Let's say you're a Clinton conspiracy theorist and you're desperate to single out Hillary Clinton (and no other national security officials, past or present) for microscopic scrutiny as a means to confirm you're long-held bias that she's both a sneaky-Pete and a ruthless criminal. You've been osmotically absorbing all of the news coverage of "Emailgate" or "Emailghazi" or whatever childish title has been applied to the news that Hillary Clinton used a private email address while serving as Secretary of State. You're so amped up by the news that you're desperate to read her allegedly double-super-secret emails, convinced that she used a private address as a means of keeping you personally in the dark about her evil escapades.
Here's how you can get your hands on Hillary Clinton's emails.
Before we get into it, you should be aware that Clinton was telling the truth when she said federal employees can delete non-official emails from their accounts, and they can do so without additional oversight or an "independent arbiter," to quote one of the reporters from Tuesday's press conference. If we look at the regulations in the Foreign Affairs Manual Volume 5 issued to State Department employees, specifically section 5 FAM 443, which covers "ELECTRONIC MAIL (E-MAIL) RECORDS," we find that it not only allows the usage of a private email addresses, but it also leaves deletions up to the discretion of the employee.
First, there's section 443.2(a), defining what is considered to be a federal record that must be kept and archived. Federal records:
--are made or received by an agency under Federal law or in connection
with public business; and
--are preserved or are appropriate for preservation as evidence of the
organization, functions, policies, decisions, procedures, operations, or
other activities of the Government, or because of the informational
value of the data in them.
Then, section 443.2(b), which clearly states:
The intention of this guidance is not to require the preservation of every E-mail message. Its purpose is to direct the preservation of those messages that contain information that is necessary to ensure that departmental policies, programs, and activities are adequately documented.
Indeed, any archivist will tell you that not every email or Post-It note doodle, even if it's attached to the Resolute Desk, is worthy of being archived.
Moving down to section 443.5 where we see the following note:
--Messages that are not records may be deleted when no longer needed.
In other words, it's permissible to delete whatever is regarded to be unofficial. Hillary Clinton exercised this discretion when she apparently deleted her personal emails. Nevertheless, the following headlines appeared after the press conference:
The Washington Times: Hillary Clinton deleted 32,000 ‘private’ emails, refuses to turn over server
Yes, Buzzfeed, just like all federal employees. The headlines make the deletions appear illegal, even though it's explicitly allowed. And even if she used a dot-gov email address for everything, she just as easily could've legally deleted any emails that weren't federal records, or she could've illegally deleted records she didn't want you or anyone else to eventually read. It doesn't matter whether she used a private account or a government account, she could've deleted everything -- sort of like what Colin Powell did, come to think of it.
But going back to the original point of all this, no matter which email server she used and no matter how many personal (or otherwise) emails she deleted, it's amazingly simple to find out who she was exchanging emails with, and in most cases, it's possible to actually read the content of those emails.
1) The Freedom of Information Act.
Simply fill out an FOIA for the 30,490 emails Clinton turned over to the State Department, as well as all dot-gov recipients of emails received from Clinton's clintonemail.com email address. That's right, you can not only get copies of Clinton's original emails, but you can also get copies of emails from everyone in the federal government who received an email from Clinton. Then enjoy the action-packed process of cross-referencing both stacks of messages to see if everything is accounted for. Make sure your tinfoil hat is firmly secured.
2) File a lawsuit and subpoena Clinton's ISP.
Now, you might be thinking, "What about all of the private citizens Clinton might have emailed in her obvious plot to, um, Bilderbergs, chemtrails, weather weapons, something, something Benghazi?" You can get those emails, too, though it's a little more time-consuming. You can simply sue Hillary Clinton, then subpoena the cable or internet provider the Clintons use for the data connection at their house. The Justice Department does this all the time in criminal investigations. Just request the provider's server logs for ports 25, 465 and 587 and bingo!, you can trace the IPs back to specific users and then subpoena those people for all emails they received from clintonemail.com. Simply put: whenever Clinton sent an email to anyone else, her internet provider automatically logged her IP and the recipient's IP addresses. The recipient's internet provider will also have similar records, too, and there are nodes throughout the internet that log both the sender and recipient IPs. It'll take a little time, money and some tech savvy, but it'll be so totally worth it when you find that elusive Benghazi stand-down order. Get going!
Once again, if Clinton is an evil supervillain who used a private email address in order to carry out a creepy Nixonian plot, she's not a very competent supervillain. If she was really interested in hiding something from the public, she didn't do a very good job of it since there's a copy of every email she's ever sent or received, whether personal or official, innocent or nefarious, irrespective of whether she deleted it or not. This leads us to believe that it's more likely, though not certain, that she used her private email for precisely the reasons she outlined on Tuesday.
Furthermore, if this is really about deleting emails from a private email account, then let's make it about that and widen the scope of the investigation to all top-level national security officials. But at the end of the day, deleting personal emails is totally legal, while using a private email account was only restricted as of several months ago. Consequently, it'll be really, really difficult to prove wrongdoing -- that is unless an official committed a crime via email and forgot to cover his or her tracks. Needle, meet haystack.
If Clinton were the only former or current national security official to use a private email account, and if she was the only former or current official to delete personal emails from that account, and if there were laws that were violated by doing all of it, then I could easily understand the inquest and the outrage. But let's be honest. This isn't about any of that. It's a skeleton key in order for the Republicans to unlock other possible scandals contained within the content of her emails. It's a flagrantly partisan attempt to get Clinton out of the way before the first Tuesday in November, 2016. And as a partisan stunt, it lacks the integrity or legitimacy of an actual investigation -- although it's being deceptively packaged as just that, and therefore caveat emptor.