Hillary Rodham Clinton has 2.95 million followers on Twitter. Plenty, considering that she’s only tweeted 132 times and only follows nine twitterers. The latter are family members, institutions and offices, strictly related to her work. For her Twitter avatar, Clinton uses an old photo that has now become an internet meme. The picture shows Hillary wearing dark glasses, staring at her Blackberry. It was taken on Oct. 18, 2011, inside a C-17 military plane ready to make the trip from Malta, in the Mediterranean Sea, to Tripoli, Libya. Clinton, then Secretary of State, was visiting the country just a few days before Colonel Muammar Gaddafi got killed by rebels. And yet, it seems that the State Department has no other record of this visit. The House Committee, which is investigating the Libya situation, is pressing the State Department and Hillary Clinton because they want to know why the panel has no emails from the day the photo was taken.
Why on earth did Hillary Clinton not like her State Department email address? It would presumably be something simple, like this: firstname.lastname@example.org. Instead, on the very day she swore in as the new Secretary of State, she created a completely new email under the name “HDR22@ClintonEmail.com” – the “HDR” standing for “Hillary Diane Rodham.” Instead of using a government server for her emails, the former Secretary of State used a server that operated from the basement of her family house in Chappaqua, where the Clintons installed their own hardware. There could be thousands of justified reasons why Hillary Clinton wanted to make sure that she could control all her correspondence. Trusting the institution of State Department was not one of them.
Was a private email address part of negotiations before she accepted the role of Secretary of State? Was she really convinced that she could secure and protect her emails better than federal technicians? We have no solid proof to say such a thing, but the very fact that she installed a parallel system of communication illustrates how cumbersome political dynasties can be when they take part in the federal government. So let’s presume that during her four years of serving in the State Department, Clinton always had an eye on presidential elections in 2016. She was a hard-working Secretary. She beat all the travelling records, flying a record number of miles and meeting with the most world leaders of any Secretary of State. She was fun. For four years she never got involved in domestic affairs, and she obviously enjoyed being away from Washington. This much was clear from the photos of her dancing in a nightclub in Africa while sipping beer from a bottle. As she started travelling more frequently, she became less careful about her hair style. Somehow she became more natural and human, no longer following strict protocols. It was Hillary’s second spring, and she couldn’t care less about showing all her travelling and aging wrinkles.
The American media loved it. She became one of America’s most beloved politicians. And yet, a more detailed analysis of her work showed that her hyperactivity did not actually improve America’s position in the world. This was in part thanks to the fact that President Obama held his cards close to his chest and always preferred the Pentagon as a channel to implement foreign policy. The rivals from 2008 Democratic primaries did not forget their hostilities, even when they were working together. Sweet and kind in public, Obama and Hillary continued to surveil each other.
As more and more voices surface in this latest Clinton scandal, the story will continue to develop deep into the forthcoming presidential campaign. However, it is incomprehensible how not a single member of the Obama administration noticed Hillary Clinton using a private email while heading one of the most important posts in the U.S. government. After the New York Times broke the story, Obama said that he was not aware of Clinton using a private email address. He made it sound as though the secret service simply forgot to inform him. But Obama admitted that he and Clinton were exchanging emails directly. And why would the secret service allow him to exchange emails with an address they weren’t already familiar with?
But security is just one issue in the debate on this scandal. While she obviously did not break any law, she ignored instructions of federal administrations. Clinton has a political responsibility in safeguarding the access to relevant official documents and information she obtained as Secretary of State (not as a private citizen). During Clinton’s time as Secretary, the State Department received at least half a dozen FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) requests for her emails covering various issues. But Clinton operated a private server out of her home, and her emails were not accessible to the FOIA analysts tasked with processing the requests. Even the State Department has failed to produce any records in response to the requests, some of which date back five years.
The personal email account alone won’t stop Hillary Clinton from running for office in 2016, but several issues that came from it might. Gawker’s John Cook, for example, noticed an email discrepancy from two years ago. And the Columbia Journalism Review compiled an overall review of issues involved in this scandal. CBS Report also provides some interesting technical, logistic and legal aspects of this story. Last but not least, Business Insider explains why Republicans might pursue this story.
Last Tuesday, Hillary Clinton held a 20-minute long press conference in which she justified the use of private email address as more convenient. It is easier to handle one smart phone instead two, she said. This defense line, similar to the one her husband used during Lewinsky scandal, proves that Hillary has very little experience with technology. Why would one need two or three smartphones to open email inboxes with different email addresses? Even more worrisome is the fact that Clinton has already destroyed half of the 60,000 emails she considered irrelevant to the federal administration. She claimed that those emails were referring to her yoga classes and her daughter’s wedding, and that they were therefore not relevant to the public authorities. She also said that she will not allow inspection of the server in the basement of her family house.