Saturday, July 9, 2016

What The Private Use of Servers Really Says About Hillary

Well, now that Hillary has officially been examined by the FBI, and the State Department has reopened its own investigations regarding her improper use of confidential information, I figured now is a good time to jump in and give my two cents on the issue.

What's the big deal?
This is something that is difficult to understand even for those within government, so let's start with the basics.  The basic problem is that Clinton decided to use her own private email and outside servers rather than use the governments "more secure" servers.

So let's start with why you would use the government servers.  Well first off, it is your legal obligation to protect government data once you get to that level of clearance.  This is something that is a requirement of government employees, who work with government data as the data is kept and protected specifically by the government.  Additionally, it is recorded at every instance to keep track of how employees are using data.  This is more of a counter-espionage measure than anything else.  So the basic rap is as a government employee you are legally required to protect government data or anything that could be considered classified, and the government has decided that the most effective way of doing this is through using their systems.

So that sounds simple enough, but there is of course another side to the problem and that is why would you decide to do as Hillary did and not use the government servers to maintain your data?  Well first of all, the government systems are always a few cycles behind their predecessors.  So for example, when I worked for the State Department the embassy had just been cleared to use SharePoint 2010 even though the new version of 2013 had just been rolled out.  Software can be just a few cycles behind, whereas many times, hardware is much further behind in the cycle.  That being said, it wouldn't be that much of a problem.  The bigger problem, and the one the government has come under fire recently for, is its lack of encryption on data sent through its servers.  Now in laymen's terms the thing to keep in mind is that government data is harder to access from the outside thanks to things like signal protectors, a large systematic firewall, and hidden data cables, but once you get past that, it is much easier to spy on data transferred in the network.  Secretary Kerry has even gone so far to say that he automatically assumes that the Chinese and Russians can see every email and text message he sends.  Now if you're a citizen, a statement like that coming from your Secretary of State doesn't exactly breed faith in our ability to protect sensitive information.

On the other hand, most public servers encrypt their data and servers and are pioneers in the field of data security, which means that in many cases the servers are likely to be more secure than the government's.  The problem, however, is that the government no longer controls the data, so if the Chinese go to Google with a lucrative offer to buy a small chunk of information regarding the Secretary of State's email they can without any real problem, and Google is accountable to no one.  Another, larger, problem that a lot of people encounter is with deleting files from these servers.  Oftentimes the data is deleted and then the deleted data is purchased off of the server farms, which no longer have any type of legal obligation to protect the data.  Another side note here is I am confused why no one has made attempts to buy the deleted data except maybe Hillary had the farms delete it for good as well?

So basically, Hillary was darned if she didn't use the government's servers and danged if she did.

Why do the FBI's findings matter?
The FBI sat down with Hillary in a long interview and released findings that contrary to what Hillary had claimed over and over again that she did not send classified data over her emails, she actually had.  They also couldn't access over 55% of the emails since Hillary's lawyers went through and systematically deleted over half of the files.  A little side note here as technically I would consider this evidence tampering, but the lawyers claim that they didn't look at what was written in the emails, they just deleted them.  The FBI also found no evidence of the emails being spied on, but they also noted that just because they hadn't found it, it didn't mean it hadn't happened.  They then recommended no charges be filed and called Hillary extremely careless.

And that was it right?  Well, then the State Department decided it would reopen its investigation into the email files as well.  And all of this just happens to be happening in Obama's last year in office, when there's a lame duck supreme court, and Hillary is running for president.

What about these three departments?
Normally I might be a bit more optimistic about the independent operating powers of our government, but I just don't think that's the case here.  First of all, we have a Democratic president, who has already thrown himself fully behind Hillary, saying there is no one more qualified to be president.  Of course, let's not forget the huge role the Clintons played in getting him elected to both his time in the Senate and also as president.  Next, let's remember that the Director of the FBI is appointed by none other than the president himself, and while yes, this is not just some puppet police force, but it seems pretty clear to me that the FBI became involved more to absolve Hillary than anything else, but then guess what?  They found out that there were some serious discrepancies in her account.  So now the State Department, which you'll remember Secretary Clinton used to head, and now her friend Kerry heads is going to look into the issue.  Personally, I think all of this is being done in an attempt to put the issue to bed before the election gets too far under way because the possibility that Hillary mishandled government data like this is a huge weakness in her campaign.

All that being said, and with the Supreme Court out of the picture, I really feel like Trump could run aground on this very issue because it will be just believable enough for him to persistently attack, but just not believable enough that people will get bored with those attacks and wish he moved on to something else of importance.

What does all this really say about Hillary?
So in the end, it seems that Hillary did mishandle government data.  While as Secretary of State and with a chance to become the president, I doubt she was involved in any espionage for a foreign government, and I doubt any of the information made it any more into foreign nationals hands than would have happened any way.  With all that being said, Hillary was the head of an entire department of hard working government workers whose entire role on the team was to protect the government's and Hillary's information, and Hillary did not even trust them enough to give them a chance to do their job.  In general, I believe there are some serious problems with democracy, but as long as this is the game we play, there are certain lines that should never be crossed, and the abject willingness of Hillary to sidestep the democratic process reeks of another Nixon-Kissinger-esque style of governance that bypasses bureaucracy in favor of an "omniscient" president.

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