In assessing Clinton e-mail fallout, technical ambiguity casts doubt
After it was revealed that Hillary Rodham Clinton had been using a personal e-mail server during her time as Secretary of State, the investigation into technology used has just raised more questions.
John Locher/AP Photo
A forensic examination of Hillary Rodham Clinton's private computer server could unearth more details than what she put in her emails. It could answer lingering questions about the security of her system, who had access to it and whether outsiders tried to crack its contents.
Clinton last week handed over to the FBI her private server, which she used to send, receive and store emails during her four years as secretary of state.
The bureau is holding the machine in protective custody after the intelligence community's inspector general raised concerns recently that classified information had traversed the system.
Clinton leads the race for Democratic presidential nomination by wide margin even though questions about her use of the server have since shadowed her campaign. Republicans have seized on the issue to raise questions about Clinton's trustworthiness.
Speaking to reporters Tuesday in North Las Vegas, Nevada, Clinton said she was "very comfortable that this will eventually get resolved and the American people will have plenty of time to figure it out."
She added: "In retrospect, this didn't turn out to be convenient at all and I regret that this has become such a cause celebre. But that does not change the facts." She reiterated that what she did was "legally permitted" and said she did not send any emails marked "classified."
As she departed the availability with reporters, she said, "Nobody talks to me about it other than you guys."
Clinton's emails show some messages she wrote were censored by the State Department for national security reasons before they were publicly released. The government blacked out those messages under a provision of the Freedom of Information Act intended to protect material that had been deemed and properly classified for purposes of national defense or foreign policy.
What hasn't been released: data that could show how secure her system was, whether someone tried to break in, and who else had accounts on her system. A lawyer for Platte River Networks, a Colorado-based technology services company that began managing the Clinton server in 2013, said the server was provided to the FBI last week.
Indeed, many physical details of the server remain unknown, such as whether its data was backed up. In March, The Associated Press discovered her server traced back to an Internet connection at her home in Chappaqua, New York.
A computer server isn't a marvel of modern technology. Just like a home desktop, the computer's data is stored on a hard drive. It's unclear whether the drive that Clinton used was thoroughly erased before the device was turned over to federal agents.
If it had been, it's also uncertain whether the FBI could recover the data. Clinton's lawyer has used a precise term, "wiped," to describe the deleted emails, but it was not immediately clear whether the server had been wiped. Such a process overwrites deleted content to make it harder or impossible to recover.
An FBI spokesman declined to comment.
Investigators who examine her server might find all sorts of information — how it was configured, whether it received necessary security updates to fix vulnerabilities in software, or whether anyone tried to access it without permission.
Clinton said in March that she had exchanged about 60,000 emails during her four years in the Obama administration, about half of which were personal and deleted. She turned over the others to the State Department, which is reviewing and releasing them on a monthly basis.
Last month, the inspector general for the State Department warned that some of the information that passed through Clinton's server was classified information produced by the U.S. intelligence community.