Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Hillary Clinton on Email in 2011: 'A Lot of Security Restraints on What I Can and Can’t Do'

    Hillary Clinton is under increasing pressure for her exclusive use of a personal email address during her four years as secretary of state. In October 2011, Mrs. Clinton was interviewed by Savannah Guthrie of NBC's Today Show, and Guthrie asked about her personal email address. While Mrs. Clinton did not directly answer the question, she did acknowledge that she had "a lot of security restraints on what I can and can’t do":
QUESTION: You mentioned technology. I have to wonder, do you – how many people have your personal email address? Do you use your BlackBerry a lot? Do you like technology? 
QUESTION: Are you good at it? 
SECRETARY CLINTON: I’m okay. For someone of my generation, I’m okay. But no, I have a lot of security restraints on what I can and can’t do. But I do try to stay in touch as much as possible, and electronically is by far the easiest way to do that.
QUESTION: Are you a BlackBerry addict? 
SECRETARY CLINTON: I’m an aficionado. I’m not sure about the addict part.
     Mrs. Clinton had made remarks in the past regarding the importance of security when it came to email within the state department. In June 2011, there were reports of Chinese hackers breaking into Google email accounts of U.S. officials, and then-Secretary Clinton was asked about this at a press availability:
QUESTION: Thank you, Madam Secretary. Google is reporting about Chinese hacking into the email accounts of U.S. officials. Have you talked to the Chinese about this? Do you have any evidence that sensitive information was compromised, and what are you doing to mitigate any damages?... 
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Elise, first with respect to the recent announcement by Google, we are obviously very concerned about Google’s announcement regarding a campaign that the company believes originated in China to collect the passwords of Google email account holders. Google informed the State Department of this situation yesterday in advance of its public announcement. These allegations are very serious. We take them seriously, we’re looking into them, and because this will be an ongoing investigation, I would refer you to first Google for any details that they are able to share at this time and to the FBI, which will be conducting the investigation. 
One of the reasons why we’ve created the first-ever cyber security coordinator position in the State Department, filled by Chris Painter, a very experienced official in this area who was one of the leaders in helping to draft our governmental framework for cyber policy, is because we know this is going to be a continuing problem. And therefore we want to be as prepared as possible to deal with these matters when they do come to our attention.
    On the same day, the issue was raised with state's deputy spokesperson Mark Toner at the daily press briefing. Toner said that state department employees were not prohibited from using private email accounts, but that staff was told during training that there's "no assumption of confidentiality in any kind of personal email account and that you should obviously act accordingly."

Note: A version of this post first appeared at The Weekly Standard.

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