CLINTON, AIDES TRIED TO USE WIRELESS PHONES IN SECURE AREAS
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her aides tried to use personal hand-held electronic devices inside areas used to store classified information, according to the just-released State Department inspector general report.
The Bureau of Diplomatic Security, the State Department’s security arm, told the inspector general that in March 2009 Mrs. Clinton rejected an offer from security officials to provide her with a secure government smartphone. “DS was informed that Secretary Clinton’s staff had been asking to use BlackBerry devices inside classified areas,” said the report, released late last month.
Another portion of the inspector general’s report states that Mrs. Clinton sought in late January 2009 to bring her BlackBerry into a secure area. Instead, State Department officials offered to set up a computer near her office desk to check emails, although the report says the stand-alone computer was never installed.
Classified areas are called SCIFs, for “sensitive compartment information facilities,” and are used by officials with security clearances to read secret or topsecret intelligence and other classified information. Security rules prohibit bringing in electronic devices like smartphones that could be used to photograph or copy secret documents or to take notes.
The facilities also are protected against external eavesdropping, and those entering are required to leave all phones and other hand-held electronic devices outside.
The report does not say whether Mrs. Clinton or her aides violated the ban on using smartphones inside the SCIFs. However, if she or her aides improperly used their BlackBerrys inside the SCIF, it could explain how classified information ended up on Mrs. Clinton’s private email server.
The disclosure of secrets found on some of the 55,000 emails from Mrs. Clinton’s unsecure private server is the focus of an FBI investigation. As part of the investigation, the FBI on Oct. 12 seized four servers used within the secretary’s office by Mrs. Clinton and her aides.
According to the inspector general’s report, after the aides requested to use BlackBerry devices inside the classified areas, the assistant secretary for diplomatic security sent a classified memorandum to Mrs. Clinton’s chief of staff, Cheryl Mills, describing the vulnerabilities of using BlackBerry devices and emphasized that they are prohibited from being used inside sensitive areas.
Mrs. Clinton contacted the assistant secretary after receiving the memo and informed him that she “gets it” regarding cellphone use in secure areas.
Diplomatic Security also issued a warning directly to Mrs. Clinton about hacking threats against the department in March 2011. The memo said there had been a “dramatic increase” since January 2011 in cyberattacks by hackers whose identities were redacted in the report. The hackers were seeking “to compromise the private home email accounts of senior department officials.”
“Although the targets are unclassified, personal email accounts, the likely objective is to compromise user accounts and thereby gain access to policy documents and personal information that could enable technical surveillance and possible blackmail,” the memo said. “The personal email of family members also is at risk.”
The inspector general’s report concluded that Mrs. Clinton failed to request or obtain approval to use the private email server and did not report suspected hacking attempts against the server.