Original Thompson Email Timeline
May 3, 2000 - Secretary of State Madeline Albright chastises all State Department employees for being careless about security.
Albright gives a speech in front of 800 State Department officials in Washington, DC, that is also broadcast to other department officials in other states and countries. She says, ”I don’t care how skilled you are as a diplomat, how brilliant you may be at meetings, or how creative you are as an administrator, if you are not professional about security, you are a failure.” Her speech comes after some recently reported security breaches in her department, including the disappearance of a laptop containing classified information. She adds, “You may have seen reports indicating that I am furious about these incidents. Well, I am, and I hope you are, too.”
According to the New York Times, US diplomats privately acknowledge that they are sometimes cavalier about security. One unnamed longtime department official says, ”Nobody cares about security within the department.” (The New York Times, 5/4/2000)
January 1, 2006 - Justin Cooper provides computer help to Clinton and her aides well before Clinton becomes secretary of state.
In September 2015, Clinton’s future deputy chief of staff Huma Abedin will be interviewed under oath by the House Benghazi Committee. She will reveal that when she had an email or other computer problem while working on Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign, or even earlier working as an aide when Clinton was a senator, Abedin would turn to Justin Cooper for help. “I usually called Justin. He was our go-to guy. He always was, you know, ‘I’m having a problem, can you help me fix it,’ and he always did…” She would also call on Cooper whenever Clinton was having an email problem.
Cooper will also be the person who suggests she get a clintonemail.com email account on Clinton’s private server shortly before Clinton becomes secretary of state, and then sets it up for her. This suggests his involvement managing Clinton’s private server starts early. Cooper is a longtime aide to Bill Clinton, but he apparently never has a government job or security clearance. (House Benghazi Committee, 10/21/2015)
August 1, 2008 - State Department rules prohibit the way some sensitive information will later be used on Clinton's private server.
According to the State Department’s Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM), department employees are allowed to send most Sensitive But Unclassified (SBU) information unencrypted over the Internet only when necessary.
In August 2008, the FAM is amended to further toughen the rules on sending SBU information on non-department-owned systems at non-departmental facilities – such as Clinton’s later use of a private email server. Employees have to:
- ensure that SBU information is encrypted
- destroy SBU information on their personally owned and managed computers and removable media when the files are no longer required
- implement encryption certified by the National Institute of Science and Technology (NIST)
The FBI will later determine that SBU information was frequently and knowingly sent to and from Clinton’s private server, but none of these steps were taken. (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/2/2016)
September 1, 2008 - It is decided to replace Clinton's first private server with a larger server built by Pagliano.
Justin Cooper is an aide to former President Bill Clinton, and he is the administrator for the private server located in the Chappaqua, New York, house where Bill and his wife Hillary live. Cooper will later be interviewed by the FBI, and he will say that the decision is made to replace the server because the current server (being run on an Apple OS X computer) is antiquated and people using it are having email troubles.
At the recommendation of Hillary Clinton’s longtime aide Huma Abedin, Cooper contacts Bryan Pagliano, who worked on Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign as an information technology specialist, to build a new server system and to assist Cooper with administrating it. Pagliano was getting rid of the computer equipment from Clinton’s presidential campaign, so it is decided to use some of this equipment for the new server at the Chappaqua house.
According to a later FBI interview, Hillary Clinton “told the FBI that at some point she became aware there was a server in the basement of her Chappaqua residence. However, she was unaware of the transition from the Apple server managed by Cooper to another server built by Pagliano and therefore, was not involved in the transition decision.”
Between the fall of 2008 and January 2009, Pagliano gets computer equipment from Clinton’s former presidential campaign headquarters, and also works with Cooper to buy additional necessary equipment.
Clinton becomes secretary of state on January 20, 2009, and begins using a clintonemail.com email address around that time, which is hosted on the old Apple server. The new server won’t be operational until March 2009. (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/2/2016)
January 1, 2009 - The State Department rolls out an easy way to preserve emails for record keeping, but Clinton's office elects not to use it and Clinton will later claim she never even heard of it.
In 2009, the first year Clinton is secretary of state, the State Department begins using the State Messaging and Archive Retrieval Toolset (SMART), which allows employees to electronically tag emails to preserve a copy for posterity. This allows employees to easily comply with record keeping regulations, instead of having to print out copies of each email.
Although most of the State Department starts using SMART in 2009; the Office of the Secretary elects not to use the SMART system to preserve emails, partly due to concerns that the system would “allow overly broad access to sensitive materials.” (This quote is from an FBI report, but the name of the official who said it is redacted.)
Representatives from the Executive Secretariat (which includes Clinton’s office) ask to be the last to receive the SMART rollout. Ultimately SMART is never used by the Executive Secretariat Office or Clinton for the rest of Clinton’s four-year tenure.
This leaves printing out each email as the only approved method by which the Clinton or her staff in the Office of the Secretary could preserve emails for record keeping. But when Clinton leaves office in February 2013, she won’t even do that.
Remarkably, when Clinton will be interviewed by the FBI in July 2016, the FBI summary will indicate: “Clinton was not aware how other State [Department] staff maintained their records and was unaware of State’s State Messaging and Archive Retrieval Toolset (SMART).” (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/2/2016)
SMART will have security and cost overrun problems for the rest of Clinton’s tenure, and beyond.
January 12, 2009 - Huma Abedin allegedly wants Clinton's email account on a private server and not on a server that is managed by someone else, so that is what is arranged.
In a September 2016 Congressional hearing, Justin Cooper will reveal some information about how Clinton’s use of a private email account on her private server begins. He will state: “Secretary Clinton was transitioning from her presidential campaign and Senate role and had been using primarily a BlackBerry for email correspondence. There were limitations to her ability to use that BlackBerry as well as desire to change her email address because a number of people have received her email address over the course of those activities. So we created with a discussion, I believe, with [Clinton aide] Huma Abedin at the time [about] what domains might be of interest. We obtained a domain and we added it to the original server used by President Clinton’s office for [Hillary Clinton] to use with her BlackBerry at the time…”
Note that Cooper registers three domain names on January 13, 2009, so this discussion must have occurred before then.
Representative Mark Meadows (R) will ask Cooper in the hearing: “So, your testimony here today is that Huma Abedin said that she would prefer to have Ms. Clinton’s email on a private server versus a server that was actually managed by someone else? That’s your testimony?”
Cooper will reply, “My testimony is that that was communicated to me.”
He will also clarify that when it came to talking to Abedin, “I don’t recall conversations with her about the setting up of the server.” But he also will say, “At some point I had a conversation with her about the setting up of an email account for Secretary Clinton on the server.” (US Congress, 9/13/2016)
However, in Abedin’s April 2016 FBI interview, she will say nothing like this. In fact, she will deny even knowing the server existed until it was mentioned in the media, despite her having an email account hosted on the server for the entire duration of Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state and at least three email exchanges that show her discussing the server during that time. (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/2/2016)
On the day of President Obama’s inauguration, he wins a battle for the right to use a BlackBerry during his presidency. He fought other officials for two months to use the device. However, the New York Times reports, “the privilege of becoming the nation’s first emailing president comes with a specific set of rules.”
His spokesperson Robert Gibbs says, “The president has a BlackBerry through a compromise that allows him to stay in touch with senior staff and a small group of personal friends, in a way that use will be limited and that the security is enhanced to ensure his ability to communicate.”
According to the Times, the rules Obama has to abide by are as follows:
- “First, only a select circle of people will have his address, creating a true hierarchy for who makes the cut and who does not.
- Second, anyone placed on the A-list to receive his email address must first receive a briefing from the White House counsel’s office.
- Third, messages from the president will be designed so they cannot be forwarded.
- Additionally, he has to use a specially made device, which must be approved by national security officials.”
Aides tell the Times, “All of Mr. Obama’s email messages remain subject to the Presidential Records Act, which could ultimately put his words into the public domain, as well as under the threat of subpoenas. That was a caveat that did not dissuade the president.” (New York Times, 01/22/09)
January 21, 2009 - Most State Department officials claim they don't know Clinton has a private email address or uses a private server.
A September 2016 FBI report will indicate that “some Clinton aides and senior-level State [Department] employees were aware Clinton used a personal email address for State business during her tenure [as secretary of state]. Clinton told the FBI it was common knowledge at State that she had a private email address because it was displayed to anyone with whom she exchanged emails. However, some State employees interviewed by the FBI explained that emails from Clinton only contained the letter ‘H’ in the sender field and did not display her email address.”
The report also notes, “The majority of the State employees interviewed by the FBI who were in email contact with Clinton indicated they had no knowledge of the private server in her Chappaqua residence.”
Even Clinton’s closest aides like her chief of staff Cheryl Mills and deputy chief of staff Huma Abedin will claim they didn’t know, though there is evidence that suggests otherwise (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/2/2016)
January 21, 2009 - Evidence suggests Clinton regularly keeps her BlackBerry stored inside a secure area against regulations, but she will later deny this.
While Clinton is secretary of state, she has an office on the seventh floor of State Department headquarters, in an area often referred to as “Mahogany Row.” Her office and the surrounding area is considered a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility (SCIF). Mobile devices such as BlackBerrys are not allowed in SCIF rooms, because they can be taken over by hackers and used to record audio and video.
But according to a September 2016 FBI report, “Interviews of three former DS [Diplomatic Security] agents revealed Clinton stored her personal BlackBerry in a desk drawer in a [Diplomatic Security] post which was located within the SCIF on Mahogany Row. State personnel were not authorized to bring their mobile devices into [the post], as it was located within the SCIF.”
However, according to Clinton’s deputy chief of staff Huma Abedin, Clinton would leave the SCIF to use her BlackBerry, often visiting the eighth floor balcony to do so. Former Assistant Secretary of State for Diplomatic Security Eric Boswell will later tell the FBI that he never received any complaints about Clinton using her BlackBerry inside the SCIF.
In contrast to the above evidence, in her July 2016 FBI interview, Clinton will claim that after her first month as secretary of state, she never brought her BlackBerry into the SCIF area at all, because she had been clearly told not to do that. (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/2/2016)
January 21, 2009 - Hundreds of Clinton's emails are printed out by a Bill Clinton staffer; he may have a relevant security clearance.
A September 2016 FBI report will mention that the FBI determined “hundreds of emails” were sent by Clinton’s deputy chief of staff Huma Abedin and other State Department staffers to a member of Bill Clinton’s staff so he could print them out for Clinton. His name will be redacted, but he is almost certainly Oscar Flores, because the report will mention that he is a member of the US Navy Reserves, which Flores is at the time.
Some of these emails will later be determined to contain information classified at the “confidential” level, including six email chains forwarded by Abedin and one email chain forwarded by Clinton.
But the FBI will determine that Flores received a security clearance at the “secret” level on October 25, 2007 from the Defense Department. Furthermore, although Flores retires from the US Navy Reserves in September 2010, there is no indication his security clearance is deactivated at that time. (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/2/2016)
January 21, 2009 - Hundreds of classified emails are sent or received by Clinton while she is outside the US, including some to or from President Obama.
This is according to a September 2016 FBI report. The report indicates that Clinton and her immediate staff were repeatedly “notified of foreign travel risks and were warned that digital threats began immediately upon landing in a foreign country, since connection of a mobile device to a local network provides opportunities for foreign adversaries to intercept voice and email transmissions.”
Additionally, the State Department has a Mobile Communications Team responsible for establishing secure mobile voice and data communications for Clinton and her team wherever they travel. But even so, Clinton and her staff frequently use their private and unsecure mobile devices and private email accounts while overseas.
The number of Clinton emails sent or received outside the US will be redacted in the FBI report. Although it will mention that “hundreds” were classified at the “confidential” level, additional details are redacted. Nearly all mentions of “top secret” emails are redacted in the report, so it’s impossible to know if any of those are sent while Clinton is overseas.
The report will mention that some emails between Clinton and President Obama are sent while Clinton is overseas. However, the exact number will be redacted. None of these overseas emails between them will be deemed to contain classified information. According to the report, “Clinton told the FBI that she received no particular guidance as to how she should use President Obama’s email address…”
The details of the FBI’s report on Clinton’s July 2016 FBI interview will indicate that Clinton emailed Obama on July 1, 2012 from Russia. However, it is not clear if she sent the email from on the ground or on a plane. (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/2/2016)
January 21, 2009 - Clinton may regularly carry two mobile devices at once, although she will later claim otherwise.
In March 2015, after it becomes public knowledge that Clinton exclusively used a private email account for all her email usage, she will claim she did this for “convenience,” so she wouldn’t have to carry two personal devices at once.
However, in 2016, Justin Cooper, an aide to Bill Clinton who helps manage the Clinton private server, will claim otherwise. In an FBI interview, “Cooper stated that he was aware of Clinton using a second mobile phone number. Cooper indicated Clinton usually carried a flip phone along with her BlackBerry because it was more comfortable for communication and Clinton was able to use her BlackBerry while talking on the flip phone.”
However, in Clinton’s 2016 FBI interview, “she did not recall using a flip phone during her tenure [as secretary of state], only during her service in the Senate.” In their FBI interviews, Clinton’s aides Huma Abedin and Cheryl Mills “advised they were unaware of Clinton ever using a cellular phone other than the BlackBerry.”
According to FBI investigators, Clinton has “two known phone numbers… which potentially were used to send emails using Clinton’s clintonemail.com email addresses.” One is associated with her BlackBerry usage. Toll records associated with the other phone number “indicate the number was consistently used for phone calls in 2009 and then used sporadically through the duration of Clinton’s tenure and the years following. Records also showed that no BlackBerry devices were associated with this phone number.” (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/2/2016)
January 21, 2009 - Clinton uses 11 different BlackBerrys and four iPads while she is secretary of state.
In March 2015, after it becomes public knowledge that Clinton exclusively used a private email account for all her email usage, she will claim she did this for “convenience,” so she wouldn’t have to carry two personal devices at once.
However, the FBI will later determine that Clinton actually used in succession 11 email-capable BlackBerrys while secretary of state. She uses two more BlackBerrys with the same phone number after her tenure is over. The FBI will not be able to obtain any of the BlackBerrys to examine them.
The FBI will later identify five iPad devices associated with Clinton which might have been used by Clinton to send emails. The FBI will later obtain three of the iPads. They will only examine two, because one was a gift that Clinton gave away as soon as she purchased it.
Clinton aide Monica Hanley often buys replacement BlackBerrys for Clinton from AT&T stores. Justin Cooper, a Bill Clinton aide who helps run Clinton’s private server, usually sets up the new devices and then syncs them to the server so she can access her email inbox. According to an FBI interview with Clinton aide Huma Abedin, “it was not uncommon for Clinton to use a new BlackBerry for a few days and then immediately switch it out for an older version with which she was more familiar.” (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/2/2016)
January 21, 2009 - Clinton's frequently discarded BlackBerrys are sometimes destroyed and sometimes disappear.
The FBI will later determine that Clinton uses 11 BlackBerrys while secretary of state and two more using the same phone number after she leaves office. In a 2016 FBI interview, “Clinton stated that when her BlackBerry device malfunctioned, her aides would assist her in obtaining a new BlackBerry, and, after moving to a new device, her old SIM cards were disposed of by her aides.”
Justin Cooper, a Bill Clinton aide who helps manage Clinton’s private server, will later tell the FBI that he “did recall two instances where he destroyed Clinton’s old mobile devices by breaking them in half or hitting them with a hammer.”
However, according to Clinton aides Huma Abedin and Monica Hanley, “the whereabouts of Clinton’s devices would frequently become unknown once she transitioned to a new device.” (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/2/2016)
January 22, 2009 - Clinton signs a non-disclosure agreement promising to safeguard a type of top secret information.
The non-disclosure agreement (NDA) concerns “sensitive compartmented information” (SCI), which is a type of “top secret” classification. In signing the agreement, Clinton acknowledges any “breach” could result in “termination of my access to SCI and removal from a position of special confidence and trust requiring such access as well as the termination of my employment or any other relationships with any department or agency that provides me with access to SCI.” (US Department of State, 11/5/2015)
This is one of two NDAs Clinton signs on this day.
It will later be revealed that out of the over 30,000 emails Clinton turned over to the State Department in December 2014, three of them were deemed “top secret / Sensitive Compartmented Information.”
January 23, 2009 - Colin Powell warns Clinton to "be very careful" because if she uses a BlackBerry for official business, her emails could become official records.
Clinton emails former Secretary of State Colin Powell two days after she is sworn in as secretary of state, and asks about his use of a BlackBerry while he was secretary of state from January 2001 to January 2005. A full copy of the email will be released on September 7, 2016.
Clinton writes: “I hope to catch up soon [with] you, but I have one pressing question which only you can answer! What were the restrictions on your use of your BlackBerry? Did you use it in your personal office? I’ve been told that the DSS [Diplomatic Security] personnel knew you had one and used it but no one fesses up to knowing how you used it! President Obama has struck a blow for Berry addicts like us. I just have to figure out how to bring along the State Dept. Any and all advice is welcome.”
Powell replies to Clinton, “I didn’t have a BlackBerry. What I did do was have a personal computer that was hooked up to a private phone line (sounds ancient.) So I could communicate with a wide range of friends directly without it going through the State Department servers. I even used it to do business with some foreign leaders and some of the senior folks in the department on their personal email accounts. I did the same thing on the road in hotels.”
Powell also warns Clinton, “there is a real danger. 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 beome an official record and subject to the law.” (US Senate, 9/7/2016)
Powell further writes, “Reading about the President’s BB [BlackBerry] rules this morning, it sounds like it won’t be as useful as it used to be.” Powell is referring to a New York Times article published the day before, regarding Obama winning the fight to use a BlackBerry during his presidency. (New York Times, 01/22/09)
Powell further advises Clinton, “Be very careful. I got around it all by not saying much and not using systems that captured the data.”
Clinton emails back the same day, “[I] want to thank you for all the advice about Berries, security, and life on the seventh floor [of State Department headquarters]! I hope we’ll have a chance to visit in person sometime soon.” (US Senate, 9/7/2016)
In a 2016 FBI interview, “Clinton [will indicate] to the FBI that she understood Powell’s comments to mean any work-related communications would be government records, and she stated Powell’s comments did not factor into her decision to use a personal email account.” (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/2/2016)
Clinton’s decision to use a private email account on a private server had already been made before this email exchange.
February 1, 2009 - Clinton allegedly wants to use a iPad in her office but is not allowed to do so; however the iPad won't be released until one year later.
Around February 2009, the NSA refuses to make a BlackBerry for Clinton that’s secure enough to use in SCIF rooms, citing security concerns. (Highly classified materials can only be read in SCIF rooms, and Clinton’s office in State Department headquarters is a SCIF room.)
According to a September 2016 FBI report, at roughly the same time, Clinton’s executive staff also ask about the possibility of Clinton using an iPad to read her emails in her office. But “this request was also denied due to restrictions associated with the Secretary’s office being in a SCIF.” (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/2/2016)
However, the FBI will fail to mention that the iPad won’t actually be announced by Apple until January 2010, and won’t be released until a couple of months after that, making the above claim impossible. (Apple.com, 1/27/2010)
Clinton will buy an iPad and begin using it a couple of months after it comes out, in July 2010.
February 12, 2009 - An email suggests Clinton gets a new cell phone, despite her later claims that she didn't use one.
An email sent to or received by Clinton on this day has the subject heading: “Re: New cell.” It won’t be found in the over 30,000 Clinton emails given to the State Department in December 2014. Thus, the details are known because she will be asked about it in her July 2016 FBI interview.
According to a later FBI report, “Clinton stated she was familiar with the phone number ending in [redacted] referenced in the email. She believed the number was that of her BlackBerry because she did not recall using a flip phone during her time at State, only while in the Senate.”
However, in the FBI Clinton email investigation final report, evidence will be mentioned that Clinton actually had two phone numbers. One was for her BlackBerry, which she used just for emails, and one for her flip phone, which she used for phone calls. (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/2/2016)
March 1, 2009 - An external hard drive backs up the data on Clinton's private server, but it is unclear what happens to it or its replacement.
When Clinton’s first server is upgraded with a new server in March 2009, a Seagate external hard drive is attached to the server to store back-up copies of all of its data.
Bryan Pagliano, who manages the server at the time, will later tell the FBI that daily changes are backed up onto the hard drive every day, and a complete back-up is made once a week. As space on the hard drive runs out, backups are deleted on a “first in, first out” basis.
This continues until June 2011. That month, Pagliano travels from Washington, DC, where he works in the State Department, and goes to where the server is, in Chappaqua, New York. Pagliano replaces the Seagate external hard drive with a Cisco Network Attached Storage (NAS) device, also to store backups of the server.
It is unclear what becomes of either back-up device or the data they contained. The FBI’s September 2016 final report on the Clinton email investigation will only mention: “The FBI was unable to forensically determine how frequently the NAS captured backups of the Pagliano Server.” But the report will also complain about the “FBI’s inability to recover all server equipment,” and there will be no mention of any data recovered from either back-up device. (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/2/2016)
Also in September 2016, Justin Cooper, who helped Pagliano manage the server, will be asked about these hard drives at a Congressional hearing. He will say he only heard about them from reading the FBI final report. (He claims he handled customer service while Pagliano handled the technical aspects.)
He will also be asked if FBI agents ever came to the Clinton’s Chappaqua house to seize any equipment. Cooper worked as an aide to Bill Clinton in the house, but he will say he is unaware of the FBI ever coming to the house. (US Congress, 9/13/2016)
March 1, 2009 - Clinton's personal email server is replaced; she will use the new one for the rest of her term as secretary of state.
Justin Cooper, an aide to former President Bill Clinton, has been working with Bryan Pagliano, who worked as a computer technician on Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign, to build a new private server located in the Clintons’ Chappaqua, New York, house. Some time in March 2009, Pagliano and Cooper met at the Chappaqua house to physically install the server and related equipment in a server rack in the basement.
Once the new server is up and running, Pagliano migrates the email data from the old server to the new one. Pagliano will later be interviewed by the FBI, and he will claim that after the migration, no email content should have remained on the old server. He will tell the FBI that he only transferred clintonemail.com email accounts for Clinton aide Huma Abedin and others (whose names will later be redacted), and he was unaware of and did not transfer an email account for Hillary Clinton.
However, Clinton emails using a clintonemail.com domain address start getting sent in January 2009, showing she must had had an account on the old server since that time. Cooper will also later be interviewed by the FBI, and he will say he believed Clinton had a clintonemail.com email account on the old server and Abedin did not. The FBI will be unable to obtain the old server to analyze it, so the dispute has not been fully resolved.
This new server will be used for the rest of Clinton’s term as secretary of state, then will be replaced in 2013. Later in March 2009, the old server is repurposed to serve as a personal computer for household staff at Clinton’s Chappaqua house. (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/2/2016)
The Washington Post will later report, “The server was nothing remarkable, the kind of system often used by small businesses, according to people familiar with its configuration at the end of her tenure. It consisted of two off-the-shelf server computers. Both were equipped with antivirus software. They were linked by cable to a local Internet service provider. A firewall was used as protection against hackers.” (The Washington Post, 3/27/2016)
According to the FBI, the new server initially consists of the following equipment: “a Dell PowerEdge 2900 server miming Microsoft Exchange for email hosting and management, a Dell PowerEdge 1950 server miming BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) for the management of BlackBerry devices, a Seagate external hard drive to store backups of the Dell PowerEdge 2900 server, a Dell switch, a Cisco firewall, and a power supply.” (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/2/2016)
In 2015, Hillary Clinton will say of her server, “It was sitting there in the basement. It was not any trouble at all.” (The Wall Street Journal, 9/27/2015)