Contrary to click-bait headlines this week, the State Department inspector general's report proves that Hillary Clinton is by a long shot the most qualified and trustworthy candidate running for president. But don't take my word for it, take five minutes and read the report yourself. The section about Clinton "breaking the rules" is less than six pages long.
The actual rules, however, would take weeks to read. They are mostly contained in the "Foreign Affairs Manual," and just skimming them is dizzying. They make the report's conclusion that "longstanding, systemic weaknesses related to electronic records and communications have existed within the Office of the Secretary that go well beyond the tenure of any one Secretary of State" come as no surprise
No surprise either that with its budget declining and national security mission growing for decades, "records management" hasn't been a high priority for the State Department.
What may be surprising is that had Clinton used a government server and email address, we would know nothing more about anything today; in fact, we'd probably know less since Clinton's records retention system was far more sophisticated, well-maintained, secure and organized than the government's. What definitely came as a shocker in the report was the government's so-called "system" for retaining email: 1. Print every one and stick it in a box in random order. 2. Put said box on a shelf somewhere. 3. Start a new box. Seriously. Read the report. There are thousands of boxes of emails in no order, with no way of knowing whether they are comprehensive.
Well, I guess we know they're not comprehensive. The report clarifies that Colin Powell, for instance, hasn't printed any of his emails from his private server.
"Printing and filing remained the only method by which emails could properly be preserved within the office of the secretary in full compliance with existing FAM Guidance," says the report, and "80 percent of agencies had an elevated risk for the improper management of electronic records reflecting serious challenges handling vast amounts of email, integrating records management functionality into electronic systems, and adapting to the changing technological and regulatory environments."
How's that for a confidence booster?
The specific "rule" Clinton allegedly broke states that the "general policy" of the State Department is for employees to use government email service on a government-issued device, but it then goes on to provide the conditions under which exceptions are made. The report acknowledges that Clinton had been openly using her private email server since she was a senator, through her 2008 presidential campaign and then as secretary of state. In fact, during her tenure at the State Department, 55,000 emails were sent by Clinton using her clintonemail.com email address, all of which have been printed and made available, more than any other previous secretaries.
The report also clearly states: "Laws and regulations did not prohibit employees from using their personal email accounts for the conduct of official Department business." And nowhere in the report is there suggestion that Clinton's use of a private email address and server was "illegal."
Instead, the thrust of the criticism of Clinton is that the Bureau of Diplomatic Security and the Bureau of Information Resource Management were not asked permission by Clinton to use her private server. Had she asked, the new person in charge says, permission would have been denied.
How the new person in charge of security knows what the old person in charge of security when Clinton was secretary would have done is not explained, but bureaucrats under a microscope are like cockroaches when the lights come on. They scatter.
"These officials all stated that they were not asked to approve or otherwise review the use of Secretary Clinton's server and that they had no knowledge of approval or review by other department staff. These officials also stated that they were unaware of the scope or extent of Secretary Clinton's use of a personal email account, though many of them sent emails to the secretary on this account."
So let's get this straight: The bureaucrats "in charge" of security knew Clinton was using a private email server since 2001 -- and they sent her email regularly to it between 2009 and 2013 -- but they wouldn't have given her permission to do that?
They sent her emails to her personal address, but they didn't know she had a personal address?
This was no covert operation, for heaven's sake. It's not like Clinton was secretly selling arms to Iran and funding the Contras. The Clintons paid out-of-pocket for a few techies to work in their basement keeping this server humming and free from cyber breaches. Staffers from the Bureau of Diplomatic Security inspected the email system, looked at the logs and communicated with these people on a regular basis. The bureau even refused to help fix it when Hurricane Sandy disrupted power "because it was a private server," according to the report.
Clinton reasonably believed her private server was allowed because the bureaucrats in charge of security allowed it. This present-day conviction for violating rule 12 FAM 544.2 after the fact means nothing of any consequence. Nobody was hurt. No security was breached. Who cares?
Oh, but other rules were broken --12 FAM 592.4 and 12 FAM 682.2-6 to be exact. These fault Clinton for failing to report a suspected a cyber-security "incident."
Sounds Benghazi-like, right? Sounds pretty darn serious, right?
Wrong. The "incident" was Clinton sending an email to her under secretary that said, "Is this really from you? I was worried about opening it!"
The use of an unnecessary exclamation point might be fair game for critique, but really, in the grand scheme of things, do you care that she didn't report this "incident?"
It's not like she had nothing better to do as secretary of state. In 55,000 pages of email one alleged incident went unreported, so that makes her untrustworthy? Compared to whom? Trump? Bernie? How about reporting your tax returns, fellas?
The inspector general's report found the State Department under Secretaries Albright, Powell, Rice and Kerry fell short of rules around the management, storage and protection of email transmission -- as do virtually every other government agency and corporation.
In Maine we have rules, too, about document retention, and guess what? Nobody follows them, including Gov. Paul LePage. Until a document-shredding scandal was exposed, the Secretary of State's office wasn't even aware that 60 percent of state agencies didn't have a records custodian, the board responsible for rulemaking was defunct and retention schedules were 30 years old.
Does this justify bad behavior? Of course not, but there's a reason why so many people don't care about Hillary Clinton's 55,000 emails. The fact is, had she followed the letter of the law, our lives would be no better or worse. We would have had boxes of printed emails and instead we have boxes of printed emails. There's not one iota of evidence of any motive to do harm, break the law or personally gain.
So to the people who were hoping the inspector general's report would be the second-to-last nail in the coffin before a much-anticipated criminal indictment: sorry. Clinton remains the most qualified, experienced and trustworthy candidate by a long shot. She neither blames others for the technical rule violations, nor tried to cover up or conceal emails she sent or received.
The American people are sick and tired of hearing about her damn emails. There's no smoking gun in the report. If that makes you unhappy, blame the liberal media.