Category Archives: Internet

Russian Hackers Read Obama’s Unclassified Emails, Officials Say

Russian Hackers Read Obama’s Unclassified Emails, Officials Say

WASHINGTON — Some of President Obama’s email correspondence was swept up by Russian hackers last year in a breach of the White House’s unclassified computer system that was far more intrusive and worrisome than has been publicly acknowledged, according to senior American officials briefed on the investigation.

The hackers, who also got deeply into the State Department’s unclassified system, do not appear to have penetrated closely guarded servers that control the message traffic from Mr. Obama’s BlackBerry, which he or an aide carries constantly.

But they obtained access to the email archives of people inside the White House, and perhaps some outside, with whom Mr. Obama regularly communicated. From those accounts, they reached emails that the president had sent and received, according to officials briefed on the investigation.

White House officials said that no classified networks had been compromised, and that the hackers had collected no classified information. Many senior officials have two computers in their offices, one operating on a highly secure classified network and another connected to the outside world for unclassified communications.

But officials have conceded that the unclassified system routinely contains much information that is considered highly sensitive: schedules, email exchanges with ambassadors and diplomats, discussions of pending personnel moves and legislation, and, inevitably, some debate about policy.

Officials did not disclose the number of Mr. Obama’s emails that were harvested by hackers, nor the sensitivity of their content. The president’s email account itself does not appear to have been hacked. Aides say that most of Mr. Obama’s classified briefings — such as the morning Presidential Daily Brief — are delivered orally or on paper (sometimes supplemented by an iPad system connected to classified networks) and that they are usually confined to the Oval Office or the Situation Room.

Still, the fact that Mr. Obama’s communications were among those hit by the hackers — who are presumed to be linked to the Russian government, if not working for it — has been one of the most closely held findings of the inquiry. Senior White House officials have known for months about the depth of the intrusion.

“This has been one of the most sophisticated actors we’ve seen,” said one senior American official briefed on the investigation.

Others confirmed that the White House intrusion was viewed as so serious that officials met on a nearly daily basis for several weeks after it was discovered. “It’s the Russian angle to this that’s particularly worrisome,” another senior official said.

While Chinese hacking groups are known for sweeping up vast amounts of commercial and design information, the best Russian hackers tend to hide their tracks better and focus on specific, often political targets. And the hacking happened at a moment of renewed tension with Russia — over its annexation of Crimea, the presence of its forces in Ukraine and its renewed military patrols in Europe, reminiscent of the Cold War.

Inside the White House, the intrusion has raised a new debate about whether it is possible to protect a president’s electronic presence, especially when it reaches out from behind the presumably secure firewalls of the executive branch.

Mr. Obama is no stranger to computer-network attacks: His 2008 campaign was hit by Chinese hackers. Nonetheless, he has long been a frequent user of email, and publicly fought the Secret Service in 2009 to retain his BlackBerry, a topic he has joked about in public. He was issued a special smartphone, and the list of those he can exchange emails with is highly restricted.

When asked about the investigation’s findings, the spokeswoman for the National Security Council, Bernadette Meehan, said, “We’ll decline to comment.” The White House has also declined to provide any explanations about how the breach was handled, though the State Department has been more candid about what kind of systems were hit and what it has done since to improve security. A spokesman for the F.B.I. declined to comment.

Officials who discussed the investigation spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the delicate nature of the hacking. While the White House has refused to identify the nationality of the hackers, others familiar with the investigation said that in both the White House and State Department cases, all signs pointed to Russians.

On Thursday, Secretary of Defense Ashton B. Carter revealed for the first time that Russian hackers had attacked the Pentagon’s unclassified systems, but said they had been identified and “kicked off.” Defense Department officials declined to say if the signatures of the attacks on the Pentagon appeared related to the White House and State Department attacks.

The discovery of the hacking in October led to a partial shutdown of the White House email system. The hackers appear to have been evicted from the White House systems by the end of October. But they continued to plague the State Department, whose system is much more far-flung. The disruptions were so severe that during the Iranian nuclear negotiations in Vienna in November, officials needed to distribute personal email accounts, to one another and to some reporters, to maintain contact.

Earlier this month, officials at the White House said that the hacking had not damaged its systems and that, while elements had been shut down to mitigate the effects of the attack, everything had been restored.

One of the curiosities of the White House and State Department attacks is that the administration, which recently has been looking to name and punish state and nonstate hackers in an effort to deter attacks, has refused to reveal its conclusions about who was responsible for this complex and artful intrusion into the government. That is in sharp contrast to Mr. Obama’s decision, after considerable internal debate in December, to name North Korea for ordering the attack on Sony Pictures Entertainment, and to the director of national intelligence’s decision to name Iranian hackers as the source of a destructive attack on the Sands Casino.

This month, after CNN reported that hackers had gained access to sensitive areas of the White House computer network, including sections that contained the president’s schedule, the White House spokesman, Josh Earnest, said the administration had not publicly named who was behind the hack because federal investigators had concluded that “it’s not in our best interests.”

By contrast, in the North Korea case, he said, investigators concluded that “we’re more likely to be successful in terms of holding them accountable by naming them publicly.”

But the breach of the president’s emails appeared to be a major factor in the government secrecy. “All of this is very tightly held,” one senior American official said, adding that the content of what had been breached was being kept secret to avoid tipping off the Russians about what had been learned from the investigation.

Mr. Obama’s friends and associates say that he is a committed user of his BlackBerry, but that he is careful when emailing outside the White House system.

“The frequency has dropped off in the last six months or so,” one of his close associates said, though this person added that he did not know if the drop was related to the hacking.

Mr. Obama is known to send emails to aides late at night from his residence, providing them with his feedback on speeches or, at times, entirely new drafts. Others say he has emailed on topics as diverse as his golf game and the struggle with Congress over the Iranian nuclear negotiations.

George W. Bush gave up emailing for the course of his presidency and did not carry a smartphone. But after Mr. Bush left office, his sister’s email account was hacked, and several photos — including some of his paintings — were made public.

The White House is bombarded with cyberattacks daily, not only from Russia and China. Most are easily deflected.

The White House, the State Department, the Pentagon and intelligence agencies put their most classified material into a system called Jwics, for Joint Worldwide Intelligence Communications System. That is where top-secret and “secret compartmentalized information” traverses within the government, to officials cleared for it — and it includes imagery, data and graphics. There is no evidence, senior officials said, that this hacking pierced it.

How the U.S. thinks Russians hacked the White House

How the U.S. thinks Russians hacked the White House

By Evan Perez and Shimon Prokupecz, CNN

Washington (CNN)Russian hackers behind the damaging cyber intrusion of the State Department in recent months used that perch to penetrate sensitive parts of the White House computer system, according to U.S. officials briefed on the investigation.

While the White House has said the breach only affected an unclassified system, that description belies the seriousness of the intrusion. The hackers had access to sensitive information such as real-time non-public details of the president’s schedule. While such information is not classified, it is still highly sensitive and prized by foreign intelligence agencies, U.S. officials say.

The White House in October said it noticed suspicious activity in the unclassified network that serves the executive office of the president. The system has been shut down periodically to allow for security upgrades.

The FBI, Secret Service and U.S. intelligence agencies are all involved in investigating the breach, which they consider among the most sophisticated attacks ever launched against U.S. government systems. ​The intrusion was routed through computers around the world, as hackers often do to hide their tracks, but investigators found tell-tale codes and other markers that they believe point to hackers working for the Russian government.

National Security Council spokesman Mark Stroh didn’t confirm the Russian hack, but he did say that “any such activity is something we take very seriously.”

“In this case, as we made clear at the time, we took immediate measures to evaluate and mitigate the activity,” he said. “As has been our position, we are not going to comment on [this] article’s attribution to specific actors.”

Neither the U.S. State Department nor the Russian Embassy immediately responded to a request for comment.

Ben Rhodes, President Barack Obama’s deputy national security adviser, said the White House’s use of a separate system for classified information protected sensitive national security-related items from being obtained by hackers.

“We do not believe that our classified systems were compromised,” Rhodes told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on Tuesday.

“We’re constantly updating our security measures on our unclassified system, but we’re frankly told to act as if we need not put information that’s sensitive on that system,” he said. “In other words, if you’re going to do something classified, you have to do it on one email system, one phone system. Frankly, you have to act as if information could be compromised if it’s not on the classified system.”

To get to the White House, the hackers first broke into the State Department, investigators believe.

The State Department computer system has been bedeviled by signs that despite efforts to lock them out, the Russian hackers have been able to reenter the system. One official says the Russian hackers have “owned” the State Department system for months and it is not clear the hackers have been fully eradicated from the system.

As in many hacks, investigators believe the White House intrusion began with a phishing email that was launched using a State Department email account that the hackers had taken over, according to the U.S. officials.

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, in a speech at an FBI cyberconference in January, warned government officials and private businesses to teach employees what “spear phishing” looks like.

“So many times, the Chinese and others get access to our systems just by pretending to be someone else and then asking for access, and someone gives it to them,” Clapper said.

The ferocity of the Russian intrusions in recent months caught U.S. officials by surprise, leading to a reassessment of the cybersecurity threat as the U.S. and Russia increasingly confront each other over issues ranging from the Russian aggression in Ukraine to the U.S. military operations in Syria.

The attacks on the State and White House systems is one reason why Clapper told a Senate hearing in February that the “Russian cyberthreat is more severe than we have previously assessed.”

The revelations about the State Department hacks also come amid controversy over formerSecretary of State Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server to conduct government business during her time in office. Critics say her private server likely was even less safe than the State system. The Russian breach is believed to have come after Clinton departed State.

But hackers have long made Clinton and her associates targets.

The website The Smoking Gun first reported in 2013 that a hacker known as Guccifer had broken into the AOL email of Sidney Blumenthal, a friend and advisor to the Clintons, and published emails Blumenthal sent to Hillary Clinton’s private account. The emails included sensitive memos on foreign policy issues and were the first public revelation of the existence of Hillary Clinton’s private email address​ now at the center of controversy: hdr22@clintonemail.com. The address is no longer in use.

Court mulls revealing secret government plan to cut cell phone service

Court mulls revealing secret government plan to cut cell phone service

Feds: SOP 303 mobile-phone kill-switch policy would endanger public if disclosed.

A federal appeals court is asking the Obama administration to explain why the government should be allowed to keep secret its plan to shutter mobile phone service during “critical emergencies.”

The Department of Homeland Security came up with the plan—known as Standing Operating Procedure 303—after cellular phones were used to detonate explosives targeting a London public transportation system.

SOP 303 is a powerful tool in the digital age, and it spells out a “unified voluntary process for the orderly shut-down and restoration of wireless services during critical emergencies such as the threat of radio-activated improvised explosive devices.”

The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in February sided (PDF) with the government and ruled that the policy did not need to be disclosed under a Freedom of Information Act request from the Electronic Privacy Information Center. The court agreed with the government’s citation of a FOIA exemption that precludes disclosure if doing so “could reasonably be expected to endanger the life or physical safety of any individual.”

EPIC asked the court to revisit its ruling, arguing that the decision, “if left in place, would create an untethered ‘national security’ exemption'” in FOIA law. On Friday, the court ordered (PDF) the government to respond—a move that suggests the appellate court might rehear the case.

EPIC originally asked for the document in 2011 in the wake of the shut down of mobile phone service in the San Francisco Bay Area subway system during a protest. The government withheld the information, EPIC sued and won, but the government then appealed and prevailed.

In its petition for rehearing, EPIC argued that the appellate court’s decision “created a catch-all provision that would allow federal agencies to routinely withhold records subject to disclosure where the agency merely asserts a speculative security risk.”

Under the direction of the so-called National Security Telecommunications Advisory Committee, SOP 303 allows for the shutting down of wireless networks “within a localized area, such as a tunnel or bridge, and within an entire metropolitan area.”

There have been no publicly disclosed instances when SOP 303 has been invoked, but the telecoms have agreed to shutter service when SOP 303 is invoked.

Local governments, however, have the power to shutter wireless service regardless of SOP 303.

The last known time mobile phone service was cut by a government agency was the San Francisco example from 2011. That’s when the Bay Area Rapid Transit System took heat for disabling service to quell a protest in four downtown San Francisco stations. The three-hour outage was done after BART cut service without the assistance of the telcos.

In the aftermath, BART produced a new policy that said service could only be cut off when “there is strong evidence of imminent unlawful activity that threatens the safety of district passengers, employees, and other members of the public.”

Facebook accused of tracking all users even if they delete accounts or ask never to be followed

Facebook accused of tracking all users even if they delete accounts or ask never to be followed

Network tracks its users so that it can give them more tailored advertising

ANDREW GRIFFIN

A new report claims that Facebook secretly installs tracking cookies on users’ computers, allowing them to follow users around the internet even after they’ve left the website, deleted their account and requested to be no longer followed.

Academic researchers said that the report showed that the company was breaking European law with its tracking policies. The law requires that users are told if their computers are receiving cookies except for specific circumstances.

Facebook’s tracking — which it does so that it can tailor advertising — involves putting cookies or small pieces of software on users’ computers, so that they can then be followed around the internet. Such technology is used by almost every website, but European law requires that users are told if they are being given cookies or being tracked. Companies don’t have to tell users if the cookies are required to connect to a service or if they are needed to give the user information that they have specifically requested.

But Facebook’s tracking policy allows it to track users if they have simply been to a page on the company’s domain, even if they weren’t logged in. That includes pages for brands or events, which users can see whether or not they have an account.

Facebook disputes the accusations of the report, it told The Independent.

“This report contains factual inaccuracies,” a Facebook spokesperson said. “The authors have never contacted us, nor sought to clarify any assumptions upon which their report is based. Neither did they invite our comment on the report before making it public.

“We have explained in detail the inaccuracies in the earlier draft report (after it was published) directly to the Belgian DPA, who we understand commissioned it, and have offered to meet with them to explain why it is incorrect, but they have declined to meet or engage with us. However, we remain willing to engage with them and hope they will be prepared to update their work in due course”.

The report does not have any legal standing, and was written by independent academics.

With respect to its European data, Facebook is regulated by the Irish Data Protection Commissioner, who checks that Facebook is acting within the EU’s Data Protection Directive. As part of that regulation, Facebook is regularly audited.

Facebook has a page on its site that gives users’ information about cookies and how they are used on the network. The company makes clear that cookies are used for the purposes of advertising and other functions, and that users can opt out of such tracking if they wish to.

Benghazi panel summons Clinton

Benghazi panel summons Clinton

BY SUSAN FERRECHIO

Trey Gowdy, R-SC Representative
Trey Gowdy, R-SC Representative

A House panel Tuesday formally requested Hillary Clinton to testify about the private server and email account she used while serving as secretary of state.

Rep. Trey Gowdy, chairman of the Select Committee on Benghazi, sent a request to Clinton’s personal attorney, David E. Kendall, requesting that Clinton appear before the committee no later than May 1 for a transcribed interview about the server and email.

RELATED: The long, complicated story of Hillary Clinton’s Benghazi subpoena

The request comes after Kendall told Gowdy that the server had been wiped clean and that it would be impossible to recover the 30,000 emails Clinton deleted last year.

Gowdy, in his request to Kendall, also asked Clinton to “reconsider” her refusal to turn over the server to a neutral third party, which he called “highly unusual, if not unprecedented.”

RELATED: Documents show Hillary Clinton used iPad, BlackBerry

Clinton said she only deleted personal emails and turned over every work-related message to the State Department, which is reviewing the data to filter out classified information.

“Because of the Secretary’s unique arrangement with herself as it relates to public records during and after her tenure as Secretary of State.” Gowdy wrote, “this Committee is left with no alternative but to request Secretary Clinton appear before this Committee for a transcribed interview to better understand decisions the Secretary made relevant to the creation, maintenance, retention, and ultimately deletion of public records.”

RELATED: Hillary Clinton withheld information from Congress. Now what?

In Tuesday’s letter, Gowdy warned that Clinton’s decision not to turn over the server, “the House of Representatives as a whole will need to consider its next steps.”

Rep. Elijah Cummings, of Maryland, who serves as the top Democrat on the Benghazi panel, said in a statement to the Washington Examiner that Gowdy’s depiction of Clinton is inaccurate because Clinton has always been willing to talk to the panel under oath.

“Secretary Clinton agreed to testify months ago — in public and under oath — so the Select Committee’s claim that it has no choice but to subject her to a private staff interview is inaccurate,” Cummings said. “Rather than drag out this political charade into 2016 and selectively leak portions of a closed-door interview, the Committee should schedule the public hearing, make her records public and re-focus its efforts on the attacks in Benghazi.”

The House has the power to subpoena the server, but neither Gowdy nor House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, will say whether it will use that authority. Boehner has demanded Clinton turn over the server.

RELATED: Clinton’s personal server wiped clean

Gowdy said he wants a neutral party to examine the deleted emails to find out of there is any information related to the Sept. 11, 2012 terrorist attacks in Benghazi, Libya, that killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans. The House panel wants to examine the State Department’s role before, during and after the attack.

Gowdy noted in the letter that even though Clinton said she deleted the emails, it is “technically possible,” to retrieve them.

Senate may probe FTC decision to give Google a ‘pass’

Senate may probe FTC decision to give Google a ‘pass’

Senate may probe FTC decision to give Google a ‘pass’

A top lawmaker wants to probe how Google dodged a potentially damaging US antitrust lawsuit, The Post has learned.

The Senate antitrust subcommittee, under Republican Chairman Michael S. Lee of Utah, is planning to launch an investigation into the Federal Trade Commission’s decision to close its probe of the search giant in 2013, according to three sources.

Lee wants to know why FTC commissioners voted to end the probe despite a recommendation from competition committee staffers that the agency sue Google over practices that harmed business rivals.

The Senate panel would likely subpoena documents, if it receives Justice Department approval, to see if White House officials had any influence on the five commissioners.

“[Lee] is going to drag the commissioners in,” said one source.

Lee — a critic of Google who held hearings in 2011 over whether the company used anti-competitive tactics to boost its search engine — is seizing on a Wall Street Journal report last week that suggested Google’s close ties to the White House helped it escape regulators.

At the time of the FTC probe, the search giant had visited the White House often, and had visited 230 times, or once a week, since President Obama had been in charge, according to the Journal.

Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt also helped Obama’s re-election campaign and has a friendly relationship with the administration.

Google responded to the Journal, saying Microsoft made more visits to the White House and any suggestion of improper influence is off-base.

The Senate Judiciary Antitrust Subcommittee will start the ball rolling by holding a hearing to grill FTC officials, sources said.

Three of the FTC’s current commissioners were also sitting at the time of the Google probe vote. The FTC chairman at the time, Jon Leibowitz, is now a partner at the law firm Davis Polk & Wardwell.

Google executives might also be called to testify before the Senate subcommittee.

The FTC’s competition staff in 2012 recommended suing Google over three practices deemed harmful to consumers and rivals, including “scraping” content illegally from other sites and restricting advertisers from placing ads with rivals.

Instead of suing, however, the FTC reached an agreement with Google in January 2013, in which the search giant voluntarily agreed to change its practices to appease regulators.

It is not unusual for FTC commissioners to vote against taking legal action when different divisions of the agency’s staff fail to reach a consensus, a DC source said.

In the case of Google, the Competition Bureau recommended action, while the Economics Bureau disagreed.

“If the hearing is on the merits of the FTC decision, then it will be nothing but a snoozer,” the source said.

However, “if the senator finds evidence of an impropriety that looks like an agreement or some effort by the White House to intervene this could get a little more serious.”

The FTC declined to comment. Lee and Google didn’t respond to a request for comment by presstime.

Obama emailed Hillary Clinton at private address, didn’t know ‘details’ of account

Obama emailed Hillary Clinton at private address, didn’t know ‘details’ of account

President-elect Barack Obama (left) stands with Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., after announcing that she is his choice as Secretary of State during a news conference in Chicago on Dec. 1, 2008. (Associated Press) **FILE**
By Ben Wolfgang – The Washington Times

President Obama communicated with Hillary Rodham Clinton via email but didn’t know the “details” of how his secretary of state was using a private, off-the-books email address, the White House said Monday.

“They did have the occasion to email one another. … He was not aware of the details of how that email address and how that server had been set up or how Secretary Clinton and her team were planning to comply with the Federal Records Act,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters. “The president did email with Secretary Clinton. I assume he recognized the email he was emailing back to.”

It was revealed last week that Mrs. Clinton did not use an official government email address during her four years in charge of the State Department and conducted all business on a private account. The administration previously has said the president learned of the email scandal via news reports.

Mr. Earnest also said that all of Mr. Obama’s emails have been properly preserved in accordance with federal record-keeping requirements. As a result, all of Mr. Obama’s emails with Mrs. Clinton have been saved, Mr. Earnest said.

Hillary Clinton could face criminal charges

Hillary Clinton could face criminal charges

By Jesse Byrnes

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) on Sunday suggested that Hillary Clinton could face criminal charges if she knowingly withholds emails from congressional investigators.

Appearing on CNN’s “State of the Union,” Issa noted that “voluntary cooperation does not guarantee that it’s a crime not to deliver all” requested emails.

“A subpoena, which Trey Gowdy issued, is so that in fact it will be a crime if she knowingly withholds documents pursuant to subpoena,” Issa said.

The former House Oversight Committee chairman issued three subpoenas related to the 2012 Benghazi attacks, he said, acknowledging the House Select Committee on Benghazi last week subpoenaed all of Clinton’s emails during her tenure as secretary of State.

Clinton last week called on the State Department to release the 55,000 pages of her emails that she self-selected and turned over. State has turned over about 900 pages to the committee.

Issa argued that Clinton “wasn’t forthcoming two and a half years ago.”

“She, in fact, hid the very existence of this until she was caught,” Issa said.

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), who sits on the House Benghazi committee, pushed back on CNN.

“They issued a subpoena for records we already have,” Schiff said. “We’ve read them. There’s nothing in them.”

“What is the law at the time? The law at the time was that she could use her personal email as long as she preserved it,” Schiff said, arguing “she clearly did preserve her emails.”

“In my view, this was not provided in response to the The New York Times article or anything else. This was provided last year when a request went out to the state department and all former secretaries,” Schiff said.

“She followed the law in place at the time, and I think that’s, I think, the relevant point.”

Questions, Issues mount over Hillary private e-mails

Questions, Issues mount over Hillary private e-mails

House panel issues subpoenas. Hillary-Gate #2?

By Rosalind S. Helderman, Carol D. Leonnig and Anne Gearan

hillary clinton email

A congressional committee issued subpoenas Wednesday seeking information about Hillary Rodham Clinton’s use of a private e-mail account for official business while she was secretary of state, setting up a potential legal clash with the presumptive Democratic front-runner for president.

The move followed the revelation that Clinton had installed a private server at her New York home that allowed her, and not the State Department, to store her e-mail correspondence and later decide which ones to turn over as public records.

The subpoenas, sent by the special House committee probing the fatal 2012 terrorist attack on a U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, reflected the angry response more broadly from Republican lawmakers and conservative watchdogs who said Clinton’s private e-mail system allowed her to evade scrutiny from investigations and legal proceedings.

Late Wednesday, Clinton responded to the issue for the first time tweeting, “I want the public to see my e-mail. I asked State to release them. They said they will review them for release as soon as possible.”]

In a tense exchange with reporters Wednesday, State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf denied anything inappropriate occurred after revelations that former secretary of state Hillary Clinton used a private e-mail account for work. (C-Span)

Marie Harf, deputy state department spokeswoman, said the e-mails provided by Clinton will be reviewed for public release “using a normal process” that guides such releases. “We will undertake this review as quickly as possible,” she said. “Given the sheer volume of the document set, this review will take some time to complete.”

Meanwhile, government transparency advocates expressed concern over the level of control Clinton had asserted over her records. Security experts wondered if hackers could exploit weaknesses in the Clinton server to gain access to sensitive information.

And, on the political front, some Democrats worried about whether the e-mail issue would damage Clinton’s strength as a presidential candidate.

“There’s always another shoe to drop with Hillary,” said Dick Harpootlian, a former Democratic Party chairman in South Carolina who has said he hopes Vice President Biden runs. “Do we nominate her not knowing what’s in those e-mails?”

The subpoenas issued Wednesday seek all Clinton e-mails related to Libya during her time as secretary of state — an attempt to collect new e-mails sent from the clintonemail.com domain, the private account Clinton established when she took office in 2009.

Also Wednesday, the president of Judicial Watch, a conservative watchdog group, said the organization is considering filing legal petitions to reopen as many as nine cases in which the group unsuccessfully sought public records from the State Department. The cases were either dismissed, closed or settled after the administration claimed it found no records involving Clinton related to the group’s requests.

Why Clinton’s private e-mail address is bad news(1:21)

Hillary Clinton’s private e-mail address that she used while secretary of state reinforces everything people don’t like about her, argues The Post’s Chris Cillizza, and is very dangerous to her presidential ambitions. (The Washington Post)

And other lawmakers who have tried to investigate Clinton’s tenure at State said they were outraged and felt misled, and were concerned many of the public records they had requested had not been provided because of the use of private e-mail.

State Department officials have confirmed that Clinton exclusively used a personal account, instead of a government e-mail address, during her time in office.

Instead of using State Department servers to send and receive those e-mails, she used a server housed at her private home in Chappaqua, N.Y., a Clinton ally familiar with her e-mail practices confirmed Wednesday. The server’s existence was first reported by the Associated Press.

The Clinton ally said the server and e-mail addresses were established after the conclusion of Clinton’s unsuccessful bid for president in 2008, as she was transitioning away from using an account held by her defunct campaign.

Neither State Department officials nor Clinton aides would provide information about which officials had signed off on the arrangement, whether a legal analysis was performed and whether any agency officials ever raised questions about Clinton’s e-mail system.

Beyond her late night tweet, Clinton herself has not addressed the e-mail issue, and her spokesman has not expanded on a brief statement issued Monday, in which he said Clinton had complied with both the letter and spirit of the law. The spokesman, Nick Merrill, also said that other secretaries of state have used private e-mail accounts.

State Department officials said Clinton turned over 55,000 pages of e-mail records last year after officials requested that former secretaries turn over public documents in their possession.

But, agency officials said, the decision over which e-mails would be deemed public record fell to Clinton and her private advisers — not to government officials or archivists.
State Department spokesman Harf told reporters Wednesday that she could not answer “when it was set up, and all that.” She referred questions about the system’s security to Clinton’s personal office.

Harf said there was no indication that Clinton had used the account for classified information, but she acknowledged that she was relying on information conveyed by Clinton and her aides.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest also defended Clinton, saying he had seen no evidence to suggest Clinton’s team had failed to turn over everything in its possession. But Earnest also took pains to say that he was relying on the Clinton team for his information.

“I also want to just be crystal clear about the fact that this is a responsibility that they assumed,” he said.

Federal regulations in place while Clinton was in office required that e-mails sent on non-government accounts be preserved in the “appropriate agency record-keeping system.” Harf said the regulation contained no “time requirement” to turn over records, meaning Clinton’s response — more than a year after she left office — complied.

But government transparency advocates said the use of a private e-mail account and a private server meant that for years, Clinton’s e-mails were off-limits to public records requests filed with the State Department.

The long delay in turning records over to the State Department also places enormous power in the hands of her closest aides to decide which of her e-mails should be made public and which should be shielded from view.

“There’s no legitimate way to claim that there wasn’t a requirement, certainly to keep with the spirit of the law, to make real-time copies available to the agency,” said David Sobel, senior counsel for the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

In Congress, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said new subpoenas were a good step because lawmakers do not have confidence Clinton has turned over all of her relevant e-mails to the State Department.

Agency officials have said they have submitted 300 of Clinton’s e-mails to the committee investigating the Benghazi attack.

“The prime reason to set up an account like this is to skirt the law, avoid disclosure,” Chaffetz said. “The question isn’t the number of e-mails she has turned over, it’s the percentage. I want to know who decided what we could see.”

Likewise, Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) said he is concerned that the State Department did not turn over all e-mails by Clinton aide Huma Abedin that he requested in 2013 as part of an effort to see whether Abedin was simultaneously working for the government and an outside consulting firm.

Abedin, like Clinton, sometimes used a private clintonemail.com account.

“The trend of using private e-mail for public business is detrimental to good government,” Grassley said. “The public’s business ought to be public with few exceptions.”

A number of Democrats insisted Wednesday that the e-mail issue would fade quickly in voter’s minds.

“As somebody who desperately wants her to run and wants her to win, on a scale of 1 to 10 this is a negative 12,” said Paul Begala, a longtime Clinton family friend and Democratic strategist. No real voter, Begala said, is going to base a decision on whether “she had a non-archival-compliant
e-mail server.”

Alice Crites, Tom Hamburger, Steven Rich, Philip Rucker and Katie Zezima contributed to this report.