“No intentional misconduct”

PZ Myers says that we should just put aside any controversy over Hillary Clinton’s private email server, since the FBI probe announced there was “no intentional misconduct” on the part of the former Secretary of State. It was “sloppy,” he says, “not criminal.”

What he glosses over there is the fact that “sloppy” is criminal, as a number of others have found. There’s also evidence that her testimony contained a number of false statements regarding her use of an unsecured email server for transmitting classified information, and that at least some of the evidence has been not only deleted from the hard drive, but scrubbed clean with special forensics-defying tools designed to prevent even the FBI from recovering the information.

PZ warns us against “focusing once again on a ‘controversy’ ginned up by right-wing liars,” but there’s more here than just a “ginned up” controversy. If anything, we ought to be even more concerned by left-wing liars than by those on the right. (Especially if they’re also unwilling to reveal the extent of their ties to the reckless and unscrupulous business interests that dragged our economy to the brink of collapse near the end of GWB’s second term.)

I’ve worked in government, and I know the kind of security policies they have in place, and the attention they pay to making sure that people with security clearances know what they need to do to keep information secure. It is beyond reasonable imagining that Hillary spent 8 years as First Lady, and 4 as Secretary of State, without sitting through at least one security briefing.

What bothers me the most about this is not just that she disregarded standard security procedures, but that she (and those around her) seem to regard herself as being too important to be held accountable for obeying the laws that apply to other people’s lives and conduct. This kind of elitism isn’t just tone deaf, it invites comparisons to the Nixon presidency.

Now is not the time for liberals to try to pull some kind of PR cover-up*, because doing so will only reinforce the mistrust and hostility that feeds into Donald Trump’s popularity. I’m glad Trump is tanking in the polls, but I worry that (a) people might vote differently than they respond on polls and (b) Trump might not need a traditional campaign if his opponents do his campaigning for him. And putting Hillary Clinton above the law stands a good chance of accomplishing exactly that.

*Note: and just to clarify, I’m speaking of liberals in general—I’m sure PZ has no intention of trying to promote any Nixonesque cover-ups here. Nevertheless, if we say we should try and brush off this issue, and ignore the serious questions and evidence regarding Hillary’s conduct, we run the risk of achieving the same effect as a deliberate cover-up, and that’s a possibility we should take pains to avoid.


  1. says

    What he glosses over there is the fact that “sloppy” is criminal, as a number of others have found.

    OK, I am finding myself a bit confused here. I followed your link and that article says the following:

    Stephen Vladeck, an American University law professor and national security law expert, said it would be a stretch, based on what’s now known, to think Clinton could be charged under existing statutes for her behavior. The few relevant laws on the books almost certainly weren’t written with this situation in mind.

    “This is an area where the government tends not to test the margins too often,” Vladeck said.

    It’s not uncommon for workers with access to classified material to mishandle it, and by far the bulk of those cases don’t attract the attention of federal prosecutors.

    But when the Justice Department does pursue a case, it often relies on a statute that bars the unlawful removal and retention of classified documents. That low-level charge, meant for cases in which defendants improperly hold onto information that they know to be classified, carries a fine and maximum yearlong prison sentence and is reserved for people who have “really, really screwed up,” Vladeck said.

    The article also mentions the slap-on-the-wrist David Petraeus received for what seems to be worse behavior than Clinton’s. Other examples in the article talk about people receiving fines, but no jail time.

    As far as crimes go, this doesn’t sound to be something that Clinton would have had to serve jail time for if they had determined the activity were criminal. Wrapping this back around to your point of being careful of a “PR cover-up,” I’m not sure how this could really be avoided. I have heard a few people insist that Clinton should be put in jail for this, but the article you link suggests otherwise. If I were to point to such an article and say, “Yeah, she probably should at least be fined for the bad behavior” to the types of people who are so anti-Clinton, I would suspect them to take such information as still trying to protect Clinton from the punishment they believe she deserves. So what would you have us do?

    • Deacon Duncan says

      I don’t think I said anything about jail time either, but I do think the delegates to the Democratic convention ought to ask themselves if this is really the person they want to appoint as their standard bearer for the next 4-8 years. I know delegates are pledged to specific candidates, but it seems like it would be easier to ask questions now and perhaps make some tough choices now, as opposed to wishing they could do so after the election when it will be much, much more difficult.

      • StevoR says

        Thing is it is after the election though. The primary one anyhow.

        Hillary Clinton won the race to become the Democratic Party’s Presidential nominee clearly and fairly and by a pretty wide margin.

        Don’t you think it would be extremely undemocratic, unfair and against the wishes of the voters to now try and reverse that decision and replace her at the last minute? After all, how would you feel if they were doing this (or even trying or threatening this) to Sanders instead of Clinton in a reversed scenario where he had hypothetically won – which in reality of course he didn’t?

        I think it just smacks of sour grapes and the email (non-)issue has been examined carefully by the experts and declared closed just as Benghazi has been and other such things. Even Sanders stated early on that he doesn’t think people should worry about it. So, shouldn’t it be dropped and shouldn’t we just focus in stopping Trump become POTUS now, please?

        If not now, then when?

      • Deacon Duncan says

        Bernie has endorsed her, and I’m willing to follow his lead, but I can’t see any good come of it.

      • StevoR says

        Isn’t stopping Trump intrinisically a good thing or cause in itself and won’t it be good for the USA to finally have a female President?

        I really don’t know why so many on FTB seem so set against Hillary Clinton, too many of the smears against her have stuck I guess. Yes, a few have tried to explain to me why they think so but I find their arguments very unconvincing and weak.

        Hillary Rodham Clinton is a tough, brave, intelligent, pro-science, pro-healthcare (remember back when Bill Clinon was President and she really fought for that long before Obama emerged on the scene?) and feminism and social justice person and I think she’ll be an very good POTUS. MegaParsecs better than the nightmare of Trump presidency which is now the only alternative.

  2. says

    I’m sure a nice big fine would have trigger several big corporations to open their wallets. The real problem of course has always been Clinton’s sense of privilege which must have been stoked by someone before the primaries even began to make sure she ran without competition.

  3. Pierce R. Butler says

    If anything, we ought to be even more concerned by left-wing liars than by those on the right. (Especially if they’re also unwilling to reveal the extent of their ties to the reckless and unscrupulous business interests that dragged our economy to the brink of collapse near the end of GWB’s second term.)

    Serious accusation – with no specifics, evidence, or links. Just who & what do you mean (and please don’t try to say that either Clinton qualifies as “left-wing”!)?

    • Deacon Duncan says

      I was referring to Hillary’s refusal to release transcripts of her (well-paid) speeches to some of the major banks, which I assumed was fairly common knowledge. But if you want to insist that neither Clinton is genuinely left wing, you’ll get no argument from me.

      • Pierce R. Butler says

        Well, we do already know “the extent” of HRC’s ties to, e.g, Goldman Sachs ($225K per talk, plus some high-dollar incidentals, and of course the megabuck campaign contributions). However, I agree that the words she gave them in return really should reach the public – and before November, please.

        But your “left-wing” allusion really did confuse me as to whom you meant. Do we have anybody except B. Sanders in US political life who matches that profile?

  4. Holms says

    It’s not an accusation so much as a cautionary point, that we should be watchful for dishonesty not only from our political opponents, but especially from our allies, as a lie that we want to believe is the hardest to detect.

  5. says

    At least a minority of people are in a psychotic panic that Hillary Clinton’s moral failures are all Bernie Sanders’ fault and if it weren’t for Bernie, Republicans could not possibly have known at all that Hillary is anything less than perfect. The tiniest suggestion is enough to make Drumpf’s election inevitable in spite of the enormous evidence that he’s only the nominee at all because Republicans in general are in self-destruct mode. I point of course to Duane Graham’s Erstwhile Conservative blog.

  6. blbt5 says

    Hillary’s bureaucratic screw-ups, whether intentional or not, have nothing to do with feeding hungry people, getting jobs for the unemployed, reversing the cancerous economic inequality or stopping climate change. Nor have they harmed or robbed anyone. I’ve worked in government too, and it’s widely understood to be massively overclassified: the avalanche of leaks from Snowden and Manning caused no one harm nor the slightest pause of government function or gridlock. Justice is all about harms and damages, not crossing some arbitrary lines. You sound like you’ve lost sight of the real stakes of human struggle, which will be dealt a massive setback if Trump gets into office.

  7. Brian Utterback says

    (something is wrong with your Google and WordPress login methods. I had to use Yahoo)
    What I think you and the others highly critical of Clinton are missing (and what I think is the real story here) is that both the FBI and the OIG found that Clinton’s treating of classified material was basically the same throughout the entire State Department. All Secretaries of State walk in with unknown knowledge on how to be SofS, so they get a staff to advise them, some of whom are specifically tasked with making sure the rules and regulations are followed. The State Department also has a auditing department whose job it is to double check that the rules and regs were followed and correct it if they are not. Both Powell and Clinton walked into a dysfunctional system that was preventing them from doing their jobs and did what was necessary to get their jobs done. And both created systems that did not technically follow all of the rules. Arguably Powell did more actual damage than Clinton did in that omission. The point is, the State Department views getting its work done as an existential need while the rest is just bookkeeping and I can’t say they are wrong, but I can say that it needs to be fixed. but focusing on Clinton when she just followed the culture she was in is just wrong.

  8. says

    There now appears to be some question as to whether the server was wiped with forensic tools or whether the files were deleted and normal filesystem activity reclaimed some of the freed space and overwrote disk blocks.

    It appears to me that the FBI has access to someone who’s going over the drive with a tool like Encase. But it does not appear to me that Clinton’s system admin or anyone else used a low-level file eraser like Rose Marie Woods did when she “accidentally” overwrote Nixon’s tapes (later analysis determined that Woods “accidentally” recorded over that region 12 times using a circuit made with a ballast resistor from a flourescent light)

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