FBI Report: Hillary Clinton is Ignorant of Computers, but Not Ignorant of Secrecy

I have taken the time over the last 24 hours to read the FBI report in its entirety and digest it before writing a post about it. Many of the more sensational aspects of the report have already been covered here and elsewhere, including the fact that Team Clinton somehow allowed over a dozen Blackberries containing classified information to just get “lost” after Clinton was done using them, and that their idea of information security consisted of destroying a couple of Clinton’s old phones with a hammer.

But I tried to read the whole report with an open mind with respect to the Clintons’ explanations of how this bizarre situation came to pass. Overall, many of the report’s claims about the Clintons’ low-level understanding of computers are eminently believable. You can believe that for the large part, after giving some broad-brush direction to their aides, the Clintons relied almost entirely on staff to control and manage their email system, and were largely ignorant of almost everything that went on behind the scenes on a personal level.

Liberals and other defenders of Hillary have focused on these aspects of the reports, and I think by and large they paint a relatively convincing picture of the Clintons having either no or almost no personal involvement in either the creation or maintenance of their email system, and if you squint you can almost see a picture of a couple who relied on some bad advice from aides and/or who put misplaced trust in people who they believed to be more competent in the world of computers than they were.

But you have to squint to see it, because while the report tends to exonerate the Clintons on their knowledge of the technology that was housed under their noses, it also paints a clear picture that the desire for secrecy came directly from the Clintons themselves. It is clear that Bill and Hillary personally and intentionally requested that others set up a private email server with the specific intent of maintaining control over what emails were subject to be turned over in response to lawful records requests. Given this clearly set tone and direction, it follows that the consequences flowing from people carrying out their orders in a largely incompetent fashion have to land in the lap of the Clintons themselves.

For example, a useful reminder in the context of this discussion is that the server itself was set up at the request of Bill Clinton, who wanted a private email on which he could conduct business with the understanding that he would not have to turn those records over to anyone. The decision to place Hillary’s email on the same server rather than on the government server can only have been understood to have been motivated by the same desire.

 

Further, the report makes clear that Hillary was asked to use official department email provided by State, but explicitly refused and stated that she would be using her own email:  

There are other clear indications throughout the report that the Clintons were actively engaged in aggressively hiding information even from the FBI, such as when they misleadingly turned over an old email server to the FBI instead of the server that currently housed Clinton’s email system:

And also, there were indications that the Clintons themselves were not totally clueless in terms of technology, or at least had been taught to parrot some of the right words pertaining thereto:

On some occasions, the Clintons simply did not know enough about the technology they were using to avoid being extraordinarily careless with classified information:

 

In other words, there are some real indications that the Clintons had at best a not-very-tech-savvy lay person’s understanding of the workings of the Internet and email in particular. I suspect that if Hillary Clinton had any idea of what could be recovered from an abandoned Blackberry, she would have taken at least some steps to ensure that they were disposed of properly – especially given the extraordinary step of having set up the private server in the first place.

But the Clintons did not lack for sophistication or understanding in terms of secrecy or their official record-keeping obligations. In fact, they were probably two of the most knowledgeable people on the planet about them, and they clearly wanted to maintain their own handle of control on these obligations. Their ignorance of (or indifference to) the possible security implications of that decision never even registered a blip on their radar, even when they were specifically alerted to potential problems by State Department personnel.

Clinton’s defenders are acting like Clinton is vindicated because she didn’t mean to expose classified information to foreign powers, but this is classic Clintonian misdirection. No one has said Clinton erred intentionally, but rather recklessly, which is quite frankly good enough for jail time (for most people), when it comes to classified information. Contrary to exonerating her, the FBI’s report proves what Clinton’s most vociferous detractors have been saying: if she were any ordinary person, she would doubtless be in jail.