Tag Archives: Politics

Clinton Official Statement: Email Security Sections

Following up my posting of the relevant section of the press conference transcript, Business Insider has posted the full official statement as well. Here are the relevant sections related to email security.

Was classified material sent or received by Secretary Clinton on this email
address?

No. A separate, closed system was used by the Department for the sole purpose of
handling classified communications which was designed to prevent such
information from being transmitted anywhere other than within that system,
including to outside email accounts.

How did Secretary Clinton receive and consume classified information?

The Secretary’s office is located in a secure area. Classified information was
viewed in hard copy by the Secretary while in the office. While on travel, the
Department had rigorous protocols for her and traveling staff to receive and
transmit information of all types.

Where was the server for her email located?
The server for her email was physically located on her property, which is protected
by U.S. Secret Service.

What level of encryption was employed? Who was the service provider, etc?

The security and integrity of her family’s electronic communications was taken
seriously from the onset when it was first set up for President Clinton’s team.
While the curiosity in the specifics of this set up is understandable, given what
people with ill-intentions can do with such information in this day and age, there
are concerns about broadcasting specific technical details about past and current
practices. However, suffice it to say, robust protections were put in place and
additional upgrades and techniques employed over time as they became available,
including consulting and employing third party experts.

Was the server ever hacked?

No, there is no evidence there was ever a breach.

Was there ever an unauthorized intrusion into her email or did anyone else
have access to it?

No.

What was done after her email was exposed in February 2013 after the hacker
known as “Guccifer” hacked Sid Blumenthal’s account?

While this was not a breach of Secretary Clinton’s account, because her email
address was exposed, steps were taken at that time to ensure the security and
integrity of her electronic communications.

Clinton Press Conference Transcript: Email Security Sections

For those following the Clinton Email Situation, I’ve gone ahead and taken the full press conference transcript that Time posted and have pulled out the sections that pertain specifically to questions around the email server and its security.

CLINTON: Yes?

QUESTION: Did you or any of your aides delete any government- related e-mails from your personal account? And what lengths are you willing to go to to prove that you didn’t?

Some people, including supporters of yours, have suggested having an independent arbiter look at your server, for instance.

CLINTON: We did not. In fact, my direction to conduct the thorough investigation was to err on the side of providing anything that could be possibly viewed as work related.

That doesn’t mean they will be by the State Department once the State Department goes through them, but out of an abundance of caution and care, you know, we wanted to send that message unequivocally.

That is the responsibility of the individual and I have fulfilled that responsibility, and I have no doubt that we have done exactly what we should have done. When the search was conducted, we were asking that any email be identified and preserved that could potentially be federal records, and that’s exactly what we did.

And we went, as I said, beyond that. And the process produced over 30,000 you know, work emails, and I think that we have more than met the requests from the State Department. The server contains personal communications from my husband and me, and I believe I have met all of my responsibilities and the server will remain private and I think that the State Department will be able, over time, to release all of the records that were provided.

QUESTION: Madam Secretary, two quick follow ups. You mentioned the server. That’s one of the distinctions here.

This wasn’t Gmail or Yahoo or something. This was a server that you owned. Is that appropriate? Is it — was there any precedent for it? Did you clear it with any State Department security officials? And do they have — did they have full access to it when you were secretary?

And then separately, will any of this have any bearing or effect on your timing or decision about whether or not you run for president? Thank you.

CLINTON: Well, the system we used was set up for President Clinton’s office. And it had numerous safeguards. It was on property guarded by the Secret Service. And there were no security breaches.

So, I think that the — the use of that server, which started with my husband, certainly proved to be effective and secure. Now, with respect to any sort of future — future issues, look, I trust the American people to make their decisions about political and public matters. And I feel that I’ve taken unprecedented steps to provide these work-related emails. They’re going to be in the public domain. And I think that Americans will find that you know, interesting, and I look forward to having a discussion about that.

QUESTION: Were you ever — were you ever specifically briefed on the security implications of using — using your own email server and using your personal address to email with the president?

CLINTON: I did not email any classified material to anyone on my email. There is no classified material.

So I’m certainly well-aware of the classification requirements and did not send classified material.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

CLINTON: Because they were personal and private about matters that I believed were within the scope of my personal privacy and that particularly of other people. They have nothing to do with work, but I didn’t see any reason to keep them.

Comment Article on the Clinton Email Server Issue

My latest posting over at Geekwire is my analysis and commentary on why Hillary Clinton using a “homebrew” email server is a major security problem.

http://www.geekwire.com/2015/why-the-clinton-email-server-story-matters-and-why-it-may-be-worse-than-you-think/

Overresponding: A Lesson

Say this about Twitter, it certainly is a treasure trove of incident mishandling for analysis.

Today’s lesson comes to us from the Topeka Kansas Home Office and is about the danger of overresponding to an issue. Overresponding means you respond to the issue with more force than is appropriate and in so doing your response creates more problems than it solves. Overresponse is actually a very common pitfall in crisis communications and is typically a panic move made by people who aren’t experienced in this arena.

The lesson comes from Kansas governor Sam Brownback, or more accurately his director of communication Sherriene Jones-Sontag. This Associated Press story has all the important details, but the key points are that a high school student joking tweeted something negative about the governor on Friday. His director of communications spotted it and complained to the school, who promptly brought the student in and told her she had to write an apology.

Setting aside the ways this incident from the outset has clear incendiary qualities because of the way it looks (and frankly is) the governor and the school system bringing their coercive force to bear on an expression of speech, this is a classic example of overresponding to a negative comment.

The fact is that this critic had a mere 65 followers. If there had been no response from the governor’s office, the only people that would have even seen this criticism are maybe 100 people at most. It’s a simple bet that well over 100 people have seen that original remark now after the governor’s response. From that standpoint alone, the handling represents overresponse: their response drove more eyeballs to the negative news than would have seen it if they just left it alone.

Add to that then the nature of the response and how broadly negative the response to that response is. On the first business day after the story broke the governor and school district have had to retreat and apologize. That tells us that both the governor and the school district were coming out strongly on the losing end of public opinion. A retraction that quickly is essentially saying “uncle”.

Worse yet, this response has spiraled now beyond the original issue and is prompting broader questions that may linger and be more damaging than this incident was. This opinion piece by Dean Obeidallah on CNN (a high profile site) raises a number of questions that I’m sure the governor’s office would prefer never have been raised, particularly the question about tax payer funding of social media monitoring and the likening of the governor’s actions to Nixon’s enemies list.

What this illustrates is what can go wrong if you overrespond to an issue. What people should take away from this is the importance of understanding that not every negative comment deserves a response. Sometimes your response can make an issue bigger than it would be otherwise. And sometimes your response can take on a life of its own and become more of a negative issue than the original thing that prompted the response. Finally, this also highlights how freedom of speech issues are very hot button and organizations should always try to never look like they’re on the wrong side of that issue.

In the end, sometimes the right thing to do is the less obvious thing: leave the issue alone. And this is where people who are experienced in crisis communications can help, because we understand these risks and can help make an informed assessment on whether it makes sense to respond at all.

Weiner and Twitter: Everything New is Really Old

Today brings the Twitter scandal chapter of Representative Weiner’s life story to an end.

I think most of us are thankful that it’s done. For many of us, this has been a combination of a train wreck in slow motion and a horror film where you keep shouting at the characters “don’t do that” and they do it.

For me, this has been something I track closely because of how it’s at the crossroads of the two major areas of my work: crisis management and social media. In a way, this has been the biggest issue at that intersection to date.

Now that the chapter is closed, people will start the process of figuring out what happened. There is a lot to review and analyze.

One question that’s already being asked and answered is how much of what happened is because of this “new” element, Twitter. Greg Sargent over at the Washington Post tackles that question calling Weiner “Twitter’s first major political casualty” and talking about how he thinks Twitter made this episode different.

He focuses on two major things that he things makes this different. First, he talks about how the newness of the technology (to Weiner) led him to try and “undo” his action in a way that only caused the story to go more broadly.  Second, he talks about how the nature of Twitter enabled and encouraged an obsession with the story unlike any other. Because of these new elements, he declares this the harbinger of a new, darker world. He notes: “But this episode also showcased and encouraged a new kind of hyperkinetic, Twitter-fueled pack journalism that at bottom was very, very ugly to behold.”

Is he right about that?

I say no, not really. Yes, there are differences, but these are differences of degree rather than kind. At the end of the day, what drove this crisis are two things that always drive the hottest and least successfully managed crises: a cover-up and lying. These actually underpin, respectively, the two main points Sargent calls out.

Weiner’s first attempt to manage the situation was to try unsuccessfully to delete the Tweet. That action helped set in motion the whole chain of events. Attempting to delete the Tweet is fundamentally no different than shredding documents or silencing witnesses (which he also tried to do). It’s old fashioned cover-up. All of these are attempts to make it appear that which happened didn’t happen. As I said regarding another Twitter-driven crisis, the wise words of H. R. Haldeman from Watergate days applies: You can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube.

The “the weeks-long journalistic obsession with his lewd acts” which Sargent describes ultimately is the result of the role of his lying. Weiner first created a lie that failed the plausibility test and then later failed to disclose all the information that the public wanted to hear. He committed both outright lies and lies of omission. Crises that play in the public space that have either or both of these elements always take on a life of their own fueled by the desire to find what’s being hidden. Humans love a challenge:  once the media (and I include mainline journalism and Twitter in that) believes there’s hidden information it becomes a challenge to be the one who finds the prize first. Social media speeds up the sharing of information that enables better and faster cooperation as the Cooks Source case demonstrated. But technology is just an enabler and facilitator. Behind it is the role that lying plays in driving a quest for the truth that can seem obsessive at times.

On a side note, lying played an additional role in the situation. The fact that Weiner managed to convince others to parrot his lies for him for a week only compounded the situation by turning those allies against him once the truth started coming out. The ancient rule of “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.” applies here. As Sargent’s college Jonathan Bernstein writes,Weiner’s duping of his colleagues made the situation worse, leaving him no allies here at the end.

Sarget’s right that this situation had new qualities. Twitter was a prominent part of the story. And the media landscape against which we operate today is faster, harsher, more brutal than it once was. But the fundamental dynamics, principles, and issues really aren’t much different than they were in the Watergate years. The key differences are that more than two people broke open the story in about three weeks rather than two years.

The lesson for those of us in crisis management is that social media takes the classic rules and speeds them up. You’ll need to adapt your tactics appropriately, but the strategies ultimately remain the same.

[Updated: Corrected “Cooks Source” which was erroneously entered as “Cooks Illustrated”]

The Intersection of Design and Downfall

It’s a treat to find someone able to bring a different and informative point of view to a topic that’s essentially being carpet bombed in the media.

Steven Levy has an article over at Wired today that talks about the design of Twitter and how that may have played a role in facilitating the Weiner crisis.

I’ve generally liked Levy’s work in the past and this article is a very insightful one. It combines an interesting story about the decisions behind Twitter when it was built with a story about how those application behaviors have played a role in this crisis. For instance, he talks about the decision to make “following” two one-way decisions rather than a single joint decision.

Well worth a read to better understand Twitter and to understand another aspect of the Weiner crisis.

Of course, you could also pop over to TMZ.COM and get the latest gossipy piece of news in this all: former porn star Ginger Lee talking about how she was encouraged to lie to the press by Representative Weiner.

Who the $*#@ is TMZ?

I suspect you might have heard something like this from Representative Anthony Weiner this weekend.

The latest drops to fall in the water torture that is the Weiner story came this weekend from TMZ.COM. Specifically, they managed to get a hold of eleven new pictures allegedly taken by the representative of himself at the Congressional gym. Be warned, they’re mostly safe for work but maybe not safe for your sanity.

Unless you have a guilty (or not so guilty) pleasure in celebrity gossip like I do, you may well be asking (like I suspect Weiner was): who the $*#@ is TMZ.COM?

The short answer is they’re a celebrity gossip website. They tend to be flashy and very aggressive. So it’s not surprising that they would jump into this mess like they have.

The more interesting point in this, though, is the fact that a celebrity gossip tabloid is involved in a political story. Granted, that boundary has been tested by the National Enquirer with the John Edwards story. But in a way, that was the Enquirer acting less as a gossip tabloid and more as a traditional journalism outlet. They won that story the same way that Woodward and Bernstein did: though hard investigative journalism.

By that measure, TMZ.COM’s entry into the Weiner situation is a bit different. Weiner’s folks now have to manage not only the Washington Posts, New York Times and Politicos of the world. They now have to start watching out for the hyper-aggressive gossip/tabloid press too.

The important lesson from this is that crisis situations jump out of the traditional boxes PR professionals are used to. As you’re managing a situation, you need to be on the watch for an issue to jump like this and be ready to start playing a different game with different rules. And if your situation does break into the online celebrity gossip tabloids: be ready to fight hard and fast because that’s one of the toughest arenas out there.