Hillary Clinton Demanded NSA Change Secure Device Rules to Accommodate Her Secret Server

Hillary Speaking Nicholas Kamm Getty
Nicholas Kamm/Getty

A new trove of documents unearthed by Judicial Watch with a Freedom of Information Act request sheds more light on the Clinton email scandal, revealing that Hillary Clinton demanded changes to the National Security Agency’s protocols so she could use her smartphone and secret email server.

Judicial Watch describes a chain of emails that show Clinton demanding the use of a secure smartphone just like the one given to President Barack Obama:

Clinton’s desire for a secure “BlackBerry-like” device, like that provided to President Barack Obama, is recounted in a series of February 2009 exchanges between high-level officials at the State Department and NSA. Clinton was sworn in as secretary the prior month, and had become “hooked” on reading and answering emails on a BlackBerry she used during the 2008 presidential race.

“We began examining options for (Secretary Clinton) with respect to secure ‘BlackBerry-like’ communications,” wrote Donald R. Reid, the department’s assistant director for security infrastructure. “The current state of the art is not too user friendly, has no infrastructure at State, and is very expensive.”

Reid wrote that each time they asked the NSA what solution they had worked up to provide a mobile device to Obama, “we were politely told to shut up and color.”

Resolving the issue was given such priority as to result in a face-to-face meeting between Clinton chief of staff Cheryl Mills, seven senior State Department staffers with five NSA security experts. According to a summary of the meeting, the request was driven by Clinton’s reliance on her BlackBerry for email and keeping track of her calendar. Clinton chose not to use a laptop or desktop computer that could have provided her access to email in her office, according to the summary.

A common Clinton talking point is that her predecessors had email arrangements similar to her own. That’s an absurd assertion on its face, since no other SecState ever tried to route all official correspondence – and emails from aides – through an unsecure homebrew server kept in a personal residence.

Judicial Watch blows another hole in this talking point by noting that previous Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and her staff were given waivers to use BlackBerries during the Bush Administration… but the NSA explicitly stopped issuing such waivers before Clinton’s arrival, due to security concerns. The State Department’s NSA liaison expressed security concerns in response to Clinton’s request, but the details are currently being kept secret by the State Department.

“These documents show that Hillary Clinton knew her BlackBerry wasn’t secure,” said Judicial Watch president Tom Fitton. “The FBI and prosecutors ought to be very interested in these new materials.”

Fox News notes that the very nature of a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility (SCIF) forbids using wireless communications devices on the premises, because smartphones are basically portable security breaches. It’s like bringing a bucket of fried chicken into the clean room of a bioweapons laboratory.

According to Fox, current and former intelligence officials “grimaced” when presented with the idea of Clinton or her aides bringing smartphones into secure facilities.

“Anyone who has any appreciation at all of security, you don’t ask a question like that,” cybersecurity analyst Morgan Wright said of Clinton’s request for a smartphone. “It is contempt for the system, contempt for the rules that are designed to protect the exact kind of information that was exposed through this email set up… When you allow devices like this into a SCIF, you can allow the bad guys to listen in.”

Various intel and State Department officials interviewed by Fox News claimed they didn’t realize how extensively she planned to user her personal email account, and didn’t know she would handle classified documents on her smartphone – something she denied doing, until overwhelming evidence to the contrary accumulated.

There are also conflicting claims about whether a safe area outside the secure compartmented facility at the State Department was created so Clinton could safely use her personal phone, and whether or not she ever used it, if such a space was provided.

Writing at the Observerformer NSA analyst John R. Schindler foresees a possible war brewing between Clinton and the NSA, especially if a politicized Justice Department quashes a solid FBI criminal referral against her.

Schindler suggests it could end up in a “leak-fest of a kind not seen in Washington, D.C. since Watergate,” if irate FBI and NSA officials start handing “Clintonian dirty laundry” over the press. He says intelligence officials are nursing some bad memories about their “bureaucratic showdown” with Clinton, who was basically demanding the same cool toy Obama got, like a spoiled brat:

The State Department has not released the full document trail here, so the complete story remains unknown to the public. However, one senior NSA official, now retired, recalled the kerfuffle with Team Clinton in early 2009 about Blackberrys. “It was the usual Clinton prima donna stuff,” he explained, “the whole ‘rules are for other people’ act that I remembered from the Nineties.”

Why Ms. Clinton would not simply check her personal email on an office computer, like every other government employee less senior than the president, seems a germane question, given what a major scandal EmailGate turned out to be.

“What did she not want put on a government system, where security people might see it?” the former NSA official asked, adding, “I wonder now, and I sure wish I’d asked about it back in 2009.”

He’s not the only NSA affiliate with pointed questions about what Hillary Clinton and her staff at Foggy Bottom were really up to—and why they went to such trouble to circumvent Federal laws about the use of IT systems and the handling of classified information. This has come to a head thanks to Team Clinton’s gross mishandling of highly classified NSA intelligence.

Schindler writes at length about one particular Clinton email he has spotlighted before – an intelligence report on Sudan from Clinton’s shady henchman Sidney Blumenthal, who was expressly forbidden by the President from playing any role whatsoever at Clinton’s State Department. Schindler is absolutely certain Blumenthal lifted material from highly sensitive NSA documents, classified at the highest level, which he could not possibly have legal access to. One current NSA official said Blumenthal copied a Top Secret/Special Intelligence document “word-for-word.”

At the dawn of the email scandal, Hillary Clinton gave a press conference where she insisted she made these incredible demands on the State Department and NSA for her trifling personal convenience – she just didn’t want to carry two wireless devices around, one for private email and the other for secure material.

If that was true, it would be one of the most breathtaking acts of sheer selfish irresponsibility ever taken by an American public official… but of course nobody seriously believes it’s true, especially not after learning how many serious intelligence officials tried to stop her from doing it, how much advice she had to ignore in order to proceed, how much expense was incurred, and how many protocols were violated along the way.


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