Judicial Watch: State Department Documents Show that NSA Rebuffed Hillary Clinton’s Attempts to Obtain a Secure BlackBerry
MARCH 16, 2016
(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch announced today that it obtained State Department documents revealing that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton repeatedly sought to obtain “BlackBerry-like communications,” but was rebuffed by the National Security Agency due to security and cost concerns. The National Security Agency’s Information Assurance Directorate response was “shut up and color.” The emails show that Clinton demanded BlackBerry devices that could be used by her and her staff in her office’s Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility (SCIF).
The documents were obtained in response to a court order in an April 28, 2015, Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit, Judicial Watch, Inc. v. U.S. Department of State (No. 1:15-cv-00646), filed after the Department of State failed to comply with a March 10, 2015, FOIA request seeking following:
Any and all records of requests by former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton or her staff to the State Department Office Security Technology seeking approval for the use of an iPad or iPhone for official government business; and
Any and all communications within or between the Office of the Secretary of State, the Executive Secretariat, and the Office of the Secretary and the Office of Security Technology concerning, regarding, or related to the use of unauthorized electronic devices for official government business.
In an email dated February 13, 2009, Senior Coordinator for Security Infrastructure, Bureau of Diplomatic Security Donald R. Reid reveals that the request to obtain secure BlackBerry technology for Clinton was denied. When Clinton aides sought to compel the NSA’s cooperation by asking about the security arrangements for President Obama’s BlackBerry, the exchange apparently became heated. According to Reid:
[W]e began examining options for S [Secretary Clinton] with respect to secure “BlackBerry-like” communications … the current state of the art is not too user friendly, has no infrastructure at State and is very expensive…each time we asked the question “What was the solution for POTUS?” we were politely told to shut up and color … NSA opened the door for us to establish requirements and they would try to help…
While our noses are out of joint for how this was handled, the issue will be what kind of support will NSA be offering to meet S demands (basically, wireless comm in Mahogany Row) …
In a subsequent email from Reid dated February 18, 2009, Clinton’s penchant for BlackBerry technology is described as an issue of “personal comfort” growing out of her becoming “hooked” on her BlackBerry during the 2008 presidential campaign:
Here’s the results of our meeting yesterday… as I had been speculating, the issue here is one of personal comfort … S [Secretary Clinton] does not use a personal computer so our view of someone wedded to their email (why doesn’t she use her desktop when in SCIF?) doesn’t fit this scenario … during the campaign she was urged to keep in contact with thousands via a BB … once she got the hang of it she was hooked … now everyday [sic], she feels hamstrung because she has to lock her BB up … she does go out several times a day to an office they have crafted for her outside the SCIF and plays email catch up … Cheryl Mills and others who are dedicated BB addicts are frustrated because they too are not near their desktop very often during the working day…
The February 17, 2009 meeting details showed that Hillary Clinton was personally pushing for a special BlackBerry device:
Meeting: Ms. Mills described the requirement as chiefly driven by Secretary Clinton, who does not use standard computer equipment but relies exclusively on her BlackBerry for e-mailing and remaining in contact on her schedule, etc. Ideally, all members of her suite would be allowed to use BlackBerries for communication in the SCIF; [Redacted] was not the primary driver, but if possible would be a plus.
Apparently, BlackBerry security waivers were issued during the tenure of former Secretary of State of State Condoleezza Rice, according to an email from an unidentified, redacted source dated February 17, 2009. But because the high volume of these waivers became an issue, they were phased out over time. The unnamed source wrote:
Ms. Mills has witnessed the use of Blackberries in other sensitive (but perhaps not SCI fed spaces); she asked some excellent questions about what might be possible and prudent. She also asked about precedent; former Secretary Rice had received waivers for her staff; however, use expanded to an unmanageable number of users from a security perspective, so those waivers were phased out and Blackberry use was not allowed in her suite …
“These documents show that Hillary Clinton knew her BlackBerry wasn’t secure. Then why did she use it to access classified information on her illicit email server?” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “The FBI and prosecutors ought to be very interested in these new materials.”