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What if Dick Cheney, Not Hillary Clinton, Deleted 30,000 Emails from a Private Home Server?

03/19/2015 12:30 pm ET | Updated May 19, 2015
Win McNamee via Getty Images

The GOP frenzy over Benghazi is primarily a political attack (13 attacks similar to Benghazi took place against U.S. consulates during the Bush years), however it's fair to ask certain questions about anyone who uses personal emails as a public official. Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, and everyone else in the GOP who've used private emails and servers should have their emails audited by a third-party. Furthermore, since Jeb Bush discussed security issues and troop deployments, he should have his email security analyzed by the Department of Defense. Anyone in government using a private email address should be subject to the transparency protocol found in the Freedom of Information Act. However, it's unclear at the moment whether Jeb Bush owned his server and assuming he engaged in wrongdoing, this fact still doesn't mitigate the potential issues related to Hillary Clinton's latest email controversy. Pundit Fact has already explained one primary difference between Clinton's email usage and how others have used private emails.

The Associated Press is suing the State Department for access to her emails; something other candidate don't have to contend with at the moment. Hillary Clinton owned her own server, used private emails exclusively for both private and State Department business, and stated it was simply for "convenience." However, she's yet to explain how a private home server was more convenient than using a third-party server and Team Clinton (and nobody else) is being given the opportunity to pick which emails will remain private. According to Mediaite, and even Jon Stewart made the following observation:

"So just for funsies, why don't you let somebody who doesn't work for you look through those personal emails just to see if you miss anything?" he asked, showing his bewilderment that Clinton actually deleted 30,000 emails she thought were non-business related.

Stewart's conclusion? Deleting 30,000 emails is far more of a "pain in the ass" than carrying around two devices.

Therefore, aside from the various peculiarities associated with this case, let's take a different approach to "Emailgate."

Imagine for a moment that Vice President Dick Cheney engaged in the exact same type of behavior as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

If Cheney had owned a private email server located in his home and decided (without a third-party auditor) to delete over 30,000 emails deemed "private," how would Americans react?

Would you believe the excuses of "convenience" and "privacy" in regards to having only one email account? After all, this is the same man who proved to be wrong about practically everything regarding the Iraq War, as illustrated by this 2003 Meet the Press interview:

MR. RUSSERT: If your analysis is not correct, and we're not treated as liberators, but as conquerors, and the Iraqis begin to resist, particularly in Baghdad, do you think the American people are prepared for a long, costly, and bloody battle with significant American casualties?

VICE PRES. CHENEY: Well, I don't think it's likely to unfold that way, Tim, because I really do believe that we will be greeted as liberators... And we don't have the option anymore of simply laying back and hoping that events in Iraq will not constitute a threat to the U.S.

It's safe to say that after over a decade of war in Iraq where 4,489 Americans died and over 32,223 were wounded, in addition to a price tag that could easily reach $6 trillion, Cheney was proven wrong on all of his predictions. We weren't greeted as liberators, Saddam wasn't a threat worth the sacrifice, and our efforts ended in sectarian bloodshed and a new terrorist dilemma named ISIS.

As a result, it's understandable why Cheney had a whopping 13 percent approval rating when he left office, since Americans had every reason not to trust George Bush's Vice President. Therefore, let's assume the tables were turned for a moment. Imagine the former Halliburton CEO was at the center of "Emailgate," rather than Hillary Clinton.

Would you trust Dick Cheney to delete emails on a private server located in his home?

The issue of transparency is something nobody would let Cheney circumvent, especially since he presided over events related to two major wars. Similarly, Hillary Clinton's tenure at the State Department oversaw a troop surge in Afghanistan, military action in Libya, a revolution in Egypt, the Iraq War, and other key moments of Obama's tenure in office. In a New York Times article titled Questions Regarding Hillary Clinton's Personal Email Use, she evades the most important issues pertaining to this controversy:

Was Mrs. Clinton's email account ever searched in response to Freedom of Information Act or congressional oversight requests?

She did not address the question, but State Department officials have said that her account was not searched between the time she left office in 2013 and December of last year, when she turned over 50,000 pages of emails to the department.

...Mrs. Clinton said she did not send any classified emails. "I did not email any classified material to anyone on my email," Mrs. Clinton said. "There is no classified material."

...Mrs. Clinton said that her lawyer had turned over all of her work¬related emails, but she remained steadfast that she would not turn over personal emails, and said that those messages had in fact been deleted.

No, Dick Cheney would never be afforded the opportunity to have his own lawyer decide which emails (on his private server) were public and private. Cheney certainly wouldn't have been allowed to delete emails that the Associated Press is suing to have access to; using the Freedom of Information Act as justification for the lawsuit.

Clinton has stated "the server will remain private," so that issue alone could be another bizarre moment in an already strange controversy. She's currently unwilling to give up a private server located in a residential location, used to store information related to everything she did as Secretary of State. This is a major dilemma since it coincides directly with federal transparency laws. As stated in a POLITICO article titled Freedom of Information Act expert: Clinton's email system 'laughable', the FOIA doesn't allow for such behavior:

"There is no doubt that the scheme she established was a blatant circumvention of the Freedom of Information Act, atop the Federal Records Act," he said, reviewing a transcript of Clinton's remarks during her Tuesday news conference.

The FOIA expert said if he had heard of a Cabinet member setting up a personal email system and deciding what gets deleted and what gets kept as government record, "I would've said, 'You've gotta be kidding me.'"

"Her suggestion that government employees can unilaterally determine which of their records are personal and which are official, even in the face of a FOIA request, is laughable," he said.

If "laughable" is the term used to describe Clinton's email issues, what adjective would this FOIA expert have used to highlight the same controversy with Dick Cheney as the person withholding information?

Even former White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs has called it "highly unusual." As for security, Wired magazine has referred to her "homebrew" server as a "security fail" and explains that many security analysts have their own concerns:

...the security community is focused on a different issue: the possibility that an unofficial, unprotected server held the communications of America's top foreign affairs official for four years, leaving all of it potentially vulnerable to state-sponsored hackers.

However, we'll never know if there was a security breach since her personal server will remain under Clinton's custody. We don't know if there were compromising emails or correspondence within the 31,830 emails she and her team deleted for one obvious reason: Clinton was given the opportunity to decide what was "public" and "private."

I want a Democrat in the White House just as much as any other liberal, but certain behaviors must never be condoned by the American people. Perhaps it's true Clinton never emailed classified information, maybe her server was never hacked, and she might have flawlessly separated work from play on the same email account. However, the moment the former Secretary of State bought her own server, she opened a Pandora's Box of questions related to security, protocol, and most importantly, The Freedom of Information Act.