As Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton never used a password to protect her computer emails, and she was clueless about how emails work on a conventional computer, according to a deposition of a foreign service officer at the State Department.
She also continued to push for the use of her personal Blackberry phone in the Secretary’s highly-secured government suite even though National Security Agency (NSA) regulations barred its use in that office.
The revelations came as part of a May 18 deposition released Thursday by Judicial Watch, the nonprofit government watchdog group, of Lewis A. Lukens, a veteran 27-year foreign service officer at the State Department who served as the deputy executive secretary and executive director of the Office of the Secretariat from 2008 to 2011.
From the start of her term in January 2009, State Department officials grappled with Clinton’s total ignorance of the use of basic computers. In a January 24, 2009 email from Lukens to the department’s Undersecretary Patrick Kennedy, the foreign service officer said Clinton didn’t know how to use a computer for emails.
Citing a conversation Lukens had with Clinton Chief of Staff Cheryl Mills, he wrote, “She says problem (sic) is HRC does not know how to use a computer to do emails — only Blackberry.” HRC refers to Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Judicial Watch attorney Michael Bekesha asked Lukens if State Department policy barred the use of personal cell phones in the Secretary’s official office suite, which is one of the most tightly secured facilities in government.
Lukens explained the prohibition: “So the crux of the issue was that BlackBerrys and iPhones are not allowed in the Secretary’s office suite, so the question was, how is the Secretary going to be able to check her emails if she’s not able to have the Blackberry at her desk with her.”
The NSA rebuffed multiple attempts by Clinton to carry her Blackberry into her office.
Lukens also said Clinton did not use a password to protect her stand-alone computer from unwanted intruders such as hackers. During the deposition, Lukens volunteered that the stand-alone computer adjacent to her suite did not have a password for protection “She wouldn’t have had a password.”
Bekesha asked, astonished, “So the computer would have just been open and be able to use without going through any security features?”
“Correct,” Lukens replied.
He added that to the best of his knowledge, Clinton never received a waiver to use the Blackberry in the State Department headquarters.
“Do you know if — do you know if waivers or exceptions were made for State — or employees of the Office of the Secretary to use their State Department BlackBerrys within the executive suite within the office of the Secretary,” Bekesha asked.
“I’m not aware of any waivers that were made,” Lukens replied.
Mills eventually was able to set up a room “adjacent” to her secure office to allow her to look at her unsecured Blackberry emails. But it appears that Clinton rarely used the room.
Instead, the Secretary of State would go into a hallway to use her blackberry.
Lukens said in the deposition he saw Clinton using her blackberry in the hall “maybe a half dozen times.”
The official said that he thought Clinton wanted to use the Blackberry “to stay in touch with family and friends,”
He said he didn’t know if she was conducting official business on a private server or with a non-governmental email address. Clinton used an email domain address “clintonemail.com.”
As late as 2011, State Department officials were still trying to get Clinton to use a government-issued blackberry. But Huma Abedin, Clinton’s deputy chief of staff, shot it down, saying in an August 30, 2011 email “let’s discuss the State Blackberry, [it] doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.”
Bekesha, asked Lukens if Abedin also used a non-state department email address.
“Do you recall if Ms. Abedin used non-state.gov e-mail accounts to correspond with you,” Bekesha asked.
“Well, the answer is yes,” he replied.
Lukens displayed a great lack of curiosity about Clinton’s use of prohibited electronic devices.
“Did you ever think about whether or not she was going to use that equipment to conduct official government business,” asked the Judicial Watch attorney.
“I did not,” he replied.
Judge Sullivan, the State Department’s Inspector General and the Inspector General for the Intelligence Community have expressed deep dissatisfaction with the State Department’s examination of the Clinton emails, as well as its failure to identify classified materials on her server.
The inspector generals, unlike State Department officials, found at least two dozen emails contained either “Top Secret” designation or the highest government classification called “Special Access Programs,” or SAP. They found up to 1200 emails contained some form of classification material.
Lukens, as executive director of the executive secretariat for the State Department, said he was only trained once to handle documents under the Freedom of Information Act — in 1989 — when he first joined the department. He’s never had a refresher course in the years since that first training.
“Do you know if any point after 1989 you received updated guidance or training about the use of email as it related to federal records and the Freedom of Information Act,” Bekesha asked.
“Not that I recall,” replied Lukens.
The State Department official also revealed that he routinely deleted official emails “to clear out space in my inbox.”
He said he “kept files for various trips and things where I would keep e-mails until trips were over, but after trips were over I would often delete the files to clear — to clear out space in my inbox.”
Judge Sullivan has permitted Judicial Watch to depose Secretary Clinton, Mills, Huma Abedin and Kennedy, to provide information on the untimely release of 55,000 Clinton emails and on the “double dipping” by Abedin.
Judicial Watch won the right to depose a variety of State Department officials, including Clinton, in a Freedom of Information lawsuit prompted by the department’s refusal to release Clinton’s 55,000 pages of emails properly. The deposition was ordered by U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan as part of discovery under the lawsuit. The deposition of Lukens was the first interview arranged under discovery by the judge.
Abedin simultaneously held positions at the State Department, the Clinton Foundation and at an outside consulting firm run by a close confidant of the Clintons. Such arrangements are very rare in the federal government.