record (used to be called ‘sub rosa’) communicating with important to represent confidential handlers would be the only possibility making all the duplicative extra work necessary.

    Of course change to a new device would be required, together with decommission (destruction) of the previous like device, each time a ‘sensitive’ communication occurred, where no existing, or at least connectible, or too readily connectible, record would be required.

    The record of thirteen devices indicates twelve “destroy after” class communications, with the thirteenth likely being an “over and out” to advise com-pipe closing.

    The deduction required to work through the above logical sequencing is so fundamental no investigator of any grade, working for any agency, including even a governmental one, could have failed to recognize it, and recognize it early enough in sequencing to have to make a continue-don’t continue decision to carryon through, or jump off, the luge: “Goddamn, Boss, I fell off the right side on the right turn right outa the gate and I broke my right arm, so I couldn’t do any more that was right… So to not do wrong I walked myself back to the start and found me another line to work…” What this paragraph means is that the FBI, and the dedicated Mr. Comey, are complicit and participant; couldn’t not be, seeing as the technique is the most common in the book.

    All the rest is flash-bang, blinders, smoke, mirrors, bullshit and HUA entropy (aka ‘diving for cover’).

  3. Desider says:

    I had a 5.5″ touch phone and a tiny Nokia feature phone I would sometimes carry together – if I needed just to talk, the tiny phone was easy to pull out and discreet. If Hillary were to do emails on 2 phones, she’d need 2 larger Blackberries or an iPhone or some extra 4.5″+ device, not a tiny stick/flip phone.
    A laptop in the secure area Hillary didnt use might have been for server management (I assume the admin wasnt hooking up to VT100 or standing at the server console, and he shouldnt bring in external device)

    • Desider says:

      Make that desktop, not laptop, in the SCIF. Same difference, though with desktop you know it’s not walking in and out tje door.

  4. martin says:

    “I really don’t want to get bogged down in the Hillary email story. But ….”

    BUT…
    right.

    Meanwhile, one of the most profound stories of the Two Tiered POLITICAL inJustice system ever perpetrated in the history of the United States, continues to infect the very nature of what every US soldier has died for to protect. This whole charade, from Clinton to Comey to Feinstien, to Bolder, Cheney, to Clapper to Alexander to a vast cast et al theater of the absurd has now proved beyond a shadow of doubt the United States citizenry are the DUMBEST FUCKING MORONS ON THE FACE OF THIS PLANET.,

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