Richard Pollock of the Daily Caller reports that Department of State officials refused to identify to a congressional committee the “chain of custody” – the complete list of people who had access to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s private email server. The request for this information, made by the House Select Committee on Benghazi last spring, was always reasonable. Now that we know Clinton’s private server contained classified, and even top secret information, the information becomes crucial to determining if Clinton or people close to her violated federal laws on handling of classified materials.
Accordingly, Ron Johnson, chairman of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, has expressed his concern in a letter to FBI Director James Comey. “There are a lot questions out there about whether additional copies or even hard copies were made elsewhere,” a source close to the Senate investigation told the Daily Caller. Johnson has asked Comey for answers by August 31.
One hopes, of course, that Comey himself is on top of the chain of custody issue and prepared to apply the criminal law if that facts so warrant. A decade ago, Comey became a hero to some by standing up to Alberto Gonzales and Andrew Card, President Bush’s counsel and chief of staff, respectively. Whether he’s prepared to stand up to pressure not to derail the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee — i.e., to those who play true hard ball — is another question.
We are already know something about the chain of custody of Clinton’s server and the emails it contained. We know, for example, that her private lawyer, David Kendall, possessed a thumb drive with more than 30,000 State Department emails.
Kendall says he had a security clearance, thanks to his role as attorney for Gen. David Petraeus (who was prosecuted for a security breach that seems less severe than Hillary Clinton’s). However, as Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Chuck Grassley has pointed out to Kendall, “it appears the FBI has determined that your clearance is not sufficient to allow you to maintain custody of the emails.”
If reports are to be believed and common sense trusted, Kendall instructed his staff to review the thumb drive. According to the Daily Caller’s Senate source, Congress doesn’t have the names of those on Kendall’s staff who conducted the review. What level of security clearance, if any, did these individuals possess?
We also know that Kendall’s law firm printed hard copies of Clinton’s emails. It delivered hard copies to the Justice Department. This raises additional security concerns because those who did the copying had access to classified and top secret information.
It’s also possible that the law firm retained hard copies of the material it delivered to the DOJ. In addition, it’s possible that it printed hard copies when the attorneys were reviewing Clinton’s emails in the first instance. As we have suggested, once copies start floating around a law firm, it becomes nearly impossible to keep track of them all — a security nightmare.
We also know that Platte River Networks, a small IT company that apparently lacked certification to handle classified material, maintained Clinton’s server as of mid-2013. Platte River reportedly had at least one backup server in its possession. Did it make copies to mirror the backup?
As Scott says, the loose ends accumulate.