Thursday, March 12, 2015

Clinton's email spin-control, and the questions that nobody is asking

Fact check: Clinton e-mails and the privacy 'privilege'
[...] Clinton, a likely presidential candidate in 2016, has been embroiled in an e-mail controversy since March 2, when The New York Times reported that she exclusively used a private e-mail account at to conduct government business. At a press conference on March 10, Clinton said she sent and received more than 60,000 e-mails during her time in office. At the State Department's request, Clinton turned over about half of them to the government in December. The rest were deleted because they were personal, she said.

Asked whether she would agree to allow an "independent third party to come in and examine your e-mails," Clinton replied that she should be treated no differently than federal employees who have a government e-mail account and a personal e-mail account. They can decide when they send an e-mail whether to use the government or private account.

"So, even if you have a work-related device with a work-related .gov account, you choose what goes on that," she told reporters.

That's true, of course, but the situation she describes is not entirely analogous, since Clinton had no government account. She made the choice to use only a personal e-mail account set up on a personal server.

Moreover, Clinton's office went too far when answering the same question in a Q&A it released on the day of the press conference. The Q&A detailed the Clinton team's review process and answered some common questions that have been raised since the Times story first appeared.

One of the questions in the Q&A: "Do you think a third party should be allowed to review what was turned over to the Department, as well as the remainder that was not?" Clinton's office answered, in part: "Government officials are granted the privacy of their personal, non-work related emails, including personal emails on .gov accounts. Secretary Clinton exercised her privilege to ensure the continued privacy of her personal, non-work related emails."

That characterization of the rules governing government e-mail systems is not accurate.

State Department policy — spelled out in the Foreign Affairs Manual under "Points to Remember About E-mail" — says there is "no expectation of privacy." Specifically, 5 FAM 443.5 says, in part: "Department E-mail systems are for official use only by authorized personnel" and "The information in the systems is Departmental, not personal. No expectation of privacy or confidentiality applies."

Clinton is correct that the department policy allows employees to delete e-mails that are not work-related. The 5 FAM 443.5 rule also says, "Messages that are not records may be deleted when no longer needed."

But Baron — who served 13 years as director of litigation at the National Archives, which is responsible for maintaining government records — said in an interview that Clinton's use of a private server gave her exclusive control, thus preventing the department from having full access to e-mails she sent and received while a federal employee. Government employees have no right to privacy on government computers and even personal e-mails are subject to review and perhaps release at the department's discretion.

"Setting up a private server to conduct public business inappropriately shifts control of what is accessible to the end user alone rather than allowing the institution to decide threshold questions," he told us.

We sent e-mails to Clinton's office and to the State Department asking about the privacy claim but received no response. [...]
Read the whole thing for embedded links and more.

The article goes on to say that Clinton claims that she was emailing people in the State Department with .gov email accounts, and that they have copies of the emails she sent. Sure, the one's she sent to THEM. What about the other emails she sent other people, as Secretary of State? Ironically, her statement also confirms something else. The people in the State Department that she was emailing, knew that she was not using a .gov account, and they just let her do it anyway. Why was she allowed to do this?

If this were a Republican being investigated, the press would be asking those people, "What did you know and when did you know it? Why was she allowed to break the rules her position required her to follow?" Will the press do so this time? If they don't, then WE need to.

ALL politicians, regardless of party affiliation, need to be questioned and held accountable for their actions, if we are to get better people in office. Clinton has been let off the hook so many times, she just keeps on acting as if she has privileges no one else has. Why? Because too many people let her do it. And that just encourages more of the same. It has to stop.


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