Clinton’s Missing Emails: Critical Documents Deleted
| published June 26, 2015 |
By Thursday Review staff
Hillary Clinton would like to concentrate primarily on running for President, her preferred mode for more than two years. But according to the Associated Press and other news reports, problems related to emails she sent and received while she served as the top U.S. diplomat continue to dog her campaign.
At issue this week are more than a dozen emails with content related to the terror and militant attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, a disaster which left Americans dead or wounded on September 11, 2012—the anniversary of 9/11. According to sources at the U.S. State Department, at least 15 emails cannot be found, exchanges between Clinton and her longtime political advisor Sidney Blumenthal. The missing emails also contained copies of intelligence reports and other crucial documents related to events in Libya in the late summer of 2012, and prior to the attack on the American facility.
Officials at the State Department say that the missing emails are among the thousands which were sent or received by the former First Lady using a homebrew server and a privately crafted email account. State Department officials have not indicated if they believe that the emails were deleted by Clinton, but Clinton has told reporters that she personally vetted emails—perhaps as many as 60,000—and made the decision herself as to whether they could be deleted or saved.
Republicans in Congress pounced on the questions surrounding the missing emails as prima face evidence of Clinton’s disregard for accountability and honest recordkeeping. Some in the GOP have said that Clinton’s decision to delete emails was little more than an attempt to conceal her conversations and correspondence regarding the Benghazi attacks. Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), chairman of the House Select Committee on Benghazi, has said that Clinton broke the law by deleting emails without the intervention of someone from State and without a third party present to insure a full accounting.
“This confirms doubts about the completeness of Clinton’s self-selected public record,” Gowdy told reporters, “and raise serious questions about her decision to erase her personal server…especially before it could be analyzed by an independent, neutral, third party arbiter.”
Clinton and her campaign staff have repeatedly said that she has provided all pertinent and relevant emails from her tenure as Secretary of State, a job she accepted when President Barack Obama took office in 2009. The Clinton campaign this week reiterated that Hillary Clinton has turned over some 55,000 emails for examination by the State Department “including all emails in her possession from Mr. Blumenthal.”
During her tenure at the State Department, Clinton chose to avoid using the official government email platform and State Department servers. Instead, she had a separate, off-campus server built—known by techies as a homebrew server—and created a private set of email accounts. The server was housed not in Washington but in the Clinton’s private home in New York. According to Clinton, she regarded the arrangement as safe and secure since the property was guarded 24 hours a day by a contingent of Secret Service agents and security personnel. Clinton told reporters earlier this year that she preferred the convenience of using her own personal email account during that time period. Neither Clinton nor the State Department disclosed the email and server arrangement until earlier this year, after Clinton had long departed from her offices at State and well into the early stages of her run for the Presidency.
Clinton may have deleted as many as 62,000 emails from the private email account. Another 55,000 were not deleted, and the State Department—after receiving an order from a federal judge to make them readily and quickly available—has been slowly releasing the relevant parts of Clinton’s correspondence from the time she served as the country’s top diplomat. Clinton has said she only deleted those emails of a personal nature, and did not delete any email which contained official government or State Department correspondence.
Republicans in Congress are skeptical of Clinton’s claims, and members of several committees have pressed for a deeper, more thorough investigation into the email and server issues. The scandal has created an ongoing distraction for Clinton and her campaign staff as she enters the opening months of what will surely be a long campaign season between now and November 2016. Clinton is the presumed front-runner for the Democratic nomination, and she has raised more money than any other candidate, Republican or Democrat. Currently there are 13 Republican candidates and five Democrats.
According to the Associate Press, which has pressed for access to Clinton’s emails and other official correspondence, the crucial 15 missing emails contained conversations regarding the weeks and days prior to the attacks in Benghazi, and included exchanges between Blumenthal and Clinton about the fall of Muammar Gadhafi, the murder of one of his sons, and the potential for violence among some Libyan rebel groups. Many of the emails from Blumenthal which have been viewed by investigators read very much like detailed intelligence reports, triggering concerns by some on Capitol Hill that Clinton was routinely disclosing classified information to a political advisor with no background check and no clearance for sensitive or top secret intelligence. All told, there are about 121 pages of emails between Blumenthal and Clinton now under scrutiny by members of Gowdy’s select committee.
Clinton has said she is committed to transparency regarding her tenure at State, and she held a press conference earlier in the spring explaining her “unfortunate decision” to use a private email account and an offsite server for official business. At that time she asked that the State Department release all remaining emails, but the officials at State said they had neither the time nor the resources to make all emails available on the timetable being requested by reporters and news organizations. Only after a federal judge intervened in the scandal did the State Department agree to release some of the emails on an accelerated timetable.
Political watchers say that Republicans are looking for a “smoking gun,” any correspondence which might show culpability or complicity in the poor decision making which some believe precipitated and even encouraged the militant attacks in September 2012. In the hours and days after the attack, the State Department and the White House explained that the attacks were a spontaneous violent reaction to a low budget, anti-Muslim film trailer then making the rounds on the internet in the United States. The attacks were in fact a highly coordinated assault by well-armed militants using heavy weaponry. Critics of the Obama administration’s foreign policy have said that the attacks should have been anticipated, and that security at the consulate was inadequate.
Several political watch-dog groups—some conservative, some progressive—have pressed for full disclosure of Clinton’s emails. There are also lawsuits pending on the matter of Clinton’s use of a private email account and the use of a homebrew server, which are violations of federal rules and regulations regarding recordkeeping and the handling of official government documents.
Related Thursday Review articles:
Jeb Bush’s Alternate Email; Thursday Review staff; Thursday Review; March 25, 2015.
Clinton’s Homebrew Email Server; Thursday Review staff; Thursday Review; March 4, 2015.