In this morning’s New York Times Eric Lipton and Michael Schmidt have a tardy, delicately phrased, and wary story about Madam Hillary’s private server/email arrangement as Secretary of State. Their story is “Hillary Clinton email inquiry weighs if aides erred at ‘send.” Lipton and Schmidt are very late addressing certain legal implications of national security issues raised by the arrangement. In this story, Lipton and Schmidt consider the problems Madam Hillary’s email set-up may have created for senders of email to Hillary, but not for Hillary in creating and superintending the arrangement. Perhaps Madam Hillary should have advised her correspondents that they were communicating with her via an insecure private server? Lipton and Schmidt don’t go there.
Schmidt and Lipton go out of their way to note: “There is no evidence that any of the emails — a small portion of some 60,000 that Mrs. Clinton sent or received as secretary of state — were hacked or caused any harm to American interests, and law enforcement officials have said she is not a target of their investigation.” (All things being equal, Lipton and Schmidt would prefer not to have to deal with David Brock, and who can blame them?) Yet actual harm to American interests is not the touchstone of many legal obligations that cover the handling of classified information. David Petraeus was apparently not available for comment.
At the end of the story Schmidt and Lipton contemplate the possible recovery of previously deleted or wiped emails. What if a review of recovered emails were to find that Madam Hillary deleted or wiped official emails?
Citing a retired Justice Department head of the division on government records and privacy issues, Schmidt and Lipton come to this comic conclusion regarding the Democratic presidential candidate who remains the frontrunner: “Even if such a review found that Mrs. Clinton had wrongly tried to dispose of what should have been considered government records — a conclusion that could be embarrassing and have political consequences for her — Mr. Metcalfe said there is no formal penalty if the individual involved has left the government.”
Well, maybe, but what if “the individual” were to return to the government? That is a hypothetical bridge too far for Schmidt and Lipton.