FBI Urges No Charges Over Clinton’s ‘Careless’ Email Habits

     WASHINGTON (CN) — The FBI on Tuesday said Hillary Clinton should not face criminal charges over her email practices as secretary of state, but called the habits of her and her staff “extremely careless.”
     “In looking back to the mishandling or removal of classified information, we cannot find a case that would support bringing criminal charges,” FBI Director James Comey said at a press conference this morning.
     The ultimate decision on whether to prosecute is one that belongs to the Department of Justice, but Comey said the FBI is recommending against that course of action.
     “All the [similar] cases prosecuted involved some combination of clearly intentional and willful mishandling of classified information or vast quantities of information exposed in such a way as to support an inference of intentional misconduct or indications of disloyalty to the U.S. or efforts of obstruction of justice,” Comey said. “We do not see those things here.
     “To be clear, this is not to suggest that in similar circumstances a person who engaged in this activity would face no consequences, to the contrary, those individuals are often subject to security or administrative sanctions but that’s not what we’re deciding now.”
     With no evidence that any work-related emails were intentionally deleted, Comey said it is the organization’s assessment that Secretary Clinton “like many email users … periodically deleted emails or emails were purged when devices were changed.”
     The FBI found no criminal wrongdoing by Clinton, but Comey did not mince words regarding the former secretary’s methods of housing information and the lack of security enforced in protecting them from potential prying eyes.
     “We did not find clear evidence Secretary Clinton intended to violate laws handling classified information but there is evidence they were extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive information,” Comey said.
     The FBI’s investigation involved a review of more than 30,000 emails, and Comey called it a “painstaking undertaking requiring thousands of hours of effort.” Clinton herself met with the investigators at FBI headquarters this past Saturday for a three-and-one-half-hour interview.
     Comey said “none of these emails should have been on any unclassified system.”
     “Their presence is especially concerning because all of these emails were housed on unclassified personal servers and were not even supported by full time security staff, like those found at [other] agencies and departments of the U.S. government or even with a commercial email service like Gmail,” he added.
     As is routine with similar scenarios, Comey noted that the FBI “investigated to determine if there [was] evidence of computer intrusion by nation states or hostile actors of any kind.”
     “With respect to computer intrusion by hostile actors, we did not find direct evidence that Secretary Clinton’s personal email domain in its various configurations since 2009 was hacked successfully,” the FBI chief said.
     “But,” Comey added, “given the nature of the system and of the actors potentially involved, we assess that we would be unlikely to see such direct evidence.”
     “We do assess that hostile actors gained access to the private communications and email accounts of people with whom Secretary Clinton was in regular contact with from her personal account,” Comey said. “We also assess that Secretary Clinton’s use of a personal e-mail domain was both known by a large number of people and readily apparent. She also used her personal e-mail extensively while outside the United States, including sending and receiving work-related e-mails in the territory of sophisticated adversaries. Given that combination of factors, we assess it is possible that hostile actors gained access to Secretary Clinton’s personal e-mail account.”
     The FBI found that server security while Clinton was abroad was of particular concern.
     Of the 30,000 emails handed over to the State Department in 2014, the FBI determined that a little over 100 of them, in a series of 52 email chains, contained classified information when they were sent or received.
     Of those, eight contained top-secret information when they were sent, 36 contained secret information, and eight contained confidential information, the lowest level of classification.
     Comey said seven of email chains concerned matters that were classified at the top-secret special access program “at the time they were sent and received.”
     “Those chains involved Secretary Clinton both sending those matters and receiving emails about those same matters,” Comey added. “There is evidence to support a conclusion that any reasonable person in Secretary Clinton’s position or the position of those corresponding about those matters, should have known that an unclassified system was no place for that conversation.”
     Another 2,000 emails were “upclassified” — made confidential after they were sent or received.
     Comey noted that the FBI does not normally publicize its recommendations to the prosecutors, but makes such recommendations frequently and engages “in productive conversation with prosecutors about which resolution may be appropriate.”
     “In this case, given the importance of the matter, unusual transparency is in order,” Comey added.
     “Alhough there is evidence of potential violations of the statutes regarding the handling of classified information, our judgment is that no reasonable prosecutor would bring such a case,” he said.
     It is uncertain what bearing the FBI’s recommendation will have on an ongoing civil complaint over Clinton’s emails. The group Judicial Watch is suing the State Department in the Eastern District of Virginia for withholding its records on Clinton’s email servers.
     Clinton’s presumed Republican opponent in this year’s presidential race blasted Comey’s announcement as further evidence that the justice system is “rigged.”
     “Our adversaries almost certainly have a blackmail file on Hillary Clinton, and this fact alone disqualifies her from service,” Donald Trump said in a statement.
     Trump said Clinton at a minimum should be disqualified from handling classified information because of her track record as secretary of state.
     “And that too disqualifies Hillary Clinton from being president,” he added.
     The State Department bristled at criticism of its “security culture,” which Comey said “was generally lacking in the kind of care for classified information found elsewhere in the government.”
     “We don’t share the broad assessment made of our institution that there’s a lax culture there when it comes to protecting classified information,” State Department spokesman John Kirby told reporters. “We take it very, very seriously.”
     Kirby emphasized that assessing security culture had not been part of the FBI’s investigation.
     The spokesman also hinted that the State Department might yet take action against Clinton itself for her handling of classified information.

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