Is Hillary’s Long-Delayed Server Surrender a Head Fake?

Kevin Lamarque AP

You have to give Hillary Clinton this much: she and her political team (which includes much of the mainstream media) fight spin warfare down to the trenches. Throughout her email scandal, she’s lied furiously and retracted quietly, giving up every tiny inch of truth only after a vicious battle.

At every step of the way, she and her friends and former employees in the media have worked to erase the memory of her intransigence and obfuscations. She’s forced to give up little nuggets of information… but instantly recasts herself as a champion of transparency who “gave” whatever was taken from her voluntarily, as though she were handing out cookies to good little congressional investigators, inspectors general, and federal law enforcement agents.

Wednesday’s desperate spin, which is unlikely to last beyond Thursday, is that Clinton suddenly decided to hand over her secret email server, and the thumb drive full of email data her lawyer has been hoarding, out of the goodness of her bountiful heart. That was too much for Ron Fournier of National Journal, who is probably still cleaning Cheerios off his computer monitor:

As Fournier wrote at greater length, the illusion Clinton and her loyal media pals are attempting to create is a “ridiculous” load of “bunk,” because back in March, Clinton was thundering that her server would remain private forever, even as Congress demanded a review of her machine by independent technicians to discover (a) what she’s been hiding, and (b) how much of it might have been taken by hackers and foreign spies.

On the first point, Fournier comes right out and says the FBI might find more classified material sprinkled through recovered copies of the emails Hillary deleted in defiance of subpoena, because she deemed them “personal” missives about yoga, party planning, and the like. He also wonders what new revelations about Benghazi and the “intersection of Clinton Foundation donors and State Department business” might emerge. I would add that some uncomfortable truths about how recklessly Clinton handled these sensitive communications may be exposed, such as her long-rumored failure to encrypt her emails properly.

What are the odds that such devastating information remains on Clinton’s server, or on the thumb drive her lawyer David Kendall has finally surrendered to the FBI?

Clinton and her crew have had a long time to work those electronics over and destroy incriminating evidence, which is one of the reasons people who destroy subpoenaed documents are generally presumed guilty. The FBI is still supposedly working on “the logistics of the handover” before agents take physical possession of Clinton’s server. We’re talking about a machine that would not be difficult for a small group of people to move, not a towering doomsday super-computer that stretches hundreds of feet into the sky. Do those “logistical” issues involve signs of physical tampering with the computer?

Computer security experts have varying opinions about the possibility of data recovery from thoroughly-scrubbed hard drives and storage media. The amount of time given to Hillary’s team for cleansing these devices is so long that total vaporization of the data seems possible… but her IT people have also made some major blunders in the past, which is one reason the idea of top-secret classified material flowing through her server is so terrifying.

While we’re on that subject, we might learn a few interesting things about Clinton’s tech-support crew by reviewing her server’s usage logs. We still don’t know much about the people who set up and maintained this system, what sort of security clearance they had, and whether their activities were tracked as closely as a proper State Department team would have been.

There is a positively interstellar gap between the security procedures surrounding the mail system Secretary of State Clinton was supposed to be using, and the home-brew system she cooked up. That gap is of particular relevance now that we know her system was processing top-secret classified information. Maintaining operation security around a big multi-user mail system – remember, Clinton’s aides were using it too – is a daunting task; plugging security leaks is akin to quarantining a virus.  There has been no indication Clinton’s team was equal to this task.

There is also the question of whether the work done on Hillary’s private server would be as responsive to congressional inquiry and Freedom of Information Act requests as the official State Department system and its support personnel are.  As they say in the computer industry, to Clinton that’s a feature, not a bug.

Maybe the absurdly delayed handover of Clinton’s equipment is another head-fake in the spin wars, meant primarily to give her a talking point about how committed to transparency she is, and set up an opportunity to crow that her “partisan” tormentors overreached again when nothing new is found on the thoroughly sanitized hardware.

Rest assured that if you, dear reader, are ever suspected of destroying subpoenaed documents, it won’t take six months for law enforcement to confiscate your computer. (Unless, of course, you happen to be Chelsea Clinton, or some other scion of the corrupt Ruling Class.)

As for that thumb drive, current reporting suggests it contains only the 30,000 or so emails Clinton didn’t decide to classify as “personal correspondence” and destroy.  Up until a few days ago, Clinton World assured us her lawyer David Kendall was also a super-spy with all the security clearances necessary to handle the former Secretary of State’s email.

All of a sudden, that’s not true, as the Associated Press reports: “Kendall gave the thumb drives, containing copies of roughly 30,000 emails, to the FBI after the agency determined he could not remain in possession of the classified information contained in some of the emails, according to a U.S. official briefed on the matter who was not authorized to speak publicly.”

It has always been curious indeed that Clinton dropped boxes full of dead-tree hardcopy printouts on Congress, while handing a thumb drive with vastly more convenient electronic copies of the email (which she is technically required to surrender to Congress and the State Department) off to her lawyer. The obvious reason for bombing Congress with paper copies was to drag the story out until Clinton’s supporters in the mainstream media could declare it dead of old age. It takes a lot of time and effort to comb through all those printouts and get them uploaded in a scanned, searchable format.

There’s another reason for handing over printouts: it gave Clinton one last chance to edit her correspondence. Will the comparison between that finally-secured thumb drive and the records she gave Congress reveal any discrepancies? Is there some meta-data in those emails – information about sender, recipient, and transmission method – we weren’t supposed to see?

Presidential candidate and Wisconsin governor Scott Walker acted quickly to put the evolving situation in context on Wednesday morning:

Bottom line: unresolved questions are the acid in which national security dissolves.

The answers to such questions are time-critical; like any other acid, they do more damage with prolonged exposure. For no good reason whatsoever, Hillary Clinton left the national security of the United States dangerously exposed, and her stonewalling tactics have burdened this country with additional months of uncertainty… months during which a new story about massive hacking attacks by foreign operatives have appeared with fearsome regularity.

The reason for having the security policies Clinton so recklessly ignored is to prevent us from being put in the position where we can only cross our fingers and hope the damage has been contained. The Justice Department and intelligence community should have acted far more quickly and decisively to contain that damage, no matter how many political headaches it caused for the front-running Democrat presidential candidate.

If Clinton is not held to account for what she has done, the damage to our security procedures going forward will be incalculable. How many other politicians will decide top-secret classifications are mere suggestions, to be discarded at the whim of D.C. aristocrats? Even if one is actually gullible enough to believe the story Clinton gave about not wanting to carry two small portable electronic devices to check her official mail, she’s saying that she caused all this chaos for a matter of minor personal convenience. There are people serving time for less serious offenses who have more plausible excuses.