Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s email “scandal” is quietly coming to an end.
Investigations by several agencies haven’t found anything that warrants more than a stern letter to be more careful in the future.
As an aerospace engineer for military programs, I’ve had secret clearance off and on throughout my career.
I can tell you that Clinton’s use of private email in conjunction with secret documents was way overblown.
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There are many cases of people with security clearances taking classified documents home, throwing them away inappropriately, leaving them on unsecured laptops, etc.
Of course, that behavior is wrong, but we don’t burn the people who screw up and we rarely even fire them.
In most cases, those in charge of security review the rules and processes and improve on them.
We had an interesting case while designing the B-2 Stealth Bomber.
A co-worker of mine, who obviously wasn’t paying attention during security training, thought it would be helpful if he burned a secret document after we were finished with the information.
He quickly discovered that is not how you destroy secret documents except in the movies.
My co-worker got into severe trouble, but he was not fired from his job.
In my work, more than once, I inadvertently carried documents stamped “secret” into unsecured test labs.
The mistake was discovered when I either turned myself in or during a normal security search of outgoing containers and notebooks.
I was cautioned to be more careful.
The rules of handling sensitive documents have a problem keeping up with technological changes.
The “no cameras” rule became a major impediment when cameras became a standard feature on cellphones.
Our consulting company went to the trouble of having a special batch of company phones manufactured with no cameras.
A month later, our aerospace client rescinded the no-cameras rule because it became impossible to enforce without a pat-down of everyone coming in.
Cellphones were allowed. The new rule became “no photographs.”
And although it is hard to imagine now, a mere 15 years ago email was a new invention.
Even Republican secretaries of state Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice used private emails for official duties while in office.
About Hillary Clinton and her email, the biggest question concerns intent.
Did her offices purposefully give secrets to people without clearance or a need to know?
So far, the answer looks like “no.”
Beyond that, what partisan people are calling “crimes” is really just handling-policy breaches.
Were secret documents stolen by hackers and delivered to people without clearance?
The answer so far seems to be “no” also, but even if it did happen, it means there was a policy breach and not a crime.
Hackers could have attacked a secure server also.
But what is the worst case?
▪ During the George W. Bush administration, one of our CIA agents, Valerie Plame, was outed, endangering those who had been in contact with her.
No one was punished. (Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff went to jail for lying to the FBI, not for passing secrets.)
▪ Gen. David Petraeus provided classified information to his mistress. His punishment? A misdemeanor for mishandling classified information. (He resigned as director of the CIA over the affair, not the handling of classified documents.)
Did Secretary Clinton’s office handle secret documents strictly by the book?
Obviously not, so therefore guidelines and rules need to be reviewed or addressed.
When our secretaries of state are trying to do their job, I think we can cut them a little slack.
Let’s fix the process, not burn the people trying to save the world.
Mark Bauer is an aerospace engineer and Democratic Party organizer who lives in Colleyville.