National Security

State Department tried to make ‘stand-alone’ network for Clinton

The State Department proposed creating a “stand-alone” computer operating on a separate network for Hillary Clinton shortly after she took the helm as the nation’s top diplomat in 2009, according to newly released emails.

Days after Clinton was sworn in as secretary of State, department official Lewis Lukens offered to give her a computer that would be “connected to the internet (but not through our system) to enable her to check emails from her desk.”

{mosads}“The stand-alone seperate [sic] network PC is on on [sic] great idea,” Undersecretary for Management Patrick Kennedy responded in a Jan. 24, 2009, email. 

“Yes we were hoping for that if possible so she can check her email in her office,” agreed Huma Abedin, a longtime Clinton aide and her deputy chief of staff at the time.

The State Department never set up a separate computer for Clinton, spokesman John Kirby said.

Still, the emails appear to indicate that State Department officials went out of their way to accommodate Clinton’s unusual email setup, which involved the exclusive use of a private email account housed on a personal server.

Critics of Clinton’s arrangement have asked the State Department to clarify whether officials expressly permitted her private email account and server.

Monday’s emails were revealed by the conservative legal group Judicial Watch, which has filed multiple lawsuits aimed at bringing Clinton’s emails to light. 

Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton called the messages “shocking” and said that it was “scandalous” for the Obama administration not to have previously released them. 

“They show the Obama State Department’s plan to set up non-government computers and a computer network for Hillary Clinton to bypass the State Department network,” Fitton said in a statement. 

Kirby declined to comment on the emails, but said on Monday that “there was no standalone computer ever set up.” 

Clinton, now a candidate for president, has previously insisted that she did not have a computer in her office, in an effort to dismiss concerns about her email arrangement.

“If you were to be in my office in the State Department, I did not have a computer,” Clinton told the House Select Committee on Benghazi last year. “I did not conduct most of the business that I did on behalf of our country on email.” 

While pointing to the measures taken to accommodate Clinton, the email chain released on Monday could back up Clinton’s claim that she did not frequently use email.  

Clinton’s chief of staff, Cheryl Mills, told Lukens that there could be a “problem” with the arrangement, because Clinton “does not know how to use a computer to do email — only [BlackBerry].”

“But I said would not take much training to get her up to speed,” Lukens wrote in the email. 

The steady release of news about Clinton’s email server has hounded her presidential campaign, drawing constant criticism from Republicans.

On Friday, the State Department said that 22 emails on Clinton’s server have been classified as top secret, an acknowledgement that turned up the political heat.

An anonymous U.S. government official told Fox News on Monday that the emails contained “operational intelligence.” Their presence on Clinton’s presumably unsecure server, the official said, jeopardized “sources, methods and lives.”

“I think it’s pretty obvious that her email server did contain information that jeopardized national security,” Sen. John Cornyn (Texas), the upper chamber’s No. 2 Republican, said Monday.

Cornyn has pushed for the Justice Department to appoint a special prosecutor to monitor the FBI’s investigation connected to Clinton’s server, and the possibility that classified information was mishandled. He renewed that request in a floor speech on Monday afternoon. 

Clinton’s campaign has largely sought to dismiss the criticism, describing the scrutiny as largely political and blown out of proportion.

“This is very much like Benghazi,” Clinton said on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday. “Republicans are going to continue to use it, beat up on me. I understand that, that’s the way they are.”

Clinton campaign spokesman Brian Fallon took issue with the State Department’s declaration that the 22 emails merited the highest level of classification, calling it “over-classification run amok.” 

None of the emails were marked as classified at the time, he said in a Friday statement, and they “likely originated on the State Department’s unclassified system before they were ever shared with Secretary Clinton.” 

“In at least one case, the emails appear to involve information from a published news article,” he asserted. 

At the State Department, Kirby on Monday declined to directly address the campaign’s criticism but said that it took “the protection of sensitive information very seriously.” 

“Throughout this entire process, which has been an exhaustive process … there’s been a very careful scrutiny being applied to protecting sensitive information,” he said.

Secretary of State John Kerry, Kirby added, “is comfortable that we are going to continue to meet those responsibilities very, very assiduously.”

— Jordain Carney contributed. This story was updated at 5:52 p.m. 

Tags Hillary Clinton Lewis Lukens

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