aNewDomain — A reliable source tells me that yesterday’s overview of the nascent scandal surrounding the news that Hillary Clinton exclusively used a private email account during her tenure as Secretary of State during President Obama’s first term has been discussed among campaign insiders.
I closed my piece as follows:
If I were advising Clinton, I would get ahead of this.
Even if she’s right – that no one told her, and she had no idea that, she was supposed to preserve her emails – she shouldn’t say so. What she should do is issue a semi-apology: “Honestly, I’m not really sure whether I was supposed to save all those emails or not. My top priority was security; I didn’t want hackers to get into national security secrets. But the main point is, public records belong to the public and need to be preserved whether they exist in analog or digital form. I will work with my staff and with federal officials to try to find every single email I wrote during my term as Secretary of State, and of course turn them over to the National Archives. I am proud of my record, so of course I have nothing to hide.”
It might not hurt to show a sense of humor that also might shore up her liberal base. Something along the lines of “maybe I’ll ask my friends at the NSA whether they kept any of my stuff.”
Did Hillary take my advice?
Late yesterday afternoon, Clinton asked the State Department to release about 50,000 pages of government business-related emails sent from her personal account. “I want the public to see my email,” she tweeted. “I asked State to release them. They said they will review them for release as soon as possible.”
Smart move, though she now needs to clarify whether that’s all of the emails, or just some of them.
Among the more serious ramifications of this practice, and one that raises questions about the Democratic presidential frontrunner’s commitment to transparency and ethics, is that she used nongovernmental electronic communications in order to avoid Congressional oversight, judicial subpoenas, and Freedom of Information Act requests.
There have been two major developments during the last 24 hours:
According to the New York Times, staffers and family members in what Washington insiders call “Clinton World” viewed email addresses bearing Hillary’s clintonemail.com domain as a status symbol for the cool kids. “Obtaining an account from that domain became a symbol of status within the family’s inner circle, conferring prestige and closeness to the secretary,” the paper reports. Watergate it is not, probably not even Whitewater. Still, it’s an unattractive image that contributes to the framing of the Clintons as insular and elitist.
More seriously, it wasn’t just the domain. The servers themselves for the domain were set up at the Clintons’ private house in Chappaqua, New York. To say the least, the setup was an open invitation to hackers interested in national security secrets. A cybersecurity expert with Trend Micro told the paper that “her use of her own email server instead of her government account, with its built-in security systems, would be akin to her leaving her bodyguard in a dangerous place.” Democrats, traditionally vulnerable on national security issues, could face the accusation in 2016 that former Secretary of State Clinton put her privacy and political ambitions ahead of the need to protect the American people.
If anyone in Clinton World is reading, now would be the time to call off the Democratic Party surrogates and retire the lame talking points they’ve been floating unsuccessfully over the last couple of days.
Whether or not EmailGate metastasizes into a campaign-killing scandal has yet to be seen, but the fires are still burning brightly at this writing. Angered by the news that they were repeatedly stonewalled in a series of failed Freedom of Information Act requests, the Associated Press is threatening legal action – it is unknown whether the defendant would be the State Department, Hillary Clinton, or both. Lawsuit or no, many in the media – natural allies for a Democrat – are offended by what appears to be a systematic program of denying the fourth estate and thus the American people their right to know what their government is doing in their name and at their expense.
For aNewDomain, I’m Ted Rall.