Although Hillary Clinton and her allies may be claiming that her private e-mail system is no big deal, Hillary’s State Department actually forced the 2012 resignation of the U.S. ambassador to Kenya in part for setting up an unsanctioned private e-mail system. According to a 2012 report from the State Department’s inspector general, former U.S. ambassador to Kenya Scott Gration set up a private e-mail system for his office in 2011.
The inspector general’s report offered a scathing assessment of Gration’s information security practices — practices that are eerily similar to those undertaken by Clinton while she served as Secretary of State:
Very soon after the Ambassador’s arrival in May 2011, he broadcast his lack of confidence in the information management staff. Because the information management office could not change the Department’s policy for handling Sensitive But Unclassified material, he assumed charge of the mission’s information management operations. He ordered a commercial Internet connection installed in his embassy office bathroom so he could work there on a laptop not connected to the Department email system. He drafted and distributed a mission policy authorizing himself and other mission personnel to use commercial email for daily communication of official government business. During the inspection, the Ambassador continued to use commercial email for official government business. The Department email system provides automatic security, record-keeping, and backup functions as required. The Ambassador’s requirements for use of commercial email in the office and his flouting of direct instructions to adhere to Department policy have placed the information management staff in a conundrum: balancing the desire to be responsive to their mission leader and the need to adhere to Department regulations and government information security standards. The Ambassador compounded the problem on several occasions by publicly berating members of the staff, attacking them personally, loudly questioning their competence, and threatening career-ending disciplinary actions. These actions have sapped the resources and morale of a busy and understaffed information management staff as it supports the largest embassy in sub-Saharan Africa.
The inspector general’s report specifically noted that Gration violated State Department policy by using a private, unsanctioned e-mail service for official business. In its executive summary listing its key judgments against the U.S. ambassador to Kenya who served under Hillary Clinton, the inspector general stated that Gration’s decision to willfully violate departmental information security policies highlighted Gration’s “reluctance to accept clear-cut U.S. Government decisions.” The report claimed that this reluctance to obey governmental security policies was the former ambassador’s “greatest weakness.”
Criticisms of Gration came from both sides of the political aisle. Liberal commentators took him to task for jeopardizing American security by insisting on the use of a private e-mail system. A 2012 dispatch from The New Republic about Gration’s resignation specifically noted that Gration’s e-mail gambit “put classified information about the U.S.’s operations in East Africa at a higher risk for exposure”:
Over the objections of State Department officials, Gration insisted on doing business on his personal laptop and through his Gmail account, according to the former officer. This put classified information about the U.S.’s operations in East Africa at a higher risk for exposure—consider an incident in June 2011, when hackers in China broke into numerous Gmail accounts belonging to senior U.S. officials. (China, for what it’s worth, has an enormous presence in East Africa.)
In a report filed shortly after his resignation, the Washington Post also recounted Gration’s myriad security violations as U.S. ambassador, noting that Gration had “repeatedly violated diplomatic security protocols at the embassy by using unsecured Internet connections.”
The New York Times wrote that Gration “preferred to use Gmail for official business and set up private offices in his residence — and an embassy bathroom — to work outside the purview of the embassy staff.”
The Associated Press found that Clinton’s private e-mails were “traced back to an Internet service registered to her family’s home in Chappaqua, New York.”
Hillary Clinton and her team have thus far remained quiet about the security and encryption standards employed on her private e-mail server. However, at least one person who e-mailed Clinton using her private address was hacked in 2012 by a pseudonymous hacker known only as Guccifer. That hack was the first time Hillary’s secret private e-mail address was revealed to the public.
Although Clinton claimed on Twitter last evening that she “want[s] the public to see my e-mail,” she is yet to explain why to deliberately took steps for years to hide her e-mail from the public for years.
To date, neither she nor her team have released any e-mails that she sent or received while serving as U.S. Secretary of State.