10 things we learned about Clinton’s emails from the new FBI documents

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Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton answered questions at  press conference about her private email server on March 10 in New York. Yana Paskova/Getty Images

Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton answered questions at press conference about her private email server on March 10 in New York. Yana Paskova/Getty Images

To the tens of thousands of pages of emails and reports, the FBI Friday added another 58 important pages of documents to the dossier on Hillary Clinton’s use of a private server while working as secretary of state. (To read them yourself, click here and follow the links to “The Vault” to download the documents.)

Here are ten key takeaways we found:

Classified judgement. Clinton didn’t see emails about specific drone strikes as rising to a classified concern. For months, there have been questions about Clinton using her private email for tense, vaguely-worded discussions between State, the Pentagon and others over when to use drone strikes and whom to target. At the time, the U.S. generally did not acknowledge drone strikes. But the FBI summarized her words as saying that “deliberation over a future drone strike did not give her cause for concern regarding classification.” And that she added as further argument, that there were “many conversations about drone strikes that never occurred.”
(See pg 3 of Clinton interview, pg 6 of FBI report summary.)

Clinton said she thought small classified markings were something else. When asked if she understood the “C” markings beside some paragraphs, Clinton told the FBI she assumed they indicated alphabetical ordering. (See pg 8 of FBI report summary.)

Colin Powell emailed about how he “got around” the official record. The FBI states that former Secretary of State Powell emailed Clinton in 2009 saying that if her use of a Blackberry became public, her emails could be subject to public record. He wrote, according to the agency, “I got around it by not saying much and not using systems that captured data.” (See pg 11 of FBI report summary.)

13 Individuals had direct email contact with Clinton’s private address while she was at the State Department. The FBI says this was a “limited” group and that they often would forward emails from others to Clinton, including emails from other State Department employees. The FBI did not give specifics, but it raises questions about whether this conflicts with Clinton’s assertion that as many as hundreds of State Department staffers used her private email address. (See pg 13 of FBI report summary.)

The FBI is not releasing the number of emails Clinton sent and received while outside the United States. It was redacted. It is not clear why this figure – describing the amount, but not content, of the most vulnerable set of emails – was redacted. Also redacted: Clinton’s birthdate. It’s Oct. 26, 1947. (See pg 14 of FBI report summary.)

The sorting of Clinton’s emails – what got released, what got deleted – was far from comprehensive. And no one asked Clinton to weigh in. This report gives new details on how Clinton’s emails were deleted or kept, writing that initially a single staffer sorted through tens of thousands of emails on her laptop by looking for those which came from a “.gov” or “.mil” address. She then searched for names of staffers, leaders or specific words like “Benghazi” and “Afghanistan.” Those were all considered “work” emails and put in a Microsoft Outlook folder for a second-round look. No one read the emails that did not come up in those searches, the FBI reports, and no one asked Hillary Clinton to help determine if any single email was official or not. (See pg 16 of the FBI report summary.)

Hackers did attack Clinton’s server. The FBI reports that in 2011, the staffer overseeing Clinton’s private server shut it down after seeing failed login attempts and interpreting it as a hack attempt. An FBI scan showed attempts to break into the system from external IP addresses over a longer period of time. The agency says one compromised an email account on the server (a staffer’s), but otherwise none seem to have been successful. (See pg 29 of the FBI report summary.)

Clinton received malicious emails, including one linked to a pornographic website and seemingly connected to Russian hackers. At some point, the FBI writes, Clinton received a phishing scam email from a State Department employee. She did not open the link, which was potentially malicious, but asked the employee if the email was legitimate. In another incident, Clinton wrote her aide Huma Abedin that she was worried someone “was hacking into her email” because she received an email with a link to pornographic website. The FBI found that the link would have launched a virus that would have sent the user’s information to at least three overseas computers, including one in Russia.

Clinton repeatedly said she was not trained in how to handle sensitive email information, including the president’s email address. Clinton repeatedly told the FBI that she “did not have guidance” or had not been trained in sensitive use of email, including on how to use the president’s email address. As she said publicly, Clinton insisted she relied on staff to forward appropriate, unclassified material. The FBI asked Clinton if she was aware that she herself was an Original Classified Authority who could determine classification. She replied that she was aware of that status but did not recall any training for how to use or how often she did use it.

Clinton used private email to communicate with POTUS while overseas, when email was more vulnerable. While this is not a surprise, as Clinton was in regular contact with President Obama, we now know that then Secretary of State Clinton emailed him directly at times when her communications were most vulnerable – on her overseas trips. The FBI found no evidence that cyber attackers benefitted, but also said they cannot rule it out. (See pg 2 of Clinton interview, pg 15 of FBI report summary)

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