The difference it makes

In New York’s Observer, John Schindler has a good column summarizing the mind-boggling story of Hillary’s Clinton’s unsecured private server for her official business as Secretary of State. To borrow a question, what difference at this point does it make? Clinton’s conduct implicates numerous criminal statutes, but the heart of the story is something like this:

Regardless of whether Ms. Clinton was engaged in political corruption, she unquestionably cast aside security as Secretary of State. She can’t quite keep her story straight on why that was, and she is at pains to deny that there is any real issue here at all, suggesting that it’s just another right-wing propaganda ploy. Ms. Clinton is veering hazardously close to her infamous “What difference at this point does it make?” claim, which she touted about the 2012 Benghazi attack.

Yet, as any seasoned intelligence professional will tell you, it matters a great deal—just not in ways visible to the American public. The communications of America’s top diplomat are closely monitored by dozens of foreign spy services, and anything sent out unencrypted, as Ms. Clinton’s email was, should be assumed to be read by numerous countries, including some who are not our friends.

John Kerry, her successor at Foggy Bottom, admitted that Russia and China are almost certainly reading his unclassified emails. Bob Gates, Obama’s first defense secretary, recently asserted it’s very likely that Russia, China, and Iran were inside Ms. Clinton’s homebrew email server. Mr. Gates is a career intelligence officer who served as CIA director, and he simply stated what any espionage professional knows.

Worse, access to Ms. Clinton’s personal email likely gave foreign spy agencies hints on how to crack into more sensitive information systems.

To take just the Russians: their plus-sized embassy in Washington, D.C. is conveniently located on a hill overlooking the city, with an impressive antenna field on its roof aimed downtown. That is where Ms. Clinton’s “unclassified” emails went. The Russians care so much about State Department information they’ve been caught planting bugs inside a conference room just down the hall from the Secretary of State’s office. “Of course the SVR got it all,” explained a high-ranking former KGB officer to me about EmailGate (the SVR is the post-Soviet successor to the KGB’s foreign intelligence arm). “I don’t know if we’re as good as we were in my time,” he added, “but even half-drunk the SVR could get those emails, they probably couldn’t believe how easy Hillary made it for them.”

Any foreign intelligence service reading Ms. Clinton’s emails would know a great deal they’re not supposed to about American diplomacy, including classified information: readouts from sensitive meetings, secret U.S. positions on high-stakes negotiations, details of interaction between the State Department and other U.S. agencies including the White House. This would be a veritable intelligence goldmine to our enemies. Worse, access to Ms. Clinton’s personal email likely gave foreign spy agencies hints on how to crack into more sensitive information systems….

Schindler’s column provides a useful review of the story to date with many links. Interested readers can read the whole thing here.