Boots & Sabers

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0628, 12 Jul 16

National Insecurity

My column for the West Bend Daily News is online. Here it is:

Late in 1971, the USS Halibut, a highly modified nuclear attack submarine, snuck through a shallow channel between the Kuril Islands into the Sea of Okhotsk. It was the middle of the Cold War and the Halibut was deep into the roaming territory of the Soviet Union’s Pacific fleet on a mission about which only a handful of people knew.

The Halibut was seeking an undersea communications cable no more than 5 inches in diameter that the Americans believed would be carrying unencrypted communications from Soviet military leaders in Moscow to their facilities in Petropavlovsk on the Kamchatka peninsula. The Americans found the cable and placed a tap on it that recorded communications for years. It was an intelligence coup that took a considerable amount of money, time, and bravado to achieve that reverberated for years during the Cold War without the Soviet Union, or most Americans, ever knowing it happened.

All that a hostile nation needed to intercept years’ worth of classified and unclassified communications of America’s Secretary of State was a mediocre hacker with a laptop sipping a latte at his local coffee shop. That is the reality that FBI Director James Comey made clear after concluding the investigation into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s email use.

The framework of Clinton’s email management has been known for some time, but the details are even more shocking. Against State Department rules and federal law, Clinton chose to set up and use a private email system for her official correspondence rather than using the secure system provided by the government.

According to the FBI, Clinton’s private email system included several servers and multiple devices — none of which had any more security than what is commonly used in the private sector. With this system, Clinton sent and received tens of thousands of emails. More than 100 of those emails were deemed classified at the time they were sent, which is in direct contradiction to Clinton’s statements.

Using her private email system, Clinton sent many of these emails while in nations that are hostile to the United States and using their networks. Barring utter incompetence by those foreign nations, everything she sent and received was intercepted. One hacker has already credibly claimed to have hacked Clinton’s email system and it is naïve to think that almost every sophisticated foreign power has not done the same.

Before turning over the emails from her private system to the government, as required by law, Clinton’s lawyers sifted through the emails even though they were not cleared to view classified material. Even though Clinton claimed that she had turned over all work-related emails, the investigation identified thousands of missing emails that Clinton did not turn over.

After all of that, Comey disgraced himself and his agency by not recommending charging Clinton because the FBI claims she did not intend to break the law. Instead, they said, she was simply “extremely careless.” The fact remains that America has been prosecuting people for breaching national security for as long as we have been a nation whether they intended to or not. The laws that Clinton broke do not require intent in order to be broken.

Even though intent is not relevant, it is clear that Clinton did intend to break the law. The mere act of setting up a private email system for her official communications was an intentional act to circumvent all of the laws that require her communications to be both secure and archived for future scrutiny. It was that scrutiny that she wanted to avoid. She wanted to hide her emails so that investigators and the public would only ever be allowed to see what Clinton allowed them to see. When Clinton was scrutinized by the FBI, she lied and obstructed the investigation. Clinton was far more concerned with the American public seeing her communications when she was a high official of our government than she was with our enemies seeing them.

The evidence is clear that America’s former Secretary of State intentionally and willfully concealed her communications, including classified emails, from any scrutiny from our government and the people while leaving those same communications exposed to being read by hostile powers. At best, she was criminally negligent. At worst, the intentionally subverted our national security for her own personal gain. Either way, she is a criminal.

And yet, a Democratic president with a Democratic attorney general have refused to charge the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee after their FBI director debased himself for them. In failing to charge Hillary Clinton for her actions, this administration has forfeited our nation’s security for the political ambitions of the Democratic Party.


0628, 12 July 2016


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