Despite a clear warning received almost three years ago, it has taken a heated presidential campaign and an FBI investigation to make us aware of the national security threat of Hillary Clinton’s unsecured state department e-mails. The Kremlin’s cyber warfare army has had ample opportunity to steal Clinton’s entire e-mail cache (including 31,830 “private” e-mails). Such hacking would likely have taken place before the Kremlin’s propaganda arm, RT (Russia Today), published Sidney Blumenthal’s e-mails to Clinton on March 20, 2013, presumably sending out alarms at that late date to Clinton to secure her private server.
The Clinton cache of e-mail correspondence in the hands of the Kremlin or other hostile intelligence agencies could represent one of America’s greatest intelligence disasters, giving Vladimir Putin the opportunity to determine the outcome of the 2016 U.S. presidential election or, barring that, to cast a cloud over a Clinton presidency. The national security implications of Hillary Clinton’s cavalier approach to security far outweigh the legal consequences of her actions.
The timeline of the Clinton e-mail scandal raises eyebrows about the curious lack of interest in this story when it first broke:
In March 2013, the Romanian hacker “Guccifer” distributed four intercepted Blumenthal e-mails, relating to Libya and Benghazi, to news organizations and political figures throughout the world, but only RT published them. On their release by RT, I immediately posted excerpts and analysis, concluding that, “Unhappy with the overthrow of Kaddafi, Putin would want to emphasize the sinister role played by the CIA in Libya.” My article, which was picked up by Drudge Report, attracted more than a third of a million viewers who could see for themselves Clinton’s private e-mail address and the contents of Blumenthal’s Libya reports. The RT publication was greeted by almost total media silence.
On March 2, 2015, after two years of silence, the New York Times reported that Hillary Clinton, as secretary of state, used a private e-mail account. Given the 2013 RT publication, the new news was that Clinton used her private email exclusively and did not have an official state department account. The Times wrote apologetically that “Mrs. 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.” The Times thus provided Hillary Clinton’s “everyone did it” defense.
Piecemeal releases of e-mails, beginning on May 22, 2015, in response to congressional and freedom-of-information requests, continue to fuel the daily dripping of scandal. The Clinton team has attempted to divert the discussion to partisan politics and the technicalities of over-classification. Her assertion that no classified information passed through her private server does not hold water. Are we to believe that a secretary of state received or sent zero classified documents via e-mail during a three-year period? Despite an ongoing FBI investigation and a possible referral to the justice department, candidate Clinton continues to contend that the e-mail scandal is a concoction of her political enemies.
The national security risks of the Clinton e-mail scandal have taken an undeserved backseat. Putin’s Kremlin has one of the most sophisticated cyber warfare systems the world has ever seen. Kremlin cyber experts would surely have used the Guccifer e-mails to try to access Clinton’s e-mails on an account that apparently had no special security protections. A Kremlin penetration of Clinton’s private e-mail account would give it the world’s most complete record of her secretary of state correspondence including the almost 32,000 emails that the Clinton team deemed private and made unavailable.
Consider Vladimir Putin with a full inventory of Clinton e-mails. Putin’s KGB training was in running agents, most recruited by kompromat (compromising information) that he had gathered, meaning that he would immediately have understood the possibilities. Putin’s FSB and military security experts would be told to scour the load of e-mails for operational information, names, addresses and dates. As kompromat specialists, they would look for personal Clinton material ranging from embarrassing to compromising.
As a KGB agent who cut his teeth on kompromat, Putin would consider several options on how and when to use the Hillary file with maximum effect. If he preferred Hillary’s Republican opponent in the general election, he could release enough incriminating information (that could not be traced back to the Kremlin, of course) to scuttle her candidacy. For those who believe Putin would not dare interfere with a U.S. election, consider his strange flirtation with Donald Trump. Putin, however, may prefer Hillary to give him a sitting U.S. president on whom he has a big stack of kompromat. If Putin rules out blackmail, the Kremlin could selectively leak damaging information to U.S. allies and enemies that would weaken the United States’ hand in world affairs throughout a Clinton presidency.
Those who follow Kremlin propaganda understand that it is not necessary for Putin to have Clinton’s e-mails to cause serious damage to a Clinton presidency. All he needs is that many believe he has Hillary’s e-mails.
The Kremlin specializes in fabricating narratives (such as the U.S. intent to steal Siberia) that are false but may contain a small kernel of truth. Putin’s army of “information technologists” (propagandists) can release fabrications to its numerous clandestine sources throughout the world. Clinton might ignore or deny those narratives (which cannot be traced to the Kremlin), but the mere idea that Putin has her e-mails will lend the necessary credibility to the story. The Kremlin knows that repeated lies are eventually taken as truth, so that an unsourced narrative, repeated, will eventually become the “truth.” Who knows what Putin’s information technologists can cook up to blacken the presidency of Hillary Clinton?
Hillary Clinton has laughed off the e-mail scandal as partisan or petty legalism. I hope that she and the American public understand the threat to national security her e-mails have caused. The national security threat increases if she is elected president. I would hope that the Democrat Party, and candidate Clinton understand this and do what is right for the American people.