Hillary Clinton’s public comments confused even the half-interested mainstream reporters assigned to write about her State Department email scandal.
The former secretary sent conflicting signals about whether she hoards or shuns tech gadgets, and she assured people that she did her due diligence when deciding — without any oversight — which of her State emails were worth keeping (those are the “official” ones) and which could safely be tossed into history’s waste bin (those are the “personal” ones.)
Thanks to a column at Time, at least we have an idea of the criteria she used to decide whether her State emails fell into the “official” or “personal” categories: She had top men do a keyword search on her email account and mass delete everything that matched up. Nobody had to read any of those emails to delve more deeply into the true nature of their content; in fact, the process didn’t even require that any of the emails be opened before being deleted.
“The Clintons play by their own set of rules,” wrote David Von Drehle:
And in this case, the former Secretary of State explained, those rules bless her decision to erase some 30,000 emails from the family server despite knowing that the emails had become a subject of intense interest to congressional investigators. These were merely “private personal emails,” Clinton averred, “emails about planning Chelsea’s wedding or my mother’s funeral arrangements, condolence notes to friends as well as yoga routines, family vacations, the other things you typically find in inboxes.” After she finished taking questions, Clinton’s staff disclosed that no one actually read through those 30,000-odd documents before she “chose not to keep” them.
… As a candidate for President in 2008, she included “secret White House email accounts” as part of her critique of the Bush Administration’s “stunning record of secrecy and corruption.” Now, however, Clinton is leaning heavily on “Trust me.” For more than a year after she left office in 2013, she did not transfer work-related email from her private account to the State Department. She commissioned a review of the 62,320 messages in her account only after the department — spurred by the congressional investigation — asked her to do so. And this review did not involve opening and reading each email; instead, Clinton’s lawyers created a list of names and keywords related to her work and searched for those. Slightly more than half the total cache — 31,830 emails — did not contain any of the search terms, according to Clinton’s staff, so they were deemed to be “private, personal records.”
Of course, we don’t know what keywords Clinton’s camp used to winnow the email record; but then again, it hardly matters. If you’re willing to trust the former secretary with self-selecting which emails were “private” and which were “official” from her illegal, quasi-governmental work email account, then you’ve already decided to trust that having such an account is acceptable in the first place.