Quiet ending for inquiry into Hillary Clinton e-mails

The nine-page unclassified report appears to bookend a controversy that dogged former secretary of state Hillary Clinton.
The nine-page unclassified report appears to bookend a controversy that dogged former secretary of state Hillary Clinton.PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (NYTIMES) - A years-long State Department investigation into former secretary of state Hillary Clinton's private e-mail server found that while the use of the system for official business increased the risk of compromising classified information, there was no systemic or deliberate mishandling of classified information.

The inquiry, started more than three years ago, found that 38 current or former State Department officials were "culpable" of violating security procedures in a review of about 33,000 individual e-mails sent to or from the server that Clinton turned over to investigators.

The nine-page unclassified report, completed last month and shared with Congress this week, appears to bookend a controversy that dogged Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign against Donald Trump.

Clinton blamed the FBI's handling of the inquiry for crippling her campaign after James Comey, then the bureau's director, reopened his investigation into the server days before the general election after initially declining to bring charges.

"While there were some instances of classified information being inappropriately introduced into an unclassified system in furtherance of expedience," the report said, "by and large, the individuals interviewed were aware of security policies and did their best to implement them in their operations."

The report concluded: "There was no persuasive evidence of systemic, deliberate mishandling of classified information."

A representative for Clinton declined on Friday (Oct 18) to comment on the report.

State Department investigators reviewed thousands of pages of documents, sent from 2009 to 2013, when Clinton served in the Obama administration.

The e-mails were on subjects that were not considered classified at the time, but that have been or were retroactively marked as classified.

 

Investigators also took statements from hundreds of past and present department officials, and interviewed dozens more, according to the report.

The focus of the investigation, according to the report, was to determine if any of the e-mails "represented a failure to properly safeguard classified information", and if so, if any specific individuals could be determined to bear responsibility.

It is unclear whether any of the 38 officials the report found culpable of violating security procedures still work at the State Department.

The office overseeing diplomatic security would make a note in the file of employees or former employees found to have violated those procedures, and those who have left government could have a harder time receiving security clearances if they apply for a government job again.

The use of a private e-mail system "did not necessarily" increase the likelihood of classified information being transmitted on unclassified systems, investigators concluded, but it did add "an increased degree of risk of compromise".

The report was released this week by Senator Charles Grassley, who began investigating Clinton's use of a private e-mail server in 2017, when he served as the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Not included in the review were e-mails deleted by Clinton after her lawyers advised that they were private and not related to official business.