Current Trends by Natasha Sapp

Ever since the New York Times broke the story former secretary of state, hopeful 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton only opted for a private e-mail account during her time in office, it’s all anyone can talk about; smacking far too much of here we go again Edward Snowden redux, standard modern media distrust overreaction, everything that is not immediately given to the public via news, made available for public view is a conspiracy-not. Questions were immediately raised about did she violate the law; extending past that, did she violate something almost equally, if not more, important considering her presumed political ambitions, the public’s trust in an age where transparency is paramount for the American people? Fellow political operatives seem to think so Jeb Bush tweeting her unclassified e-mails should be turned over in their entirety citing transparency is important; one democrat questioning her behavior regarding e-mail asking was that what we really wanted in a presidential candidate, in a president, closing his comments with “who the hell’s running this campaign?” More alarming, are there security concerns with private versus government e-mail pertaining to encryption and other safeguards; plot thickening when news outlets revealed those e-mails were kept on a server housed at her Chappaqua New York home. Others unsatisfied knowing, of the e-mails turned over to the state department, 2 years after they should have been compiled; Clinton and Clinton alone decided which ones were official and which ones were personal i.e. memos on her daughter’s wedding. Except before hitting the panic button, before pranging the conspiracy, what is the government hiding button, how much room do we, American citizens, have to talk about someone else’s e-mail activity, government official or not; when, forget people getting fired from jobs for inappropriate messages from sexual harassment to racism, to admission of commission of a crime, none of the above remotely applying to her, we willingly post vacation plans, personal details opening the door to thieves, predators, scam artists all? When just weeks ago a simple question posted on Facebook about the color of a dress nearly broke the internet with the volume of responses, vehement arguments between total strangers each insisting they were right; apart from bothering to weigh in on the benign matter, reasons for the drastically different answers from debates about brain malfunctions to overexposed pictures, computer monitor color settings, do we really have a grasp on what is important, earth shattering, potentially dangerous physically, mentally, socially, philosophically? Many think not; however absurd the idea is to those 20 something and below, it may come as a surprise to digital natives, those who grew up weaned on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snap Chat, generation overshare that everyone doesn’t agree with making their personal information public. Hillary is a digital immigrant new to the era of technology impacting her perception on how important digital documents can be; worth asking too, do we actually want/need to read e-mails about Chelsea’s wedding, reminders of doctor’s appointments, vet notifications for the Clinton family, dog, cat, other animal’s annual vet visit, online shopping? One republican, Trey Gowdy, has vowed to make sure you can, announcing he and like-minded members of his party, plan to convene a committee. And yes transparency is important, although at this point the only thing more transparent is between conservatives’ ears, the portion of their brain devoted to nonsense activities, slowly taking over the whole of their gray matter.

Yet in all seriousness, if she was supposed to, legally mandated to use a state department e-mail   for work, work correspondence, while serving as secretary of state, encrypted to provide security to/from when sent because government related messages discuss potentially classified subject matter, why did she have to, as one reporter put it highlighting the negative, “bother to get one?” It should have been provided to her via her employer, in this case the United States government; to that end, why wasn’t she given one on her first day in office? Where was the IT guy 7-10 business days after she was in office, actually using her office space, installing, setting up the e-mail, informing her according to federal law X, state department rule number such and such, subsection letter thus and so she was required to possess said government account, checking, double checking it had the proper encryption, due to it being a matter of national security?  Because for all the shock and outrage had by even state department, national archive personnel, political rivals, her own party’s members, the one thing we are not hearing is that at any time Clinton, aids, staffers turned away department personnel whose job it was to set up e-mails, set up her state department office phone, provide her with a government issue cellphone, a device for all the uproar over her e-mail, no one seems interested in likewise investigating. Also, never once in the New York Times reporting, follow up stories emerging, analysis being rendered is there any mention Hillary Clinton demanded she be allowed to use only a private account; simply that she did so, later disclosed as a convenience to manage one device not several.  Additionally why is this wholly being laid at the feet of Hillary Clinton, aids and staff; if, “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,” according to sources for the New York Times piece, then where were the national archivists, their legal staff, record keepers asking why they never got anything from her?  Where were the IT managers monitoring for breaches, performing routine maintenance, installing security updates, anti-virus/mal and spyware to the latest encryption codes, fixing common glitches noting they never get called to do it for her, specifically her e-mail account? Where were IT personnel on either end, archives or in the offices themselves recognizing there was no records dump, electronic storage for her, her title being secretary of state not office worker number 205?  At the same time where were the other people in the state department ideally people receiving these e-mails, if 9 out of 10 e-mails she sent were interdepartmental, and we have no reason to doubt her word on the issue in light of examining the actual facts over the hype, the common sense questions already put forth so far, noticing things they were sent did not have the standard address, never had it, were instead from Yahoo, Gmail, Outlook, other popular but more obscure e-mail services, a known paid e-mail service? And reporting it to their superiors as odd, at the very least asking her about it, something else there is no record, evidence or testimony of.  Next where were the people on the back end of her tenure as secretary, the day she left office, subsequent days she, aids spent packing, moving her personal effects from the office showing up requesting those records if, “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.” However the embarrassment and threat of any legal consequences should fall on the state department archive officials first, at minimum along with Clinton, for not catching it sooner, for not fulfilling their part in upholding the law. In fact when, if ever, was she told it was state department policy; why is there an automatic assumption that because she was appointed secretary of state, deemed qualified to hold that office, execute its responsibilities she would suddenly know the record keeping procedure? She ran for president but was never in office herself, and when you hold high office like she did there are many new things you have to get used to, many things handled for you, security and other procedures usually explained to you. The email protocol should have been one of them but it is readily apparent it never was, not a single person coming forward indicating they told her and she ignored them, she failed to mention the presence of her private account; proving this is predominately a failure of clerical, record keeping at the state department than anything else and the call needs to be for them to get their house in order not symbolic tar and feathering of Mrs. Clinton in the court of public opinion.

Equally complicating things, firstly it took days for officials and the media to determine she did break the law; secondly there is a huge discrepancy in reporting, New York Times author stating government personnel were only allowed to use personal e-mail if all contents were turned over for record keeping and historical documentation. But nearly every national media outlet regardless of political affiliation, party leanings explained the they only had to turn over those e-mail, electronic communications detailing official business; leaving us with which is it? Dovetailing into part of the problem feeding the conspiracy theories is that Hillary Clinton and Hillary Clinton alone sorted through whatever e-mails she had, sifting personal from professional; having expounded on how the former interpretation of the law should have been confronted, even going above and beyond, if she was indeed violating more than rules, guidelines, guilty of actions prosecutable by federal law, where are the repeated written, text, phone requests for her to comply, for her to submit correspondence records? Assuming the latter is the letter of the law, again where were the person(s), committees, panels  responsible for looking through her communications; who were the people supposed to be determining which ones were official, which one’s personal and under what criteria, guidelines?  The answer to both seems to be nowhere and no one because it took 2 years for them to find the so called “serious breach” and not from media breaking the news but their own attempt at correcting a backlog; prompting the obvious question, why did it take 2 years to find the problem and then only after asking for secretary of state correspondence going all the way back to Madeline Albright? Exactly why did they need to go that far back to obtain accurate and complete records? Remembering too there is precedent for this; both Colin Powel and Condoleezza Rice had private, personal accounts in addition to their government account, though the latter says she never used hers for government communications. Facts coupled with mummers, albeit from the left, reason enough for sections of the population to dismiss it, of a double standard; starting with, so we automatically believe Rice without demanding her personal e-mails from that time while insisting Hillary Clinton turn hers over for public and fellow agency scrutiny when she has been open and honest about her use of private e-mail, even admitting to deleting roughly 30,000 deemed personal? Concurrently pointing out sitting governor Scott Walker, former governor Rick Perry, and confirmed presidential candidate Jeb Bush all had personal accounts themselves, realities going completely unmentioned; yes Mr. Bush did announce his turning over of e-mail from his governorship, unknown is when he did so, upon leaving office, upon declaring his candidacy for president in an attempt to curry public favor more than any genuine concern about the transparency of his office or actions, more aptly still, considering his tweet, right before blasting Clinton on the manufactured scandal surrounding her e-mail? Are governors Walker and Perry’s, all current serving governors’ e-mails being preserved on a smaller scale version than what should have happened at the state department, do we know, do they know?  Here’s something the American people certainly now know, late last week the AP (associated press)  reported that while Hillary Clinton may have violated the law, broken state department rules on preserving correspondence, at least there are rules; congress on the other hand has no such rules or guidelines. Current, former members are under no obligation to keep e-mails, similar communications including those same congressional members screaming they want to see hers, also a worthy note to political pundits invoking a mirroring scandal from the Bush years. So in that light it can be said she simply continued to do what she had done while serving as senator under the lackadaisical approach to record keeping; again, a fault that lies with congress’ congressional rules not solely on the people serving in it. Regarding exclusively the home server on Clinton property in New York, why is it easily conceivable she set up that server because no one had furnished her with an office e-mail, she felt forced to take it upon herself to find a secure way to conduct business, perhaps she just needed an appropriately guarded way to work at, from home thus taking it upon herself to create it; another possibility, depending on when the server was put in place, when she became secretary of state she just continued using her private account with added security provided by private internet security firm commiserate with her job. There aren’t enough details, people asking the right questions to know for sure, and if 9 out of 10 emails sent were interdepartmental, already in the state department computer system, automatically retained or believed to be so, the one percent left educated guess dictates concluded to be personal, how did Hillary Clinton knowingly, willfully violate the law under either interpretation of the letter, spirit therein? Shortest distance between 2 points, she didn’t. Also needing to be up for conscious debate, do we have the right to view, analyze, comment and dissect private, personal e-mails just because she is a top government official with no hint of ethical, moral impropriety, allegations she conducted illegal activity, engaged in a sex scandal, harassment of any kind? Do we have a right to expect to see personal e-mails because they were on her work e-mail talking about her daughter’s wedding, personal matters because they were time sensitive and needed to be handled during standard business hours, better yet because we are unfailingly nosey,  an answer that should be no.

Further there is also a need to clarify, differentiate between private, as in civilian, non-government and secret; news often referencing her 2008 candidate comments on secret wiretaps, secret military tribunals, secret Whitehouse e-mail accounts. There is a drastic difference between secret meaning no one was supposed to know about it, it was generated for immoral, illegal activity, designed to fly under the radar, and secret as in no one knows about it because they weren’t paying attention, didn’t bother to look, didn’t ask; Hillary Clinton’s home server, private account falling into the second category. Independent her pervious comments’ wording, she possessed a private account hardly remarkable compared to any other ordinary American’s, using it for work as thousands of us do daily versus an official government account with all the bells and whistles namely security; having said server, contrary to public thought process shows less an attempt to shield communications from freedom of information requests, subpoena, regulations set forth by the state department, a sense of entitlement setting herself above the law, complete disregard for national security instead demonstrating an eye for it while ensuring she could do her best job in the office titled secretary of state by being able to do needed work at home in the safest way possible. Continuing, contrast that definition of secret, that definition of private to known suspicions, scandals involving government leaders, known attempts to hide, cover up material that should be for public consumption, reveals proof of unethical, illegal, immoral conduct against Clinton’s reaction to submitted requests for her business related e-mails; when asked to supply electronic communications to the committee once again dissecting Benghazi, something in spite of this being the minimum half a dozenth such hearing, convened group taking apart the subject, done just last year. When the state department presented Clinton with a written request earlier in 2014 seeking to fill their record gaps, she readily handed over 55,000 pages 900 of which, roughly 300 individual messages, went to Benghazi panel members. Hold on, government officials have known since last year about her private account and the New York Times is only reporting about it now, chiefly conservatives calling for her to turn over her sever to an independent auditor, screaming they will get to the bottom of this, wanting nothing less than her career, if not her head, on a platter were nowhere to be seen until media broke the story? Bolstering Clinton’s honesty amid attempted slander not scandal, when this became an issue, began receiving scrutiny, was being misconstrued, she asked the state department to release her emails, has agreed to testify before the promised committee, maybe only once, but acquiescing to the same people redundantly looking into Benghazi repeatedly, now fixated on Hillary Clinton’s e-mails as opposed to doing their part to, you know, run the country; do those read like the actions of someone trying to orchestrate a cover-up, deceive either authorities investigating Benghazi, the American people?  Whether you believe her or not there is not so much as a whiff she inappropriately leaked classified materials, there is zero indication her correspondence was ever in jeopardy of being compromised, read by the wrong people, falling into the wrong hands as a result of the lessened security, her home server has never been hacked, that security never infiltrated; statements that can’t be said about government facilities the Pentagon, select computers at the Whitehouse, NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) right down to the postal service finds themselves on the cyber-attack list. Oh and don’t leave out her former place of employment, the state department, who over the weekend had to shut down parts of its network to rid itself of malware stemming from the last November attack on unclassified servers, target: e-mail. Still there is something overtly nefarious, self-serving about Hillary Clinton getting a home server to do work at home, in off hours, to do it as secure as possible?  Was it a good idea, no, was it poor judgment maybe, could it have resulted in a major security breach, yes, should there be clearer guidelines and monitoring of records, e-mail at the state department, another yes, should state department other personnel be exclusively barred from private e-mail no (more on that in the next paragraph), but at the end of the day no harm was done and it wasn’t a case of dodging an obvious bullet. Fact is having a private e-mail, having it on a home server probably kept it as, or more, secure than it would be at the state department before the story broke, because it wasn’t in a hotspot for hackers like all government buildings are; putting it where it was kept prevented hackers from looking for it. Uncalculated by on record deficit hawks, politicians willing to cut people and programs to the barest of function, whose last presidential candidate wanted to solve our fiscal crisis by cutting PBS and endowments for the arts, how much Hillary Clinton probably saved tax payers choosing what she chose.

We too need to have frank, down to earth, realistic conversation about technology in our lives today; how many of us spend time at home after 5:00 answering texts, e-mails, conducting phone conversations with co-workers, bosses, employees we weren’t able to finish during the standard work day, something that has increasingly become a myth, handling problems as they arose from adjacent persons completing their work at home too? Angling for a promotion, just trying to do a good job, fearing you will be fired if the boss doesn’t see your dedication all top reasons why Americans, other industrialized nations’ workers consistently take their work home with them. Truth, the phenomenon is so commonplace every westernized nation spanning the globe has had to, is in the process of, answering: do all those work related e-mails, texts and conversations constitute work for which employees should be paid overtime to the consternation of governments, labor departments and employers. The number one reason blackberries are seen as fixtures at dinner tables is not teens texting their friends who can’t put down their addictive devices, are hooked on instant communication, buy into the idea if they don’t answer now they will miss something critically important in their social life, only adults who feel their behavior is a must to get ahead, to do well, treading the waters of survival. Picture then the enormous responsibly, long hours, after hours, odd hours one spends when their job title is secretary of state; how many e-mails, phone calls, video chats, similar actions were done at home because the people she intended to reach were across the globe where it’s morning while it was night here?  How many video conferences were conducted in fuzzy slippers, confortable pajamas, dressed for work from the waist up where she would be seen so she could complete needed business and easily go to bed afterward; opponents, watchdogs are laser focused on Benghazi, where was Hillary Clinton when news of what had transpired in Libya reached U.S. shores, the Whitehouse? Assuming she wasn’t traveling as part of her job duties, in transit to/from a state department visit abroad she was logically at home, in bed considering the time difference, so when she gets that call at home either telling her to report to her office, the Whitehouse, to be briefed on the situation or a short rundown of what they knew, she’s logically going to martial her troops, call into work the people she needs, text, e-mail whatever she needs to do so they can all arrive roughly the same time, be given tasks while she speaks with the president, top officials. Hints why no was the answer to should to personnel be barred from private e-mail accounts, because they are required for just such scenarios above and slapping .gov on the back of an e-mail address doesn’t constitute security; without the security and firewalls, that would likely need to be place on a home computer in conjunction with your office one, accessing your .gov account elsewhere would doubtlessly produce the same security risk. Similarly those mocking her claim of convenience, wish to use one device not several, you would what rather she sent official business e-mail, potential national security sensitive information from her private, no extra security, standard internet service provider account accidentally, due to being busy, stressed or tired, mix up her devices or accounts sending the wrong information to the wrong people because she has too many to manage? Sure she has an i-phone and a Blackberry now; technology changes a lot in the 6 years gone by since she began her stint as secretary of state, even in the 2 years since leaving the post. Likewise skeptics sarcastically stating 30,000 e-mails are a lot of wedding planning, when you have an ordinary e-mail service account, one furnished via your ISP, you end up with a fair amount of advertisements, especially if you do any online shopping, retailers trying to get your return business, show you potentially desired items; forget when it’s your only account all your business, personal and so forth e-mail goes through there, aforementioned doctor appointment reminders, vet reminders, as Clinton spokesperson’s and staff alluded to, memos on her daughter’s wedding, conversations with her husband, other family had while traveling as part of her job, because when your job is secretary of state, working those kinds of hours phone and e-mail are your only way of communicating, keeping in touch, amassed over 4 years time. Or, assuming the AP, with its own ax to grind one might add, is correct and she had a private account exclusively for state department business, implying she had another one for exclusively private matters, memos on her daughter’s wedding, vet visits, doctors’ appointments, sent to her official business account because it was during work hours and that’s where she would see it, she sent e-mails to her husband, secret service guarding her property alerting them aids would be picking up clothing, toiletries for an impromptu, emergency trip, unforeseen press conference, retrieving unclassified work documents left on the coffee table. Either way, the New York Times and the Associated Press reference only one account, meaning they got the official records from the much discussed private account making Trey Gowdy’s announcement he would subpoena the “new” e-mails cited by the newspaper, sharply referencing multiple accounts and wanting to know what’s on them, reek of exactly what it is a GOP agenda that has nothing to do with the truth regarding Benghazi, Hillary Clinton’s e-mail practices, potential security risks, but the obstruction and distraction machine they have been running for nearly the past decade.

A far more significant truth, this is Paul Ryan blowing a gasket all over again, shocked by Louis Learner’s lost e-mails, seemingly unfamiliar with the concept hard drives crash, never mind they couldn’t name any law she broke, didn’t even know what smoking gun they were looking for there either; this is the Benghazi rabbit hole again, refresher course, who is Trey Gowdy at the forefront of now demanding her e-mails, calling for her home server to be surrendered to someone for perusal, Benghazi panel member, possible panel leader. Worse, their latest tactic in that witch hunt won’t bring Chris Stevens back, the other Americans who died, won’t prevent the next Chris Stevens, won’t increase security at American embassies abroad in volatile parts of the world, whatever ground they might have gained responding to Clinton’s use of private e-mail, changes to come was achieved by the story being broken via news outlets making their shows of supreme outrage repetitive and superfluous. Because, none of this is about understanding the hard, absolute facts surrounding what happened there, concern for our national security, a tangible breach of the public’s trust regarding official correspondence, government officials’ e-mail usage; it is plainly about saying ha, ha we were right, here’s the proof, you’re a goner. Gowdy openly admitting they, his committee, be it the existing one on Libya or the talked about one wanted by conservatives to investigate her e-mails alone, doesn’t have the authority to subpoena her server; calling whether the entire house of representatives has that authority an open constitutional question on national news. Virtually eliminating their political rival is all they care about, perhaps with good reason, since there is no worthwhile policy debate from the right, just hatred for the other guy, utter disrespect for the sitting president occupying the Whitehouse, Jeb Bush’s solution to ISIS is he’ll take them down, reveling in their surrogate mouthpiece Rudy Giuliani’s “does he love America” comments because it distracts from the abortion bill blocked by their own more moderate conservatives, women voted in for the 2015 session, the education standards vote that had to be canceled due to similar in-fighting, the fact they were willing to play political football with homeland security funding, ironically simultaneously criticizing Obama foreign policy, to get the president to back down on immigration. When that didn’t happen they then switched to continuing to delay the conformation for attorney general replacement, after Eric Holder announced his desire to step down, despite their loathing for Holder, what it does to the country, what it does to their reputation. Of course this is the same group of politicians who sent a seditious letter to the Ayatollah of Iran warning him not to listen to the current leader of the free world, regarding nuclear negotiations, because any deal made could be overturned by the next president, trying to blame it’s horrible content and connotation on a rush job to get away from a snow storm when the blow back hit and hit hard. And people thought Hillary Clinton’s claim of convenience didn’t hold water, sounded like a poorly crafted excuse, an attempt to excuse wrong doing; hers minimally had some plausibility, shows some caution in performing her job. A perfect sound bite for those who still need proof positive this is the political version of dress-gate, needless drama the GOP has become infamous for.