Doing My Due Diligence: A Blog in Two Parts

Part One

Everybody pull up a chair or scootch closer to your standing desk because I’m about to let you in on one of the hardest things about my new indie-journo adventure. Ready? Here it goes: FOMO is real, yo. And it is fierce.

Most of us think about FOMO (it means “Fear Of Missing Out” Mom) in the social sense, the second verse of Ennui sense. It comes from a very real pressure to feel like we are a part of things all the time. And when you’re covering a thing that is as fast and rambunctious as this election, that FOMO gets real intense real fast.

Just as I feel like I’ve gotten a handle on an idea well enough to write about it, suddenly everybody is talking about this other thing and I don’t want to be left out so I drop what I’m doing to go learn about that thing and then there’s a whole new thing but what about that first thing I was going to write about? Are we still talking about that at all? No? Well, poop.

I mean, I guess I’m lucky in my current topic (which I’ll talk about in a sec), because that goddamn Hillary Clinton email scandal is never going away.

FOMO is why I haven’t been better at keeping up this space. I don’t want to write “hot takes” or whatever we’re calling them these days. I want to dig into a topic and understand it and then tell you about it because I know you’re confused too. And because I have VIEWS and I want to make sure my VIEWS are founded and not just a knee jerk/privilege-based reaction to a situation.

At the same time I want to build up this audience and really do something (God, how many times have I said that before? Shut up). And that means choosing between “here’s five more words that say pretty much the same thing as everybody else is saying” and fear of “wait, I thought we stopped caring about that at least yesterday already. God, keep up!”

So, most of the time I sit and I do nothing because ugh. Choosing between which annoying is the least annoying is just the worst.

And that brings us too…

Blog Part B

Last week the FBI put the notes from it’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email servers and Hillary Clinton’s own interview up on their public vault. Anybody who wants to can sort through those pages (and there are dozens of them) to learn what the FBI learned and to see why Director Comey decided not to recommend pressing charges.

Here’s the TL;DR version: So far? Everything Hillary Clinton has been saying about her use of a private email server and the way she and her staff decided on how to classify (or not) documents has been right on the money. She did nothing wrong. Her biggest problem? Was trusting her team to do their jobs correctly and if you think putting trust in a team is a bad thing for a Presidential Hopeful to do? You’re wrong.

No. No “what about?”s or “but sometimes…”-es. You are wrong. The President is the ultimate Decider in Chief but he or she relies on a vast network of experts and professionals for advice and assistance. It’s called the cabinet, and ambassadorships, and a gorram staff, people. Look it up.

Kevin Drum wrote an excellent rundown of some of the bigger a-ha moments in the reports over at Mother Jones (and a follow up is here).

And Jim Wright wrote an excellent run-down of how the classification system works and what the different levels mean here on Facebook (you should follow him if you haven’t already, he’s great.)

For my part? If you want me to dig into policy and other details I totally will. If that’s a post y’all want to read, I’m happy to write it. For now, though, I want to talk about a few things, in the general sense, that caught my eye.

Hillary Clinton Didn’t Create the Server

The server was originally created in 2007 for President Bill Clinton’s post-presidency work related stuff. Hillary only asked for the IT team to set up an email address after she was instated as Secretary of State.

The Clintons’ IT Team Sucks

And they suck hard. Things seemed to be going swimmingly in the beginning when the server was kept, managed, and administered on-site. The two guys responsible for the building of the servers (the original one got replaced by a better system in 2009) did a pretty good job of keeping everything running and everyone happy.

Then in 2009, security and administration were outsourced to a third party firm. And they? Turned out to be your basic nightmare of an IT team. Seriously. Requests went unanswered for months. They said they couldn’t encrypt emails (so that only recipients could read them) because it would interfere with troubleshooting problems that might come up, they lost or never delivered hardware, seriously. They’d say “oh sure I did that” and then not do that. Ugh.

Clinton’s Admin/Legal Team Not Much Better

Let’s just put it all on the table. If you do not have any expertise in IT, you should not attempt to do IT-expertise related things. Period. You definitely shouldn’t have someone try to talk you through a process over the phone and then lose the hardware that you were using for that project and then lie about it. (“I gave that to her” “Nope” “Oh wait, I still have it. That’s right.” paraphrasing mine.)

And the team responsible for archiving and sorting her emails? Not much better. Secretary Clinton gave her lawyers explicit instructions that anything that could be seen as even remotely work related be turned in at the end of her tenure.

Secretary Clinton Is Not A Happy Tech Person

I don’t think any of us blame her for not wanting to try to juggle two devices when the one she was already using was already such a thorn in her paw. She didn’t like having to learn new systems, often asking her staff to switch out a new blackberry for an older model that she was more familiar with. And it looks like whenever the device went remotely buggy or slow, it didn’t get repaired or have troubleshooting run on it, it simply got replaced. I think that’s understandable. The Secretary of State’s Blackberry probably shouldn’t be sent out for repairs, y’know?

Beyond that point, there is the issue of sending and receiving emails. Kevin Drum touches on this too, but I want to make sure you readers really grok this. According to the FBI report, only about 13 people had direct contact with Secretary Clinton via email. With all of the emails being archived and dug through? That is a teensy number of people.

This means that Secretary Clinton received far more emails than she sent and it doesn’t look like she sent anything that could be potentially sensitive, she only received it. But “people were emailing her like crazy but she rarely responded directly or even at all” doesn’t play well as “30,000 emails sent and received by the Secretary” now does it?

And that brings me to this final point. Maybe. Unless you decide you want in-depth analysis.

What you see being reported on and shouted about on the news seems stupid because IT IS. This report proves over and over again that Secretary Clinton did nothing wrong. She didn’t subvert the system. She didn’t manipulate the system. She used what she had to the best of her ability to do so within the confines of law and policy and to keep the process as transparent as possible and she instructed her staffs to do the same. She is in the clear here. But after so many months of speculation and spin, saying “oh. okay. yeah. She’s totally cool. Nothing to see here.” Doesn’t play well on the airwaves.

But seriously: she’s cool. There’s nothing to see here. If you want to get worked up about this “scandal” aim your ire at the people who keep trying to smear her with it instead of letting the issue die so we can all move the frig on.

 

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