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Hillary’s security breach, and why it matters

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Perhaps you’ve heard of Sergey Lavrov — or perhaps you haven’t. He has been Russia’s foreign minister since March 9, 2004.

Imagine what U.S. intelligence agencies might have gained if they’d had access in real time (or even with some delay) to every email and direct message Lavrov sent or received from Jan. 21, 2009 through Feb. 1, 2013.

Those were tumultuous years for Russia. Vladimir Putin returned to the presidency, replacing Dimitry Medvedev. The Obama-Medvedev Commission was formed at the beginning of that period — the vehicle by which the relations between Russia and the United States were to have improved across a variety of crucial fronts.

Yang Jiechi was the foreign minister of the People’s Republic of China during those years. Imagine if President Obama had had access to all of Yang’s Internet trails and the data that flowed to and from his virtual desk. What an advantage to our president that would have been! What a trove of insight into the ambitions of the PRC’s inner core of powerful party elites.

An archive of Lavrov’s or Yang’s email traffic would not have provided our president with a complete map of Vladimir Putin’s or Hu Jintao’s government’s plans and decisions. But it still would have been among the greatest intelligence coups ever recorded.

If it ever came to light that either Lavrov or Yang had allowed such a breach to occur, neither Putin nor Hu’s successor, Xi Jingping, would hesitate to dispatch these men and their senior staffs to very dark rooms for long interrogations over what had been lost and why. Their countries’ senior computer specialists would be poring over every device and document to decipher what exactly the Americans might have learned (or others — like the British, the Israelis or the Iranians).

Putin or Xi would say nothing publicly, of course. But neither Lavrov nor Yang would be putting themselves out there as potential future leaders of their countriesm after having so recklessly endangered them.

The dates above, of course, are the dates during which Hillary Clinton served as secretary of state. Those dates, from beginning to end, were dates in which her secret, private server whirred away wherever it was kept, sending and receiving intelligence of the highest quality from who knows how many documents officially classified by the U.S. government as secret, top secret, or what is known as “sensitive, compartmented information” (“SCI”) in the world of intelligence professionals.

And of course, everything the United States secretary of state sends or receives is intelligence of the highest value to our adversaries. Much of it is formally classified — “born classified” as one pro put it this week — of inestimable value to the decision makers of powers hostile to America, especially in wartime. How valuable would it have been to Putin or Hu to know, for example, that the U.S. was quitting Iraq without a Status of Forces Agreement abruptly in December 2011? How valuable to our Iranian enemies, engaged even then in the killing of U.S. troops, to know exactly when the president and his secretary of state would pull the plug on Iraq’s government?

But we know she broke the law, whether or not she will be prosecuted for doing so. That law is 18 U.S.C Section 1924. She knowingly built a system that violated its strictures daily for more than four years.


This column was originally posted on


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