Madam Hillary gets her wires crossed

The AP published an important story by Jack Gillum yesterday on the State Department’s response to a Freedom of Information Act request it submitted in 2013. Paul wrote about the AP story here.

The AP’s FOIA request sought correspondence between Madam Hillary and her advisers over a four-year period that contained keywords such as “drone,” “metadata” and “prism.” Gillum explained: “The latter [‘prism’] was among several code words for controversial U.S. surveillance programs revealed by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden. The request also asked for certain emails about government programs to eavesdrop on terror suspects believed to be foreigners.”

The AP filed its FOIA request 18 months ago. The State Department responded this week. Given the delay, the department’s response was slightly anticlimactic; the department turned over a grand total of four email messages.

On the paucity of messages touching on the subject, Gillum reports:

Steven Aftergood, a government secrecy expert at the Federation of American Scientists, said the low number of emails provided to AP could be because the State Department uses different words to describe its operations — such as “UAV,” or unmanned aerial vehicle, instead of “drone.”

It’s also possible that Clinton and her advisers’ emails are not in the department’s archives, he said.

“If there are four, one would expect there to be quite a few more than that,” Aftergood said. “And it looks like another indication of faulty records management and retrieval at the State Department.”

I’m not sure this exhausts the possibilities. A close reading of David Kendall’s letter to Rep. Trey Gowdy suggests “the Secretary’s personal attorneys” may not have retrieved and turned over all such messages.

Two of the four messages didn’t even address the subject on which the AP had submitted its FOIA request; they reflected Madam Hillary has simply gotten her wires crossed, as might easily happen when you have a single email account for both work and personal matters. Gillum reports:

Among the four emails obtained by AP is one in which Clinton accidentally mingled personal and work matters. In reply to a message sent in September 2011 by adviser Huma Abedin to Clinton’s personal email account, which contained an AP story about a drone strike in Pakistan, Clinton mistakenly replied with questions that appear to be about decorations.

“I like the idea of these,” she wrote to Abedin. “How high are they? What would the bench be made of? And I’d prefer two shelves or attractive boxes/baskets/ conmtainers (sic) on one. What do you think?”

Abedin replied, “Did u mean to send to me?” To which Clinton wrote, “No-sorry! Also, pls let me know if you got a reply from my ipad. I’m not sure replies go thru.”

In sum, as Gillum reports at the top of his story, the four messages have virtually nothing to do with the subject of the AP’s request: “She asks for a phone call in one, a phone number in another. She seeks advice on how best to condemn information leaks, and accidentally replies to one work email with questions apparently about decorations.”

Gillum’s AP story is dated March 31. This is not an April Fool’s joke.

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