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April 05, 2016

Hillary's Unsecure Blackberry Might Have Been Hacked in 2009; US Government May Have Had Word of Foreign Intelligence Reading Her Emails

A little background before the new disclosure. This Washington Post article from last week is a very good and very exhaustive piece of reporting on Hillary's email scandal.

Let me quote the article as regards The Battle of the Blackberry. Hillary was absolutely determined to keep using her Blackberry, and her Palace Guard was determined to see the Queen's will made manifest, but apparently the government doesn't use Blackberries as secure phones. (The article doesn't say what type of phone they use.)

Hillary Clinton’s email problems began in her first days as secretary of state. She insisted on using her personal BlackBerry for all her email communications, but she wasn’t allowed to take the device into her seventh-floor suite of offices, a secure space known as Mahogany Row.

For Clinton, this was frustrating.... She hated having to put her BlackBerry into a lockbox before going into her own office.

Her aides and senior officials pushed to find a way to enable her to use the device in the secure area. But their efforts unsettled the diplomatic security bureau, which was worried that foreign intelligence services could hack her BlackBerry and transform it into a listening device.

On Feb. 17, 2009, less than a month into Clinton’s tenure, the issue came to a head. Department security, intelligence and technology specialists, along with five officials from the National Security Agency, gathered in a Mahogany Row conference room. They explained the risks to Cheryl Mills, Clinton’s chief of staff, while also seeking "mitigation options" that would accommodate Clinton’s wishes.

"The issue here is one of personal comfort," one of the participants in that meeting, Donald Reid, the department’s senior coordinator for security infrastructure, wrote afterward in an email that described Clinton’s inner circle of advisers as "dedicated [BlackBerry] addicts."

Personal comfort > National security. Got it.

Clinton used her BlackBerry as the group continued looking for a solution.

Kind of illegally.

Let's skip past all the illegal stuff with the illegal server, which was of course being used at the same time.


On Jan. 13, 2009, a longtime aide to Bill Clinton registered a private email domain for Hillary Clinton,, that would allow her to send and receive email through the server.

Eight days later, she was sworn in as secretary of state. Among the multitude of challenges she faced was how to integrate email into her State Department routines. Because Clinton did not use desktop computers, she relied on her personal BlackBerry, which she had started using three years earlier....

The new president was making broad promises about government transparency that had a bearing on Clinton's communication choices. In memos to his agency chiefs, Obama said his administration would promote accountability through the disclosure of a wide array of information, one part of a "profound national commitment to ensuring an open government." That included work emails...

But in those first few days, Clinton’s senior advisers were already taking steps that would help her circumvent those high-flown words, according to a chain of internal State Department emails released to Judicial Watch, a conservative nonprofit organization suing the government over Clinton’s emails.

Cheryl Mills, who served as Hillary Clinton’s chief of staff, wondered if the State Department could get the secretary of state an encrypted device such as the one from the National Security Agency used by President Obama.

Leading that effort was Mills, Clinton’s chief of staff. She was joined by Clinton adviser Huma Abedin, Undersecretary Patrick Kennedy and Lewis Lukens, a senior career official who served as Clinton’s logistics chief. Their focus was on accommodating Clinton.

Again, personal comfort and accommodating the Queen's whims trumps national security and the public's right to know what its ministers are doing and who's paying them to do it.

Now comes the Queen demanding higher privileges -- she wants to have presidential-level tech. The following has to do with setting up an encrypted computer, not a blackberry, in Clinton's office, but I quote it to show Hillary always asking: What higher-status devices are on offer, and how do I get them?

Mills wondered whether the department could get her an encrypted device like the one from the NSA that Obama used.

"If so, how can we get her one?" Mills wrote the group on Saturday evening, Jan. 24.

Now we go back to the matter of her demand for an encrypted Blackberry, because she didn't want to learn how to use another phone's Settings Menu.


As it happened, Clinton would never have a government BlackBerry, personal computer or email account. A request for a secure device from the NSA was rebuffed at the outset: "The current state of the art is not too user friendly, has no infrastructure at State, and is very expensive," Reid, the security official, wrote in an email on Feb. 13, adding that "each time we asked the question 'What was the solution for POTUS?" we were politely told to shut up and color."

Oh, poor you.

Clinton would continue to use her BlackBerry for virtually all of her government communication, but not on Mahogany Row.

You see? She's the victim here. She tried to work within the law, but damnit, no one would accommodate her sufficiently.

So the point is: She refused to use her encrypted government issued phone because of "personal comfort" and preference for the Blackberry. She sought a very expensive, scratch-made encrypted Blackberry, "like the president uses," but was rebuffed because it would be too expensive to make her bespoke phone.

And now, we can turn to today's revelations: Clinton's unsecured, easily-hacked Blackberry was in fact hacked.

Information pieced together from Hillary Clinton's trove of released email suggests that her request for a secure Blackberry may have followed an intrusion into her system during a trip to Asia, according to an analysis by a former Homeland Security official.

"There now seems to be a very real probability that Hillary Clinton rushed to install an encryption certificate in March 2009 because the U.S. intelligence community caught another country reading Clinton's unencrypted messages during her February 16-21, 2009, trip to China, Indonesia, Japan, and S. Korea," wrote Stewart Baker, a former assistant secretary for policy at the Department of Homeland Security, in a column for the Washington Post.

Clinton in 2009 asked the National Security Agency to create a secure Blackberry for her to use while traveling. The agency refused to give her one of the devices, citing its nearly $5,000 cost....

A staff memo describing a March 11, 2009 meeting at the State Department may have shed light on the issue. Baker recounted that "her attention was drawn to a sentence that indicates we [the diplomatic security office] have intelligence concerning … vulnerability during her recent trip to Asia."

Based on timing -- that this memo indicated "vulnerability" and then she rushed some new security into her system to make it slightly less unsecure -- Baker believes she knew she'd been hacked, and was taking some much-too-late mitigation efforts.

BS on the "Too Expensive" Claim? Commenters are debating whether or not a $5000 phone is really a deal-breaker in our gold-plated government.

CSMBigBird says:

Ace, I was a Siprnet Admin, and a COMSEC custodian before retiring. A cabinet Sec could order a 50 grand phone and no one, absolutely no one would blink.

Well then I guess there's a different reason. Like: "We know how the security works on the phone we routinely give out, because we've got hundreds of them, and we have no idea really how your phone would work, so why don't you just stop being a Mean Old Lady Who Doesn't Like New Things and use the damn phone we're giving you?"

digg this
posted by Ace at 03:47 PM

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