Better To Ask For Forgiveness Than Permission?

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from The New York Times,

Hillary Rodham Clinton revealed on Tuesday that she had deleted about half her emails from her years as secretary of state, saying she had turned over to the Obama administration all correspondence about government business but had erased records of communications about private matters, like yoga routines, her daughter’s wedding and her mother’s funeral.

In a news conference about her exclusive use of a private email account while secretary, Mrs. Clinton sought to squelch the furor about those communications, already in its second week. She acknowledged that it would have been wiser to use a government email for official business, but said she “fully complied with every rule,” and was going “above and beyond” what was required of her in asking the State Department to make public much of her email correspondence.

Her confirmation that she and her aides had chosen which emails to make available to the State Department raised new concerns about Mrs. Clinton’s power to decide which records of her tenure as secretary would be available to congressional investigators, to journalists filing Freedom of Information Act requests, and to history.

It immediately emboldened Republicans who are leading a specially appointed House committee investigating the 2012 attack on a United States mission in Benghazi, Libya. “Because Secretary Clinton has created more questions than answers, the Select Committee is left with no choice but to call her to appear at least twice,” said Representative Trey Gowdy, Republican of South Carolina, who is chairman of the committee.

The news conference presented a rare and intriguing political spectacle: a former first lady and secretary of state, expected but not yet declared as a presidential candidate, standing inside the United Nations fielding pointed questions about secrecy, accountability and judgment.

Mrs. Clinton had hardly fielded questions from the political press since she last ran for president, in 2008. And the news conference had the feel of an unofficial — and ungainly — start to her 2016 presidential campaign, which could come formally as soon as early April.

“Looking back,” she said, “it might have been smarter to have those two devices from the very beginning.”

Indeed, nothing prohibited federal employees from using private accounts for work when Mrs. Clinton was secretary of state, although the practice was discouraged. But, beginning in October 2009, 10 months after she took office, new regulations from the National Archives and Records Administration said that agencies where employees were free to use private email systems “must ensure that federal records sent or received on such systems are preserved in the appropriate agency record-keeping system.”

In Mrs. Clinton’s case, her emails were backed up on her personal server — not on a government one.

It is unclear if the emails were deleted irretrievably, and a spokesman for Mrs. Clinton declined to elaborate on how she had erased the correspondence.

“If the emails were on a server in her house and she deleted them, there’s a chance the emails could still be on the server’s hard drive if you forensically examine it,” said Chester Wisniewski, a senior security adviser at the computer security firm Sophos. “To make sure the emails are really destroyed, you would have to physically destroy the hard drive, which many companies and places like the Defense Department often do.”

Mr. Wisniewski said that if the emails were kept on a third-party provider, they were less likely to be recoverable.

At one point on Tuesday, Mrs. Clinton said the emails she deleted contained “personal communications from my husband and me.” But on Sunday, a spokesman for Mr. Clinton told reporters the former president had “sent two emails in his life.”

After the news conference, Mrs. Clinton’s office provided several new details about the email account and what she has provided to the State Department. More than 100 government officials knew about Mrs. Clinton’s use of private email, her office said.

(The White House spokesman, Josh Earnest, said on Monday that President Obama exchanged emails with Mrs. Clinton, saw that she was using a personal account, but did not understand that her messages were not being made available to the government in some form.)

Mrs. Clinton used her email only once to communicate with a foreign official, her office said.

In 2007, Mrs. Clinton, then a senator from New York and candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, accused the George W. Bush administration of using “secret White House email accounts” along with secret wiretaps and military tribunals.

“You know, our Constitution is being shredded,” she said at the time.

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