Mapping Hilton's missing computer
"It's gotta' be down there somewhere. Lemme'
have another look" : The Dude
months after FBI Director James Comey punted the idea of presenting
the case against Hillary Clinton (Hilton) to a grand jury all of the
FBI and media yada about the FBI's investigation is still focused on the
tens of thousands of Hilton's e-mails (Ems) scattered here, there, and
(just about) everywhere. But what the public is not getting to hear is
the part about how much of the actual gear that held all that Em data has gone missing,
and how the FBI has never inspected that missing gear and has no idea
what it contained.
In announcing his decision not to take this
case to a grand jury to obtain an indictment, what we mostly heard from
Comey on Jul05|16 was how the FBI did not find potentially incriminating
evidence of intent, thereby implying that there was insufficient evidence
to raise the matter with a grand jury. However, when one looks at the
various stories about how gear and data went missing between 2009 and
2016, Comey's assertions of a full and thorough investigation become
absolutely risible, as does his decision to punt the grand jury.
There are many reasons, listed below, why
all of this is important, but here is the most important one: The stories that
Hilton and her
staff told about the disappearing gear are possibly, if not
probably, falsehoods that should have been evaluated by a petit jury in a
criminal trial, or at the very least by a grand jury, for in the American
system of justice it is juries that make the determination of what the
facts are and whether suspected wrong-doers are lying. Comey has defiled
that system of justice and, hence, justice itself.
This analysis relies primarily on the following original
Here is a list of the players who are referred to
- Abedin, Houma: Hilton's Deputy Chief of
- Combetta, Paul: PRN IT guy who
worked on Hilton's account
- Cooper, Justin: IT guy hold-over from WJC
operation ~ set up Chappaqua homebrew system
- Hanley, Monica: long-time "former" Hilton
aide and congressional staffer
- Kendell, David: long-time Hilton lawyer
- Mills, Cheryl: Hilton's Chief of Staff
- Pagliano, Bryan: Hilton staffer IT guy
who helped set-up/maintain homebrew system
- Platte River Networks (PRN):
contracted with Hilton operation to maintain the homebrew system
- Sullivan, Jacob: Hilton's Deputy Chief of
Staff 2009-2013, likely nominee for National Security Advisor
- Williams & Connolly (W&C):
law firm representing Hilton
Tracking the gear
Please refer to Fig. 1, above, to follow this
discussion. The solid arrows summarize the physical movements of various
pieces of Hilton's gear between 2009 and 2016, according to the FBI
report. Following the flow of the Em data is more difficult and is
approximated by the broken lines. This analysis focuses on the gear.
Cooper told the FBI that in 2007, while he
was still employed by the Bill Clinton (Bilton) operation, he (Cooper)
purchased an Apple OS X server to be used to host Em services for Bilton's
staff. In June of 2008 that AS was set up in the basement of the
Clintons' residence in Chappaqua, NY by an Apple representative whom the
FBI does not identify and does not appear to know the identity of.
In fact, the FBI admits it did not verify Cooper's story. Maybe at the
time the FBI and Apple were not on speaking terms.
Bilton's staff and the residence staff used
the AS, but it was set up seven years after Bilton left office and so it
likely did not contain data that could damage the US if the AS were to be
hacked. But that changed.
Hilton was sworn in as Secretary of State (SoS)
on Jan21|2009. At that time, or just before, Cooper converted the AS to
function as a server to host Hilton's private domain -- clintonemail.com
-- and her Ems. This was done at Hilton's instruction, according to Cooper.
The AS was used by Hilton and her staff for
Em sending/receiving/storage from the date she was sworn in until
Mar18|09, which means that the first 60 days worth of her DoS Ems passed
through the AS. On Mar18, the data on the AS were dumped onto the PS
(below), but there is no indication in the FBI report that the AS was ever
For the next five years the AS was re-purposed
for residence-staff use and some [redacted person] used it as a
workstation. Then, in 2014, the data from the AS were dumped onto an iMac and the AS hard drive was
"discarded," which seems a bit strange. I mean WTF does
"discarded" mean when we're talking about gear containing 60
days worth of Ems from the Secretary of State of the US? Strangely,
the FBI seems not to care. Nor do they seem to be concerned that the
"discarded" AS may not have been wiped clean. They ignore this important
point. "Discarded" is all we get.
The FBI apparently went along with this
story. At any rate, the HD from AS was gone so they couldn't examine it.
But, no worries, Hilton's suits at W&C said they checked the iMac that
the AS data were dumped to and "no e-mails were found belonging to
Clinton from the period of her tenure as Secretary of State" . .
. that's what the lawyers said and the FBI was good with that. There
is no indication that the FBI actually looked at the iMac;
consequently, in a court of law they could not testify truthfully as to
what was or was not on either the iMac or the AS. In laymen's terms
this is called "dumb, brute ignorance."
The Pagliano Server is called that because
Bryan Pagliano is the one who set it up in the Chappaqua basement. This is
the computer most people think of as the "homebrew server." It
was set up in Mar|2009. More specifically, on Mar18|09 the data from the AS were dumped
onto the PS and from then until early 2013 when Hilton left DoS the PS was
the primary piece of gear that all of her Ems passed through and resided
Hilton left DoS on Feb01|13. Months
later, in mid-2013, a decision was made to employ PRN to manage the
Clintons' computers. All services were transferred to the PRN server --
the FBI doesn't tell us where that server was physically located, but
between the lines it seems to have been at a data center named Equinix, Inc in Secaucus,
NJ. The PRN server came into play after Hilton left DoS so, presumably, no sensitive comm was going
through it. I don't believe we are told whether Em data were dumped from
the PS directly to the PRN server. It was the PS that held all the data from
Hilton's SoS years.
Let's follow that server from Chappaqua to the FBI.
We know that PS spent some time in Monica
Hanley's residence because the FBI tells us that that is where Em data
were dumped from PS onto a thumb drive (TD) and a MacBook (MB) for
archival purposes. More on those devices below.
On Ju23|13 an IT person [name redacted] at PRN
moved the PS to the Equinix site. It
remained there until Oct03|15 when it was sent to the FBI, presumably going
via Hilton's lawyers at W&C and with their consent, seeing as how no
search warrants were issued. As I say, reading between the lines, Equinix is where
the PRN server, the third server to handle Hiltons' Em traffic, was also
located until it was produced to the FBI. The
PRN HQ itself is in Colorado, not too far from the Platte
River, would be my guess.
And so the physical path of PS was
Chappaqua basement, to Hanley's house, to Equinix at Secaucus, to the
lawyers' office, to the FBI. Maybe the FBI still has it, after all this is
apparently one of only two pieces of data storage gear they ever looked at in this case,
the other one being the PRN server.
If this story isn't whacko enough for you
yet, it goes absolutely bonkers at this point.
And the reason I say it is that the PS
contained all of Hilton's Em correspondence during her tenure as Secretary
of State, which must have included incredibly valuable information about,
say, the Osama bin Laden hit. Just think what the "bad guys"
would have paid to get their hands on the PS, or even just to be able to crawl
around inside of it from afar, say, from some cafe in Tehran, Pyongyang,
or, more likely, Tel Aviv. But with the PS now safely in the hands of the
FBI, what's to worry?
What's to worry is this: all the highly
sensitive Em data from the PS were dumped onto the TD and MB. So the
physical location of the PS is pretty much irrelevant at this point.
What's relevant is the physical location of the TD and MB, and both of
them have disappeared.
In the spring of 2013 [Hilton was by then
out of DoS] Hanley created a duplicate archive of Hilton's DoS Ems by
loading the TD and the MB with the contents of the PS. Hanley did this,
oddly enough, at her house, which may be the reason she is now referred to
as Hilton's "former aide." Believe it or not -- and I
don't -- this Hanley lady is so stupid that she "forgot" to pass the
loaded TD/MB to Hilton's people, and then both devices filled with data went missing. Yes .
. . still in her house. Lost as in "Has anyone seen that gear with
the world's most sensitive data lying around?" That's the story,
and, so far, they're stickin' with it.
The TD was, according to Hanley, never seen
again. As in ever. As in Amelia Earhart. As in Jimmy
I mean, OK, losing a tiny thumb drive . . . I can see that,
but this lady's house must be as much of a cleaning-woman's nightmare as
mine is in order to swallow a MacBook whole, power cord and all.
Fortunately, the MacBook eventually crawled
out from under Hanley's frig in 2014 and she promptly (?) cornered the
slippery computer before it could disappear again and transferred it to [redacted male], a PRN guy, probably the one
identified by NYT
as Combetta. [Redacted male] then transferred the data on MB to the PRN
servers via a GMail email account, which sounds as if it would be about as
secure as my downstairs bathroom during a SuperBowl party.
Now . . . if you can believe the lost TD
story, and the lost MB
story, and the GMail story, then you're probably gullible enough to believe
the assertion that [redacted male] gave the MB to either a US post office or to UPS
and it . . . yep, disappeared again. Any reasonable person must
surely be beyond incredulous to realize that nobody, including the FBI,
knows whether the alleged shipping agent was USPS or UPS that last saw the MB that once
contained years and years of America's most sensitive Ems.
Apparently no one even bothered to get a tracking slip or number. Details,
details, details . . . What is really scary is that according
to [redacted male] the MB was not wiped clean before it disappeared, so
even if Ems had been removed, they were still there.
And so the up-shot here is that two pieces
of data storage gear, each one, apparently, containing a complete
inventory Hilton's Ems from Mar18|09 to Feb01|13, went missing in Hanley's
house. One was never found and the other was found and promptly went
missing again, whereabouts still unknown. Now, I'm not an FBI guy by any
conceivable stretch of the imagination, but if I was, the first question I would
have asked Monica Hanley when I sat her down for an interview would have
been: You wouldn't happen to know Anna Chapman by any chance, would you?
Why this is important
I have just scratched the surface of the
mess. For instance, I have not taken the time here to trace the Em data
flow, or to discuss the shoddy procedures Hilton's clowns used to back-up
data, or to point out their non-existent encryption techniques.
Nevertheless, there are a lot of lessons for the public to contemplate in
just the hardware side of this debacle. Here are a few.
The degree of incompetence in this story is
utterly staggering. I have not taken the time to relate here the actions of all
of Hilton's staff, but suffice it to say that the bit actors whom the FBI
focuses on were not acting on their own. Hilton and her upper-level aides
like Abedin and Mills are scattered all through the FBI report, mostly, like
Hilton, denying any knowledge or memory of anything. But we all know that the
big decisions were made by them; the operational decisions by the techies and
lower echelon aides.
And the reason this should concern us is that most of these
goofs are long-term Hilton associates and employees and they will certainly form
a large and influential component of the US government should Hilton be elected.
They will certainly be handling a lot more classified information. That should
give any voter immediate cause for concern. It's sort of like getting married:
you don't marry a person, you marry a family, and Americans could be marrying
into this family of clowns with no prospect of a divorce for at least four
As Comey put it: "Although we did not find
clear evidence that Secretary Clinton or her colleagues intended to violate laws
governing the handling of classified information, there is evidence that they
were extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified
information . . . we assess it is possible that hostile actors gained access to
Secretary Clinton’s personal e-mail account."
If you haven't done so already, have a look at
the summary of the FBI interview with Hilton (link above). A lot of the
questions were meant to explore her understanding of security procedures. The
"I don't know" and "I don't remember" answers far, far
out-number her substantive responses. It is an appalling testimony to either her
faulty cerebral capacity or her honesty.
For instance, the day after she took
office, on Jan22|09, Hilton signed a "Sensitive
Compartmented Information Nondisclosure Agreement" which
"I hereby acknowledge that I have
received a security indoctrination concerning the nature and protection
of [Sensitive Comartmentized Information], including the procedures to
be followed in ascertaining whether other persons to whom I contemplate
disclosing this information or material have been approved access to it,
and I understand these procedures."
And yet, when the FBI asked her, she
claimed she had no memory of every having received any training or
guidance on how to handle classified information. And so, by the
indisputable fact of her signature on that agreement an issue of fact
arises as to whether or not she was lying to the FBI. You can easily go to
prison for telling the FBI you have no memory of something if a jury decides
that your assertion of a faulty memory is a lie. And yet Comey gave Hilton a pass.
Some are more equal than others, IOW.
When Obama put Hilton in charge of DoS in 2009 it
seemed a shrewd but gracious decision in the same sense that Lincoln kept his
political enemies within easy reach, too. Now we understand in so many
discouraging ways that
Obama is no Lincoln, and in the last 8 years he has made many poor decisions,
including nominating Hilton. Forget for the moment Hilton's honesty problems, I
am just talkin' plain, fumbling incompetence as demonstrated by this Em mess. If
she was a poor choice for SoS, how wise a choice can she possibly
be for president?
I can almost hear Woody Allen:
Soon American voters will be called on to make
their own political decision -- between mendacity and incompetence on the left,
and blow-hard braggadocio and bad hair on the right. I only hope they have the collective wisdom to
make the right choice.
When Comey said on Jul05 that ". . .we
found no evidence that any of the additional work-related e-mails were
intentionally deleted in an effort to conceal them . . ." what he
failed to tell the public was that the investigation and, hence, the
evidence did not include at least three missing devices that are known to have had
Em data on them.
As far as I can see, with all of these data
storage devices floating around the place -- all of which could still
contain evidence of criminal activity on the part of Hilton and her clowns
-- the FBI actually looked at only two: the PS and the PRN server, and
they were almost certainly pre-checked by Hilton's lawyers before being handed over to FBI. The only
reason Comey thinks he knows what data went where is because he relied
100% on Hilton's underlings and lawyers to tell him what was on the
missing gear. Without examining the AS hard drive, the TD, and the MB,
there is no way in hell the FBI could know the whole story.
For instance, at the time Comey made his
decision and his public explanation, it was presumed, by the public at
least, that all of Hilton's Ems were accounted for and had been examined
by the FBI and that that examination was the basis of Comey's decision not
to go to a grand jury. But in late August, almost 2 months after
Comey's decision, the FBI announced that there were, in fact, 15,000 more
freakin' Ems that had not been released by Hilton's lawyers and so are not
a part of their investigation to date. WaPo
Thus, any reasonably skeptical observer must presume that the lawyers are
probably sitting on a treasure-trove of damning Ems until after the
election or until after Hilton is sworn in and can better control the FBI.
But the main point is that this late Em
sand-bagging by the lawyers tells us that: 1) the investigation was
incomplete when the final decision was made, which means 2) Comey and his
agency are incompetent for having missed that many Ems.
What this matter comes down to is not
she-says/he-says, and that is because there is no "he" to contradict
what Hilton is saying. One side holds all the evidence and much of that evidence
has disappeared without being inspected by the FBI. No one seems to be seriously
questioning or investigating where these devices went. Consequently, the factual
question comes down to not only what information is on the computer gear, but
whether the stories Hilton and her crowd are spinning pass the smell
For example, throughout the FBI report we are
told repeatedly that the bottom-of-the-totem-pole people who organized and
maintained the homebrew server were being directed and instructed by the
top-of-the-totem-pole people. And Hilton herself is quoted as saying she knew
the homebrew server was in the basement. Of course she knew it, she demanded it
because DoS refused to provide her with a BlackBerry. And it is
inconceivable that she would not have discussed all of this with Mills, Abedin,
and Sullivan. And so it absolutely shocks one's conscious to read at page
10 of the FBI report that:
"Clintons' immediate aides, to include
Mills, Abedin, Jacob Sullivan, and [redacted] told the FBI they were unaware of
the existence of the private server until after Clinton's tenure at State or
when it became public knowledge."
Given the facts developed in the FBI report and
its summary of the Hilton interview, it is not possible for any sentient human
to read that statement and not conclude that someone is lying.
In America, if at the end of a criminal
investigation all of the facts are resolved beyond reasonable doubt and only
legal issues remain, then it is appropriate for the government to make a
decision that the accused has no charge to answer to and should not be put to
trial. But when, as here, the facts are foggy and the entire case rests upon a
determination as to whether one or more people are lying, then it is up to a
grand jury to decide whether a trial is appropriate. Why has that principle,
which is the basis of Americans' judicial system, been defiled in this case?
Comey, we were all told, is a
"straight-shooter." He got that enviable rep largely from resisting
the way Bush's goons tried to get his boss AG John Ashcroft, who was then in the
hospital, to sign off on domestic surveillance authority that the NSA was
eager to obtain in any way it could. But given the information we now have regarding
Hilton's missing computer gear, and given the very obvious conclusion that with
numerous vital factual issues unresolved, this case at the very least should
have been placed before a grand jury, Comey's reputation has taken a severe
bruising, as has the integrity of the American judicial system.
To many, myself included, Obama's legacy will
dominated by the way he has abused the so-called Espionage Act. He has
used the Act to prosecute 3x more government employees than all American
presidents before him combined. Many of Obama's targets were government
whistleblowers who made every effort to follow proper protocol to stop illegal
and unethical behavior of senior USG officials, and many got stiff prison
sentences for their principled and heroic efforts to turn on some
But none of Obama's targets, including Thomas
Drake, Jeffrey Sterling, John Kiriakou, and Stephen Kim
accessed or possessed classified information that was anywhere near as voluminous
or as sensitive as what must have gone through and resided on Hilton's missing
gear. We know it was there, what we don't know is where it is and who has or had
access to it -- Comey has said as much. Even the demonized and imprisoned
whistleblower Chelsea Manning did not have the wherewithal or the data to
do as much damage to Americans and America's security interests as Hilton and
The troubling ramifications of these known
security unknowns, mind-boggling as they are in their own right, are compounded
by the prospect that Hilton may some day lead America. Principled people like
Manning are sitting in federal prisons because they put America's interests
before their own. But Hilton has clearly demonstrated that she is willing and
eager to put the security of Americans second to her own whims and her own
self-centered demands for convenience. Her position was, essentially, give me a
freakin' BlackBerry or I'll run my own Em service. And they didn't, and she did.
What possible additional evidence of her
potential for poor judgment could Americans need? While the amount and content
of the information hacked by foreign agents and terrorists from her homebrew Em
system are known unknowns, Hilton's potential for profoundly poor judgment camouflaged
by overt mendacity is
now a known known.
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