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Saturday, November 05, 2016

Bullshit email stories are bullshit. Here's why.

Please pass this story on to all who still do not understand why the email pseudoscandal is BS.

Today, many media outlets published stories claiming that Hillary sent a single classified email to her daughter. Politico is the only one to get this right: "Hillary Clinton sent Chelsea info now deemed classified."

Get it? "Now deemed." Most news stories have omitted those two words. The information was not classified at the time. (Compare the way Politico handles the story to this version.)

Even now, that "now deemed" email to Chelsea is considered merely "confidential," the lowest form of classification. A "confidential" message can be sent snail-mail. In the course of my research into various controversies of the past, I've seen declassified documents originally marked "Confidential" which were nothing more than photocopied newsclips. That happens all the time.

In this case, the email appears to have been something about climate change. We're not talking about foreign intelligence. It appears that Hillary sent a newsclip about climate change to her daughter.

Moreover, this particular piece of mail was already known to investigators months ago. Pro-Trump FBI agents in New york -- loyal to Rudy Giuliani, who hopes to be Trump's A.G. -- simply discovered a duplicate of something already known. They are now giving an insignificant old matter new publicity in a transparent attempt to sway the election in Trump's favor.

To reiterate: That damned "climate change" clip had no classification stamp at the time. There is no story here.

Matthew Yglesias has written an excellent summary of the entire email pseudoscandal. A right-wing propaganda campaign has led a majority of Americans to believe that Hillary Clinton somehow broke the law, even though no-one can name the law. Colin Powell had also used a personal email account for the sake of convenience. (The article explains the technical reasons.) Powell now doesn't like people to point out that fact, but it is a fact nonetheless.

As Yglesias points out, the use of a private server is "legally irrelevant." It's not as though Gmail or Yahoo provide impregnability. Obviously, a private server should have been more secure.

What about those much-ballyhooed 30,000 deleted emails? We keep hearing about that business from Donald Trump and his surrogates. Trouble is, Donnie and his mob seem unaware of just how these newfangled computer thingamabobs actually work.

Wanna know what really happened? I'll make it simple.

The committee looking into that other bullshit witch-hunt, Benghazi, asked only for the work-related emails, not the purely personal emails. The work-related emails were chosen by Hillary's lawyers based purely on the info in the headers.

(I presume that they automatically placed all mail to Chelsea in the "purely personal" category.)

Yglesias makes one error here. He writes:
She turned the work emails over because that’s what she was legally required to do. She deleted the others, presumably because she did not want Trey Gowdy and Jason Chaffetz to rummage through her inbox leaking whatever they happened to find amusing to area journalists.
No. The lawyers made the deletions, and not at her directive. Why is this distinction important? Yglesias himself gives the reason...
Now, is it possible that Clinton’s legal team simply decided to entirely disregard the law and delete work-related emails?

In some sense, sure. But there’s no evidence that this happened. Generally speaking, in life we assume it would be moderately difficult to hire a well-known law firm to destroy evidence for you without someone deciding to do the right thing and squeal.
This next point is extremely important. We are about to drive home one simple point which is almost never brought up in discussions of these emails. Once you understand it, you'll see how thoroughly the American public has been bamboozled.
Besides which, it would be almost comically easy to catch Clinton in the act of systematically destroying relevant emails. The vast majority of the work-related email correspondence of an incumbent secretary of state, after all, is going to be correspondence with other government employees. Maybe she shoots a note to the Pentagon about Benghazi, or circulates ideas for a speech draft with her communications team. Any message like that, by definition, would exist on a government server as well as on her private one. This means it would be fully accessible via FOIA and also means that if Clinton’s copy were found to not be in the pile of emails she turned over, she’d be caught red handed.
(Emphasis added.) Get it? Comprende?

It is impossible to "bleach" (to use a Trumpian term) work-related emails, because all such mails exist in multiple copies outside the control of Hillary or her lawyers.

Think about it. If I send you an email, I have a copy and you have a copy. More than that: My email server has a copy and your server has a copy.

Lots of copies. And I can control only one.

I can delete my own emails all day long -- I can use the most powerful erasing tools imaginable -- hell, I can toss every computer I own into a raging inferno. It would all be for naught. Those multiple copies still exist.

By the way: The FBI found copies of most of those "deleted" emails. They really were mostly innocuous personal messages; none of them included classified info. Trump never tells you that part. 

Donald Trump's entire message has been bullshit, directed toward technological illiterates who simply don't understand the basics of how computers work.

The email scandal is -- and always has been -- nonsense.

I can imagine what a Trumper would say. "What about her personal emails? Obviously, they contained information about criminal activity, even if she wasn't sending messages to people in government!"

This inane argument presumes that anyone who sends a private email for any reason must be as dirty as Vito Genovese. What are we really saying here? Are we saying that every politician and public servant should be forced to divulge all emails, however personal, at all times?

(I suspect that the Trumpers do indeed want just such a law -- but they want it to be applied only to the Clintons.)

It should also be pointed out that the people with whom Hillary corresponded have had their computers examined.

Yglesias makes another point that only a few others have made. It doesn't matter if Clinton used a private server or a Gmail or Yahoo account. The transmission of truly classified material occurs via a separate system -- a very secure system which, I'm told, involves couriers.

Clinton used that system to transmit secret data. She has never, ever been accused of sending a classified message outside of that system.

Of course, it seems a bit ridiculous to use couriers to share a story published in the New York Times.

So how might a low-level "confidential" message appear in an email sent outside the official system set up for the transmission of classified information?
Nonetheless, mistakes happen in part because classification standards are vague and ever-changing. Technically speaking, forwarding a Washington Post article detailing things revealed by Edward Snowden could constitute an improper discussion of classified matters.
Whenever right-wingers scream about classified messages on Hillary's server, that's what it all really comes down to.

As we've seen, the most "important" allegedly classified (as in "Confidential") message unearthed heretofore involved congratulations to the newly-installed head of Malawi. This message included no data not available via Google; it should never have received any sort of classification stamp. We're talking about piffle. Hillary did not write that particular piece of piffle; someone else did. And it had no classification stamp in the header.

Hillary broke no laws. She did nothing wrong.

Nevertheless, cable teevee has pounded on the email nonscandal more than they've talked about any of the real issues. Example: Cable TV pundits never talk about Donald Trump's plan to get rid of the FDA -- the "food police" as he calls it. Getting rid of that agency (or drastically curtailing its powers) would allow big corporations to put anything into your food, just like the bad old days of the 19th century.

That's not considered important. But an errant email about the president of Malawi, sent via Hillary Clinton's private server, is considered world-changing.
Clinton broke no laws according to the FBI itself. Her setup gave her no power to evade federal transparency laws beyond what anyone who has a personal email account of any kind has. Her stated explanation for her conduct is entirely believable, fits the facts perfectly, and is entirely plausible to anyone who doesn't simply start with the assumption that she's guilty of something.

Given Powell’s conduct, Clinton wasn't even breaking with an informal precedent. The very worst you can say is that, faced with an annoying government IT policy, she used her stature to find a personal workaround rather than a systemic fix that would work for everyone. To spend so much time on such a trivial matter would be absurd in a city council race, much less a presidential election. To do so in circumstances when it advances the electoral prospects of a rival who has shattered all precedents in terms of lacking transparency or basic honesty is infinitely more scandalous than anything related to the server itself.
Added note: I don't know how much more I'll be writing between now and Tuesday -- maybe a lot, maybe nothing. The new polls are getting to me. My heart's not in great shape, and I'm having serious symptoms. Even the big pro-Dem sites are infuriating: If you're not a blinkered optimist, you're considered a troll!

If I do write again, I'll tell the stories of THE stupidest anti-Hillary smears out there right now -- and one of those smears touches on this humble blog's most notorious offering. One yarn, being spread by Erik Prince, holds that Hillary spent a lot of time on Jeffrey Epstein's island; supposedly, this is the big secret on Weiner's computer. (It's nonsense, of course; we have the passenger manifests of Epstein's plane.)

The other smear -- and I'm not making this up -- accuses the Clintons and/or John Podesta of literal devil-worship. Natually, the scholars debating this issue on World Net Daily have made somber references to this old Cannonfire post published on April 1, 2006.
Comments:
I agree with everything you wrote. I think what is still galling people is the possibility that Hillary Clinton discussed Clinton Foundation issues on her private server and sent emails to others, also on their private server, and that those emails were deleted.
And the Haiti issue keeps coming up. How much did the Clintons collect for Haiti, how much have the spent?
 
The Clintons have always supported the right side in Haiti. God help Haiti if Trump gets in -- he's in tight with people who want to bring back the dark days of the Duvalier dictatorship.
 
It's not Trump. It's the media.

As Maher called them out last night. Where are they? Doing their jobs: as mouthpieces for their masters.

Maybe, for your heart, it's time to think post-election. Write your TYS or your request for Crow Recipes now.

We can always become the White Rose Society if the worst happens.

Take care. Go thrift shopping! Drink tea. I don't recommend alcohol because there's not enough alcohol in the world to help this....don't ask how I know!

Turn off the news!!! I'm even afraid of Nate Silver these days!


 
Thanks for this, Joseph.

What galls me is that the media, the GOP, and the unrepentant idiot Left still wail on about the "30,000 emails!!" while ignoring the 22 million emails deleted by the George W. Bush Administration. There was a brief blip, and then, poof! Nothing afterwards.

Memories are short, it seems, unless it comes to Bill and Hillary Clinton. Then it's nothing but recycled s**t from the 1990s followed by cries of "warmongers!" and other nonsense that has already been debunked.

@prowlerzee--Agreed. Me, I just hit Al Giordano's Twitter feed and check Sam Wang. Not in the mood for gloom.
 
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