Hillary Clinton told NBC’s Andrea Mitchell in an interview last week that she just didn’t think about things when she set up her private server to use exclusively as her official e-mail while secretary of state. She “was not thinking a lot when [she] got in. There was so much work to be done. We had so many problems around the world.” Understandably, she “didn’t really stop and think what kind of e-mail system will there be.”
So she didn’t think when she paid a former campaign staffer to build the server and set up “Clinton.com” e-mail addresses for herself and close State Department aides, including her deputy chief of staff Huma Abedin.
She didn’t think when she neglected to report her server to the Department of Homeland Security, as required by law, so DHS could audit the security of her system as part of its mission to protect the government’s Internet security.
She didn’t think, when she instructed all overseas State Department officials not to use private e-mail to conduct official business, that the same rule applied to her. Nor did she think too hard before firing an ambassador, in part, for using private e-mail to conduct official business.
She didn’t think when she operated that server and her e-mail addresses for several months without a security certificate, so that her communications were entirely unencrypted for even the least skilled of Chinese, Russian, and Romanian hackers to find.
She didn’t think when she gave her e-mail address to foreign diplomats, such as Tony Blair, who communicated with her in confidence about sensitive international matters over unsecure systems.
She didn’t think when her own diplomats and staff shared similar foreign communications and even satellite intelligence over unsecure e-mail systems.
She didn’t think to classify any of that information under the classification authority granted her by law. She just didn’t think that President Obama’s executive order on classification and her own State Department’s foreign-affairs manual — which presume that the disclosure of confidential “foreign government information” will harm the national security — applied to those e-mails.
She didn’t think to search any of her e-mails in response to countless Freedom of Information Act requests. And she surely didn’t think that congressional committees wanted her secret e-mails when they demanded State Department records in the days and months after the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi.
She didn’t think, when she resigned from the State Department, to return all of her federal records, like every other employee of the department is required to do.
She didn’t think, when she resigned from the State Department, to return all of her federal records, like every other employee of the department is required to do. As busy as she was, she couldn’t be bothered with attesting to the completeness of those records, again like every other employee is required to do.
She didn’t think to report a security breach to the State Department when her communications with Sidney Blumenthal — a secret adviser rejected from official State Department service by the Obama White House, but nonetheless paid on the side by Clinton’s foundation — were hacked by Romanian hacker Guccifer in 2013 and published online by Gawker.com.
She didn’t think about her obligations to protect the classified information on her server when she turned it over wholesale to Platte River Networks, a private Internet company that lacked proper security clearances.
She didn’t think when she continued to keep the existence of her server — and thousands of official e-mails — from the State Department and the public for almost two years after leaving office.She didn’t think when she let her lawyers decide which of nearly 60,000 e-mails were federal records required to be preserved by law.
She surely didn’t think when she directed her lawyers and aides to delete permanently half of those e-mails (more than 30,000) — so that no one would ever know what was in them.
And she also didn’t think to tell the truth in response to the public outcry.
You can hardly blame her. It was a lot not to think about.
— Shannen W. Coffin, who served in senior legal positions in the George W. Bush administration, practices law in Washington, D.C.