In the effort to mitigate the damaging effects of Hillary Clinton’s careless treatment of sensitive government information, Democratic Representative Elijah Cummings released an email in which Colin Powell outlined the ways in which he was able to evade State Department security measures while he served as Secretary of State (2001-2005).
The email was sent from Powell to Clinton in 2009, just two days after Hillary was sworn in as Secretary. At the time, Hillary’s secret server was already in operation.
“I got around it all by not saying much and not using systems that captured the data,” wrote Powell, cautioning Hillary to be careful and to avoid using her Blackberry for official correspondence.
According to the New York Times, Hillary told the FBI that Powell had recommended she use a personal email account (Powell denies this). Hillary has also stated that she did not follow the advice provided in Powell’s email.
Powell is furious that the Dems are trying to blame him for Hillary’s crimes. “Her people have been trying to pin it on me,” he says. “The truth is, she was using [the private email server] for a year before I sent her a memo telling her what I did.”
“He [Powell] did write former Secretary Clinton an email memo describing his use of his personal AOL email account for unclassified messages and how it vastly improved communications within the State Department. At the time there was no equivalent system within the Department,” states a Powell spokesperson. “He used a secure State computer on his desk to manage classified information.”
Yes, Colin Powell may have bypassed some security measures, but his transgressions are far less serious than Hillary’s.
First of all, Powell’s PDA did not have Internet access. It could not be targeted like Hillary’s Blackberry.
“What I did do was have a personal computer that was hooked up to a private phone line so I could communicate with a wide range of friends directly without it going through the State Department servers,” he explains. Powell admits that he used this personal computer to do business with “foreign leaders” and “senior folks in the Department.”
Keep in mind that Powell was accessing the Internet through a dial-up line, which is not always on, and changes IP addresses each time. The emails were not stored on his PC and the opportunities for hacking were limited, and it is unlikely that he was monitored by intel services during his years as Secretary of State.
Powell also discussed using a cell phone in SCIF (Sensitive Compartmented Information Facilities) rooms – secure locations where classified information is handled, but where mobile devices are not allowed.
“When I asked why not they gave me all kinds of nonsense about how they gave out signals and could be read by spies, etc. Same reason they tried to keep mobile phones out of the suite. I had numerous meetings with them. We even opened one up for them to try to explain to me why it was more dangerous than say, a remote control for one of the many TVs in the suite. Or something embedded in my shoe.”
“I had an ancient version of a PDA and used it,” he added. “In general, the suite was so sealed that it is hard to get signals in or out wirelessly.”
Powell goes on to state that Clinton’s Blackberry represents “a real danger.” According to federal law, all government emails must be preserved for archiving and can be released via Freedom of Information requests.
“If it is public that you have a Blackberry and it is government and you are using it, government or not, to do business, it may become an official record and subject to the law,” warned Powell. “Be very careful.”
The release of Powell’s email came the night before a House Oversight hearing in which Republicans will focus on Hillary’s use of a homebrew email server and whether or not the State Department had honored FIOA requests.
Editor’s note: As a former intelligence officer I can defend Powell’s security people in that a PDA could indeed have emanated electronic signals. And poorly designed equipment can capture, amplify and transmit information around them. The CIA and NSA were able to create amazing scenarios to capture signals in this way from our adversaries. The TEMPEST requirement was our bible, that each piece of equipment must be checked for any of these incidental kinds of emanations.