Hillary Clinton

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Clinton Server May Yield Deleted Emails
| published September 13, 2015 |

By Thursday Review staff

Even as the Department of Justice says that it can find no specific law which would have prevented then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton from deliberately deleting emails which she said were personal, other investigative bodies are still looking into that now infamous server.

Platte River Networks, the Denver-based IT firm which managed Clinton’s private server for part of the period during and after her tenure as top diplomat, says it has no knowledge that the server was “wiped” of information, though it make no claims to what happened to the server before or after it took possession. Platte River turned over the server to FBI in August, but is now telling investigators and the FBI that none of its employees actually completed the task of “wiping” the machine, a term used to describe the systematic removal of digital information stored on the server, including emails, attachments, files and programs.

The process of wiping a server or a computer often precedes the destruction or trashing of a computer, and is a frequently recommended step when someone gives away, sells, or donates a computer. Among other things, this step reduces the risk that personal information or private material is inadvertently passed along to someone else.

Platte River has told authorities that is simply has no firm record showing that the server was wiped, nor that it was ever officially asked to perform a final clean-up on the machine. This revelation may mean that the roughly 31,000 emails which Clinton and others deleted from the server may still be intact, though it will be for computer forensic experts to determine how to reclaim the deleted data.

Clinton used a privately-crafted email account and a homebuilt server as a platform for her email correspondence while she served as Secretary of State from early 2009 to 2013. Clinton acknowledges deleting thousands of emails from the account before she left the State Department in 2013. The current front-runner for the Democratic nomination has told reporters and investigators that the choice to use the private email account was one of convenience, and not as a tactic to avoid accountability.

Clinton and her campaign team have sought to downplay the growing controversy, and have attempted to dismiss the fracas as a mostly partisan attack. But the email and server issue has become a major distraction for the campaign, opening a path for Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders in both Iowa and New Hampshire, two states where he now leads Clinton in most polls.

Emails can often be easily deleted from an account, but, as computer experts have often pointed out, merely deleting an email is no guarantee that the correspondence has been permanently or completely deleted from the digital record. Computer analysts and IT experts can often reconstruct emails even after that have been deleted from a particular account or device, and depending on the type of account used, emails may still exists in alternate platforms. Furthermore, Clinton’s server may still contain underlying and background data which might enable forensic experts to reconstruct many, or all, of the missing emails.

Platte River’s recent acknowledgement to the FBI—that the firm was never asked to wipe the server, nor does it have any record that it did so—could prove to be another strange twist in what has become a major political saga, and also an issue which Clinton and her campaign team would like to go away.

The server at the center of the controversy was housed for a period of time inside the Clinton home in Chappaqua, New York. During that time, Clinton opted to defer using an official State Department email account, and used instead a privately crafted email account with the same extension as email accounts used by the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation. The emails were sent and received through a local internet service in the area of the Clinton home, and used a billing address at a Post Office Box.

During part of the same time a State Department employee and Clinton confidante, Bryan Pagliano, was paid approximately $5,000 to maintain the server and manage the email account for Clinton. Pagliano, who was subpoenaed to appear before a Senate committee regarding the email controversy, has said it will not testify, invoking his constitutional right to not incriminate himself.

Platte River Networks executives recently told reporters that the company regrets having landed the Clinton email and server contract. Company spokespersons have said that the Clinton email imbroglio has spilled over into the small Denver company's business operations, and has made it difficult for its employees and managers to remain focused on existing clients and jobs.

Related Thursday Review articles:

Clinton Paid State Department Staffer to Maintain Server; Thursday Review; September 6, 2015.

Lessig Announces Presidential Bid; Thursday Review; September 11, 2015.