Tag Archives: transparency

E-mailgate might give Elizabeth Warren an opening

Hillary Clinton Email Servers Home Scandal Private Email Secretary of State

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E-mailgate may not be enough to sink the U.S.S. Billary – and create a fabulous opening for the person who should be the next president of the United States, U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren – but the scandal does, at the minimum, demonstrate that Billary Clinton has more baggage than does O’Hare International Airport.

Worse than the fact that Billary never even had a -.gov e-mail address during her tenure as U.S. secretary of state, but used a personal e-mail address instead*, is the fact that Billary’s personal e-mails were stored on her own Internet server entirely under her own control. Reports The Associated Press today (emphases are mine):

Washington — The computer server that transmitted and received Hillary Rodham Clinton’s e-mails — on a private account she used exclusively for official business when she was secretary of state — traced back to an Internet service registered to her family’s home in Chappaqua, New York, according to Internet records reviewed by The Associated Press.

The highly unusual practice of a Cabinet-level official physically running her own e-mail would have given Clinton, the presumptive Democratic presidential candidate, impressive control over limiting access to her message archives. It also would distinguish Clinton’s secretive e-mail practices as far more sophisticated than some politicians, including Mitt Romney and Sarah Palin, who were caught conducting official business using free e-mail services operated by Microsoft Corp. and Yahoo Inc.

Most Internet users rely on professional outside companies, such as Google Inc. or their own employers, for the behind-the-scenes complexities of managing their e-mail communications. Government employees generally use servers run by federal agencies where they work.

In most cases, individuals who operate their own e-mail servers are technical experts or users so concerned about issues of privacy and surveillance they take matters into their own hands. It was not immediately clear exactly where Clinton ran that computer system.

Clinton has not described her motivation for using a private e-mail account — hdr22@clintonemail.com, which traced back to her own private e-mail server registered under an apparent pseudonym — for official State Department business.

Operating her own server would have afforded Clinton additional legal opportunities to block government or private subpoenas in criminal, administrative or civil cases because her lawyers could object in court before being forced to turn over any e-mails. And since the Secret Service was guarding Clinton’s home, an e-mail server there would have been well protected from theft or a physical hacking. 

But homemade e-mail servers are generally not as reliable, secure from hackers or protected from fires or floods as those in commercial data centers. Those professional facilities provide monitoring for viruses or hacking attempts, regulated temperatures, off-site backups, generators in case of power outages, fire-suppression systems and redundant communications lines.

A spokesman for Clinton did not respond to requests seeking comment from the AP [yesterday]. Clinton ignored the issue during a speech [last] night at the 30th anniversary gala of EMILY’s List, which works to elect Democratic women who support abortion rights.

It was unclear whom Clinton hired to set up or maintain her private e-mail server, which the AP traced to a mysterious identity, Eric Hoteham. That name does not appear in public records databases, campaign contribution records or Internet background searches. Hoteham was listed as the customer at Clinton’s $1.7 million home on Old House Lane in Chappaqua in records registering the Internet address for her e-mail server since August 2010.

The Hoteham personality also is associated with a separate e-mail server, presidentclinton.com, and a non-functioning website, wjcoffice.com, all linked to the same residential Internet account as Clinton’s e-mail server. …

E-mailgate indeed speaks to Billary’s respect for transparency, as well as (further) exposes her apparent issues over power and control. I mean, fuck: she eschewed a federal government Internet server for her own Internet server, as though it weren’t about the U.S. government, but were All About Billary.

Further, as fellow left-wing commentator Ted Rall writes (links are Rall’s):

… Under the Federal Records Act of 1950, which has been amended several times, “all government employees and contractors are required by law to make and preserve records containing adequate and proper documentation of the organization, functions, policies, decisions, procedures, and essential transactions of the agency.”

During his first full day as president in January 2009, President Obama directed federal agencies to preserve all e-mails relating to government business so that agencies could add them to paper and other non-digital records requested as part of Freedom of Information Act requests, subpoenaed by judges for judicial reasons, and for eventual transfer to the National Archives for study by historians.

Clinton served as Secretary of State between 2009 and 2013. So clearly her e-mails and fell under the purview of the law.

It is difficult to imagine that, as a high-level politician and recent presidential candidate, Clinton was unaware of this requirement. In 2007, the scandal over the Bush administration’s dismissal of eight U.S. attorneys centered around precisely the same issue: the destruction of up to 5 million e-mails authored by Bush administration and Republican Party officials, which were either lost or intentionally deleted because they weren’t sent using government e-mail accounts.

Upon taking charge of the State Department, Clinton made the same exact move as the Bush people caught up in the U.S. attorney scandal two years before. Whereas Bush and Republican party operatives created a private domain, gwb43.com, in order to keep prying Democratic and journalist eyes out of their correspondence, Clinton’s staff registered the domain that she used, clintonemail.com, on January 13, 2009 – one week before Obama’s inauguration, on the day of her confirmation hearings.

Millions of Americans go to work at new jobs where, as part of the standard human resources package, they receive a new company e-mail account. This happens at countless federal, state, and city government agencies as well. For some reason, however, Hillary Clinton not only never used her state.gov e-mail address – she was never issued one. …

Rall later asks in his column, which you should read, “The question isn’t how many e-mails [Billary] has turned over; the question is, where are the rest of them?”

Again, E-mailgate shows us, I think, what Billary is all about: power for power’s sake, and more and more power for herself. (Not that we didn’t already know that.)

Is anyone above Billary? Is she accountable to anyone? I mean, as secretary of state she very apparently violated the directive of her boss, President Barack Obama, regarding the retention of e-mails related to U.S. government business.

We know – we have known for some time now – all that we need to know about Billary Clinton. If we let her into the White House, we’ll get the president that we deserve.

*Here is the New York Times reportage from Monday that brought E-mailgate to light: (emphases are mine):

Washington — Hillary Rodham Clinton exclusively used a personal e-mail account to conduct government business as secretary of state, State Department officials said, and may have violated federal requirements that officials’ correspondence be retained as part of the agency’s record.

Clinton did not have a government e-mail address during her four-year tenure at the State Department. Her aides took no actions to have her personal e-mails preserved on department servers at the time, as required by the Federal Records Act.

It was only two months ago, in response to a new State Department effort to comply with federal record-keeping practices, that Clinton’s advisers reviewed tens of thousands of pages of her personal e-mails and decided which ones to turn over to the State Department. All told, 55,000 pages of e-mails were given to the department. Clinton stepped down from the secretary’s post in early 2013.

Her expansive use of the private account was alarming to current and former National Archives and Records Administration officials and government watchdogs, who called it a serious breach.

“It is very difficult to conceive of a scenario — short of nuclear winter — where an agency would be justified in allowing its cabinet-level head officer to solely use a private email communications channel for the conduct of government business,” said Jason R. Baron, a lawyer at Drinker Biddle & Reath who is a former director of litigation at the National Archives and Records Administration.

A spokesman for Clinton, Nick Merrill, defended her use of the personal e-mail account and said she has been complying with the “letter and spirit of the rules.”

Under federal law, however, letters and e-mails written and received by federal officials, such as the secretary of state, are considered government records and are supposed to be retained so that congressional committees, historians and members of the news media can find them. There are exceptions to the law for certain classified and sensitive materials.

Clinton is not the first government official — or first secretary of state — to use a personal e-mail account on which to conduct official business. But her exclusive use of her private e-mail, for all of her work, appears unusual, Baron said. The use of private e-mail accounts is supposed to be limited to emergencies, experts said, such as when an agency’s computer server is not working.

“I can recall no instance in my time at the National Archives when a high-ranking official at an executive branch agency solely used a personal e-mail account for the transaction of government business,” said Baron, who worked at the agency from 2000 to 2013.

Regulations from the National Archives and Records Administration at the time required that any e-mails sent or received from personal accounts be preserved as part of the agency’s records. But Clinton and her aides failed to do so.

How many e-mails were in Clinton’s account is not clear, and neither is the process her advisers used to determine which ones related to her work at the State Department before turning them over.

“It’s a shame it didn’t take place automatically when she was secretary of state as it should have,” said Thomas S. Blanton, the director of the National Security Archive, a group based at George Washington University that advocates government transparency. “Someone in the State Department deserves credit for taking the initiative to ask for the records back. Most of the time it takes the threat of litigation and embarrassment.”

Blanton said high-level officials should operate as President Obama does, e-mailing from a secure government account, with every record preserved for historical purposes. “Personal e-mails are not secure,” he said. “Senior officials should not be using them.”

Penalties for not complying with federal record-keeping requirements are rare, because the National Archives has few enforcement abilities.

Merrill, the spokesman for Clinton, declined to detail why she had chosen to conduct State Department business from her personal account. He said that because Clinton had been sending e-mails to other State Department officials at their government accounts, she had “every expectation they would be retained.” He did not address e-mails that Clinton may have sent to foreign leaders, people in the private sector or government officials outside the State Department.

The revelation about the private e-mail account echoes longstanding criticisms directed at both the former secretary and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, for a lack of transparency and inclination toward secrecy.

And others who, like Clinton, are eyeing a candidacy for the White House are stressing a very different approach. Jeb Bush, who is seeking the Republican nomination for president, released a trove of e-mails in December from his eight years as governor of Florida.

It is not clear whether Clinton’s private e-mail account included encryption or other security measures, given the sensitivity of her diplomatic activity. 

Clinton’s successor, Secretary of State John Kerry, has used a government e-mail account since taking over the role, and his correspondence is being preserved contemporaneously as part of State Department records, according to his aides.

The existence of Clinton’s personal e-mail account was discovered by a House committee investigating the attack on the American Consulate in Benghazi as it sought correspondence between Clinton and her aides about the attack. …

As I’ve written before, Benghazigate is bullshit – the Repugnican Tea Party traitors who wish to make the deaths of four Americans in Libya into a huge issue have, puzzlingly, had no problem whatsofuckingever with the deaths of more than 4,000 of our troops in the unelected Bush regime’s illegal, immoral, unprovoked and unjust Vietraq War – but it was skeezy of Clinton to use personal e-mail for her public office’s business and then decide which personal e-mails – which very apparently are in her sole possession (with the exception of the recipients of those e-mails) – to ultimately turn over for the record or for any other legitimate purpose.

I am a huge advocate of privacy, and in general I oppose anyone reading anyone else’s e-mails, but most of us never were or ever will be U.S. secretary of state. And Billary apparently did break the law, which apparently her successor John Kerry has not had a problem following.

It’s too early, it seems to me, to know whether or not E-mailgate will grow legs, but for the time being, it seems to me that if E-mailgate is Billary’s biggest scandal between now and 2016 presidential primary season, she probably will be OK in her quest for the White House if she presses on with that quest, as E-mailgate isn’t exactly very sexy. But E-mailgate does demonstrate that Billary is so embattled and so controversial that she might never get to the White House.

And I hope that she doesn’t, of course.

Even if I have to pick between Billary and a Repugnican Tea Party presidential candidate on November 8, 2016, at this point – with the Democratic Party having sold out at least since Bill Clinton was in the Oval Office – I can’t see myself ever casting a vote for Billary. I most likely would vote for the Green Party candidate, whoever that is, if my Democratic Party choice for president in November 2016 is Billary.

(Let me remind you that the U.S. president is not chosen by popular vote, but by the Electoral College, and that if Billary is on the November 2016 ballot for U.S. president, she’ll win California and all of its 55 electoral votes, whether I vote or not. [Billary won California over Barack Obama in their protracted fight for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination. Billary is a DINO sellout, but she wins in California, coasting on her surname.])

I still don’t believe that President Billary is Inevitable. Widespread Billary Fatigue, should Billary win the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, just might win the Repugnicans the White House next presidential election, it seems to me, so Repugnican attacks on Billary might backfire on them if Billary doesn’t run after all, if she begins to run but then drops out, or runs but actually is beaten by a challenger, as she was by Obama in 2008.

If a candidate who is stronger than Billary – like, oh, say, Elizabeth Warren (who doesn’t have nearly the amount of baggage and who, entirely unlike Billary, is credible on the issue of boosting the middle class and the working class and tackling the obscene income inequality in the United States) – ultimately is the 2016 Democratic Party presidential candidate, the Repugnicans easily could lose the White House that they could have won had it been Billary on the ballot.

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‘W’ still is for ‘Worst’

US Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush,shake hands at the dedication for the George W. Bush Presidential Center in Texas

Reuters photo

The two George Bushes yuk it up at the dedication of the George W. Bush Presidential Center, which contains a library and a museum, in Dallas today.

It’s interesting that we supposedly now are “re-evaluating” the unelected reign of George W. Bush in the White House on the occasion of the impending (May 1) public opening of his library and museum in Dallas — which, I’m guessing, consists of coloring books, connect-the-dot books, and, of course, many copies of The Pet Goat, and maybe such relics as aluminum tubes and that vial of white powder that were used to justify the Vietraq War, and maybe that dog leash that was on that Iraqi prisoner at Abu Ghraib. (The original plans for World Trade Center: The Ride and the Hurricane-Katrina-themed water park next door to the library and museum were nixed for maybe sending the wrong messages.)

Will any of Gee Dubya’s amateurish paintings be put on display at his museum? It’s funny — Adolf Hitler was a bad artist before he became a fascistic dictator, and Gee Dubya pulled a Reverse Adolf, first becoming a fascistic dictator and then becoming an awful artist.

Seriously — what to say about a presidency that began with a blatantly stolen presidential election (replete with George W. Bush’s brother Jeb in the role of the governor of the pivotal state of Florida and Florida’s chief elections officer, Katherine Harris, making damn sure that Gee Dubya “won” the state) and that ended with our national economic collapse (including a federal budget surplus turned into a record federal budget deficit)?

Between those two lovely bookends were 9/11 (despite the August 6, 2001 presidential daily brief titled “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.” [which, in Bush’s defense, he might not even have skimmed, since he was on vacation at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, at the time]); the launch of the illegal, immoral, unjust and unprovoked Vietraq War in March 2003, using 9/11 as the pretext; all that came with the Vietraq War, such as the thousands upon thousands of Iraqi civilians and American military personnel slaughtered for nothing except for Dick Cheney’s Halliburton’s war profiteering, such as the Abu Ghraib House of Horrors, and such as the bogus war’s massive drain on the U.S. Treasury; and Hurricane Katrina, which struck Louisiana and other Gulf Coast states on August 29, 2005 (the same day that Bush was sharing birthday cake with John McCainosaurus in Arizona), and killed around 2,000 Americans, most of whom were black and so who were expendable.

(If you want a more exhaustive list of George W. Bush’s Greatest Hits, see AlterNet.org’s “50 Reasons You Despised George W. Bush’s Presidency: A Reminder on the Day of His Presidential Library Dedication.”)

The eight, very long George W. Bush years to me were like a series of national rapes. Never before had a president who had lost the popular vote nonetheless been coronated president by the right-wing U.S. Supreme Court that ruled that it was most expedient to stop recounting the ballots in Florida and just declare a “victor” already.

So raped did I feel over this, the largest blow to democracy in my lifetime, that I attended a “Not My President Day” protest rally on Presidents’ Day in early 2001 at the California State Capitol. Not long enough after that, I attended another protest rally at the state Capitol, this one over the impending launch of the obviously bogus Vietraq War in March 2003.

That is the only good/“good” thing that I can say about the George W. Bush years: That the unelected Bush regime’s stunning incompetence and its criminal and treasonous acts and failures to act made me more political than I’d ever been before — indeed, to the point that shortly before the Bush regime launched its Vietraq War, I started to blog in the fall of 2002, and I was more involved in the 2004 presidential election than I’d ever been involved in any presidential election before or since.

I get it that there are certain individuals out there who, because they identify so much with the Repugnican Tea Party, never will admit the colossal failure that was the George W. Bush presidency.

That’s fine. They can, and will, remain in their delusion and lies.

The rest of us, however, know and never will forget that there isn’t enough lipstick on the planet to put on the pig that was the unelected, treasonous reign of our own former mass-murdering dictator*, George W. Bush.

*A dictator, by my definition, is someone who did not receive the majority of the votes but who takes office through intimidation or even physical force anyway.

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Team Obama’s response to Dittygate only proves protesters’ point

I was going to write about it right after it happened, but I didn’t, but it’s back in the news again, so now I will.

On Thursday, April 21, the Obama administration was pretty fucking embarrassed when a short video of an incident at a fundraiser in San Francisco leaked out.

Obama wasn’t at the fundraiser to discuss anything controversial. He was there to collect his loot and go.* It was supposed to be a carefully controlled event — like one of “President” George W. Bush’s.** However, his fundraising spiel was interrupted by a group of protesters who started singing a little song about the Obama administration’s inhumane treatment of Pfc. Bradley Manning, who is accused of illegally leaking information to WikiLeaks.

Their lyrics conclude thusly: “We paid our dues; where’s our change? We paid our dues; where’s our change?”

Yeah, that’s what millions of us whom the Obama administration has punk’d would love to know.

If you haven’t already watched it, you can watch the short video here.

In the video, Obama obviously is pissed off, but he has come this far in politics by pretending to be cool in all situations, no matter fucking what — he apparently calculated long ago (correctly, probably) that an “angry” black man never could be president of the United States (an angry white man like John McCainosaurus, who nearly had strokes from his fits of rage during his presidential debates with Obama, however, can be president).

Of course, I prefer honestly expressed feelings of anger over insincere bullshit that is a transparent effort to cover up one’s anger, which is what Obama demonstrates in the video. After the protesters sing their little ditty, he says, quite insincerely, “That was a nice song. You guys have much better voices that I have,” and even says “Thank you very much.”

“Thank you very much”?

These protesters infiltrated Obama’s swank fundraiser only to remind him that there are some of us who feel that we paid our dues but have yet to see the promised change. And the short video of the protest song went fairly viral.

The Obama administration’s only saving grace is that this incident didn’t really hit the national news until Friday, April 22, so the story didn’t become the national story that it otherwise would have had the incident happened earlier in the week.

The Obama administration should have let Dittygate go, but instead it apparently chose to start a fight with The San Francisco Chronicle — whose reporter got the video.

Reports The Associated Press:

San Francisco — The White House says a San Francisco Chronicle reporter broke the rules when she put down her pen and picked up a video camera to film a protest. The newspaper says the Obama administration needs to join the 21st century.

The conflict hit the newspaper’s front page [yesterday] with a story about coverage of the protest during President Barack Obama’s speech last week at a private fundraiser.

It highlights the perils that arise when traditional arrangements between news organizations and politicians meet the modern reality that anyone with a smartphone can become a video journalist.

Reporter Carla Marinucci had White House permission to cover the fundraiser as a so-called “pool” reporter, meaning she could attend as long as she shared her notes with the White House to distribute to other reporters. Pool reporting is a common arrangement among media organizations and in-demand politicians to avoid overcrowding of smaller events.

Marinucci was covering the event when about a half-dozen protesters who paid a combined $76,000 to attend the breakfast broke into a song chastising Obama for the government’s treatment of Pfc. Bradley Manning, an Army intelligence analyst suspected of illegally passing government secrets to the WikiLeaks website.

“We paid our dues; where’s our change?” the protesters sang.

Although a print reporter, Marinucci is seldom seen without a small video recorder while covering politicians. She captured video of the protest, which was posted with her written story in the online edition of the Chronicle and on its politics blog.

White House officials say that breached the terms of her access, which stated Marinucci was to provide a print-only report.

“The San Francisco Chronicle violated the coverage rules that they — and every other media outlet — agreed to as part of joining the press pool for that event,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said. “If they thought the rules were too restrictive they should have raised that at the beginning.” [Yeah, so their reporter could have been tossed out, right?]

Editor Ward Bushee said in the Chronicle’s story [yesterday] that the paper acted within its rights to cover the newsworthy incident.

He also said White House officials in off-the-record conversations Thursday threatened to bar Marinucci from pool coverage of future presidential appearances. He added that the officials, whom Bushee did not name, threatened to freeze out Chronicle and other Hearst Newspaper chain reporters if they reported on the threat against Marinucci. [Emphasis mine.]

“We expect our reporters to use the reporting tools they have to cover the news, and Carla did,” Bushee said in the Chronicle story. The White House rule against print reporters shooting and posting video is “objectionable and just is not in sync with how reporters are doing their jobs these days,” he said.

After Josh Earnest, another White House spokesman, told the Politico website that officials had not made such threats, Carney said in a statement [yesterday] that “no reporters have been banned from covering future presidential events.”

“The White House of course would have no problem including any reporter who follows the rules in pool-only events,” he said.

The White House should rethink those rules in an era when few reporters limit their coverage to just one medium, and when several other attendees not with the media were taking their own video of the protest, Bushee said. The protesters’ own footage ended up appearing on “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.”

The fundraiser came a day after Obama appeared at the Palo Alto headquarters of Facebook, praising the social media giant for enabling a more open, two-way conversation between citizens and politicians. The president said he was interested in holding the event, billed as a social media town hall, because young people especially were now getting their information through a range of different media. [Emphasis mine.]

Dan Gillmor, a media critic and head of the Knight Center for Digital Media Entrepreneurship at Arizona State University, said the White House needs to update the rules for its pool reports to match the realities of 21st-century reporting. …

It’s not really that, that Team Obama is composed of a bunch of luddites. It’s that the Chronicle had the audacity to embarrass The Great Obama of Oz. The Chronicle pulled back the curtain to reveal the petty, vindictive, insincere little man behind the curtain. The Chronicle, with the video, showed us something that we never were supposed to see.

A mere written description of the protest at the fundraiser wouldn’t have fully captured it, and while a mere written account of an event can fairly easily be disputed, a videorecorded account cannot so easily be disputed — which is why the “transparent” Team Obama maintains that only written descriptions are allowed: to avoid embarrassment and poor P.R., not because they don’t understand today’s communications technologies, which they fully exploit in their record-level fundraising, for fuck’s sake.

Ironically, in its response to Dittygate, Team Obama has only strengthened the protesters’ charge, “We paid our dues; where’s our change?” Yes, one of the many things that Barack Obama promised but has yet to deliver is a more transparent presidency.

Instead, we’re seeing more of the same, with Team Obama threatening to punish the Chronicle — and indeed, its entire parent company — because one of its employees actually made something transparent. (I believe the Chronicle over Team Obama, hands down, by the way; I believe that Team Obama threatened to exclude the reporter from future events and then threatened to exclude the entire media organization if their threat to the reporter were made public.)

And Team Obama can’t blame the Chronicle for embarrassing Obama.

It’s not the Chronicle’s fault that Obama has reneged on so many of his campaign promises to the point that protesters paid more than $75,000 to crash his exclusive little cash ’n’ carry. The fault for that lies squarely in the lap of Obama.

Barack Obama embarrasses himself.

*I know that this is how it is with the Clintonistas, the DINOs, such as Barack Obama.

Back in the day I coordinated Meetups for John Kerry’s run for the White House. (Howard Dean was the favorite of the “netroots,” but I viewed Kerry as much more likely to be able to deny George W. Bush a second term.) When I coordinated the monthly Meetups for several months, the participants talked about those issues that concerned them. They appreciated having such a forum with like-minded others.

But after it was clear that Kerry, who came back from political death like Lazarus, was going to win the 2004 Democratic presidential nomination, a self-serving Democratic Party hack hijacked the Meetups and made them all about fundraising. She was in it for herself, even going so far as to tell the participants that when they donated money to the Kerry campaign, they needed to use a special code to designate the region when, in fact, it designated her as an individual fundraiser.

In a nutshell, under the hack’s “leadership,” the Meetups became fundraisers. Her contempt for others is what we see in the DINOs, who regard others only as ATMs.

Speaking of which, in my many months of helping out with Kerry-for-president efforts, I was quite disappointed by the Kerry fundraising events that we of the middle class, which the Democratic Party is supposed to be all about, cannot afford to attend. The Chronicle reports that “high-end” tickets to the Obama fundraiser at “the swank St. Regis Hotel” in San Francisco on April 21 “started at $5,000 and went up to $35,800.”

Another reason, probably, that cameras weren’t allowed…

**And Team Bush was fairly good at making sure that only loyal fans ever made it inside any of Bush’s appearances, but perhaps because he wasn’t on his own home turf, Bush did have, late in his unelected rule, that Iraqi guy throw a pair of shoes at him…

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