The FBI, “painstakingly” reassembling emails scattered to the digital wind by device abandonment, multiple server upgrades, lawyers’ brute-force attempts to separate personal emails from work-related emails, and a general lack of professionalism across the board, found that Clinton’s private email server contained :
- 110 classified emails in 52 chains
- 8 top secret emails
- 36 “secret” emails
- 8 “confidential” emails
All were clearly designated as such at the time sent or received. Additionally, another 2,000 emails had been “up-classified” to confidential after being sent or received.
It also found several work-related emails Clinton’s staff did not include with the 30,000 handed over to the State Department for release to FOIA requesters.
There was no built-in archival function in Clinton’s private server setup, a basic feature considered essential by professionals. This slowed the FBI’s investigation as it was forced to reconstruct emails from the digital detritus left behind by “routine purging” and device deactivation.
As noted above, Clinton’s lawyers made several efforts to delete “personal” emails, but they did so by using searches and header info, rather than actually reading the emails’ content. The FBI did read the content of what it could recover, finding it likely that some work-related emails vanished during these purges. It also discovered Clinton hired some smart lawyers: “lawyers cleaned their devices in such a way as to preclude complete forensic recovery.”
But at the end of it all, the FBI found Clinton’s use of private email server to be severely stupid, rather than criminal. Comey says the FBI found no signs of “intentional misconduct” by lawyers during personal email deletions or routine purges. Likewise, there was “no clear evidence of intentional misconduct by staffers,” but Clinton’s emails were “clearly mishandled.”
The FBI’s final conclusion is damning, but only in terms of harsh words, not actual punishment. Clinton and her staff “knew or should have known” a private email server was “no way to properly handle classified email” — especially when housed on private server with “no full-time staff” or anything approaching the level of service one would equate with email services like Gmail. Comey also noted that Clinton used her personal domain “extensively” outside of the US, needlessly exposing sensitive information in the “presence of hostile actors.”
James Comey also took a little time to bash her agency, stating that the FBI found the “security culture” of the State Department to be “lacking.”
But for anyone who was hoping this would result in criminal charges, the FBI has nothing in the way of good news. Comey says it’s not the FBI’s call to pursue prosecution, but stated that “no reasonable prosecutor would bring such a case” against Clinton, despite her repeated careless handling of sensitive info via her barely-competent private email service.
Final call, according to Comey: Clinton, staffers may be subject to security or administrative sanctions, but “no [criminal] charges are appropriate” in this case.
Clinton walks. The FBI has determined there was no malice in her actions. Being stupid and dishonest is no crime, at least not as far as the FBI is willing to push it. The DOJ has the final call, but it’s highly unlikely it will override the FBI’s recommendation. The decision is one that people in Clinton’s position are far more likely to receive. Others lower on the political ladder — or, god forbid, just average voting Americans — are far less likely to receive this much deference from the nation’s top prosecutors.