Former FBI boss Comey used private email for official business – DoJ

'I did not have an unclassified FBI connection at home that worked'

Former FBI director James Comey was using Gmail for FBI business while overseeing the controversial probe into Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server during her tenure as US Secretary of State.

A report from the US Department of Justice found Comey was "insubordinate" in his handling of the investigation while absolving him of political bias over the FBI's decision to clear Clinton of any criminal wrongdoing before reopening the investigation in the heat of the presidential election battle.

The 568-page report (PDF) from the DoJ's Office of the Inspector General (OIG) uncovered "numerous instances in which Comey used a personal email account to conduct unclassified FBI business". Comey was apparently in the habit of transferring draft messages between FBI email accounts to his personal (Gmail) account.

In November 2016, Comey forwarded a proposed post-election message for all FBI employees entitled "Midyear thoughts" from his unclassified FBI account to his personal email account. This document summarised Comey's reasoning for notifying Congress about the reactivation of the Midyear investigation into Clinton.

In March 2017, Comey sent from his personal email account to his and another senior Fed's unclassified FBI accounts multiple drafts of Comey's proposed opening statement for his 20 March testimony to the House Intelligence Committee.

OIG investigators questioned Comey on his use of a private email account, which he justified by stating that it was "incidental", only involved unclassified material and didn't violate record-keeping rules because a government account was always in the chain. He claimed his practices partly stemmed from not having a secure data connection to his home while FBI Director, a shortcoming that no one (incredibly) thought to address.

According to the report (page 425), Comey told OIG investigators: "I did not have an unclass[ified] FBI connection at home that worked. And I didn't bother to fix it, whole 'nother story, but I would either use my BlackBerry, must have been or Samsung... my phone, I had two phones — a personal phone and a government phone. Or if I needed to write something longer, I would type it on my personal laptop and then send it to Rybicki [James, chief of staff], usually I copied my own address... Yeah. And so I would use, for unclassified work, I would use my personal laptop for word processing and then send it into the FBI."

The response raises a number of issues, not least of which is the FBI's lack of data loss prevention – industry-standard tech to prevent deliberate theft or the inadvertent leaking of sensitive information. Either the Feds don't use it or it's easy to circumvent by simply copy-pasting things into private email, which kind of defeats the point.

The report also faulted Comey for being "insubordinate by intentionally concealing from DoJ his intentions regarding the July 5, 2016, [press] announcement and instructing his subordinates to do the same". This related to the July decision to close the Clinton email investigation before reopening it in October 2016.

The reopening was triggered by emails uncovered in a separate "sexting" investigation into disgraced former Congressman Anthony Weiner. Weiner's estranged wife, Huma Abedin, was vice chair of Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign and was not a suspect in the sexting case.

Nonetheless the decision was made to review Abedin's emails contained on Weiner's seized laptop in case they uncovered new evidence about the Clinton email server, such as emails deleted and unrecovered from the server itself.

Nothing substantive came of that, except reopening the Clinton email server controversy days before a US presidential election, and the matter was dropped.

Comey, whose reputation and legacy has not exactly been enhanced by the OIG report, reacted diplomatically via Twitter.

"I respect the DOJ IG office, which is why I urged them to do this review. The conclusions are reasonable, even though I disagree with some. People of good faith can see an unprecedented situation differently. I pray no Director faces it again. Thanks to IG's people for hard work."

Senior figures in the Trump administration – including Vice President Mike Pence, the president's daughter, Ivanka Trump, and her husband Jared Kushner – have separately been pegged for using private email for government business. Comey's addition to the roster provoked a phlegmatic response from Hillary Clinton herself. ®

Similar topics

Other stories you might like

  • Running Windows 10? Microsoft is preparing to fire up the update engines

    Winter Windows Is Coming

    It's coming. Microsoft is preparing to start shoveling the latest version of Windows 10 down the throats of refuseniks still clinging to older incarnations.

    The Windows Update team gave the heads-up through its Twitter orifice last week. Windows 10 2004 was already on its last gasp, have had support terminated in December. 20H2, on the other hand, should be good to go until May this year.

    Continue reading
  • Throw away your Ethernet cables* because MediaTek says Wi-Fi 7 will replace them

    *Don't do this

    MediaTek claims to have given the world's first live demo of Wi-Fi 7, and said that the upcoming wireless technology will be able to challenge wired Ethernet for high-bandwidth applications, once available.

    The fabless Taiwanese chip firm said it is currently showcasing two Wi-Fi 7 demos to key customers and industry collaborators, in order to demonstrate the technology's super-fast speeds and low latency transmission.

    Based on the IEEE 802.11be standard, the draft version of which was published last year, Wi-Fi 7 is expected to provide speeds several times faster than Wi-Fi 6 kit, offering connections of at least 30Gbps and possibly up to 40Gbps.

    Continue reading
  • Windows box won't boot? SystemRescue 9 may help

    An ISO image you can burn or drop onto a USB key

    The latest version of an old friend of the jobbing support bod has delivered a new kernel to help with fixing Microsoft's finest.

    It used to be called the System Rescue CD, but who uses CDs any more? Enter SystemRescue, an ISO image that you can burn, or just drop onto your Ventoy USB key, and which may help you to fix a borked Windows box. Or a borked Linux box, come to that.

    SystemRescue 9 includes Linux kernel 5.15 and a minimal Xfce 4.16 desktop (which isn't loaded by default). There is a modest selection of GUI tools: Firefox, VNC and RDP clients and servers, and various connectivity tools – SSH, FTP, IRC. There's also some security-related stuff such as Yubikey setup, KeePass, token management, and so on. The main course is a bunch of the usual Linux tools for partitioning, formatting, copying, and imaging disks. You can check SMART status, mount LVM volumes, rsync files, and other handy stuff.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022