Talk to anyone in law enforcement and they will tell you that the stupidity of criminals is a key part of solving crimes. The crooks leave clues and make huge blunders that allow the cops to catch them. Ray-Ray decides he has had enough of Peanut disrespecting him so he walks up to him at a party and starts shooting. Not only are there a million witnesses, Ray-Ray leaves the gun with his fingerprints and brags to his buddies latter that he just dusted Peanut at a party. It’s not a hard case to solve because Ray-Ray is a moron.
That comes to mind when reading the stories about the Clinton secret e-mail caper. We have enough of the details at this stage to have a rough idea how we got to this point. They wanted to have a secret communication method that would be not be subject to government security and Freedom of Information Act requests. They also figured that this secret system would be free from Congressional oversight. After all, if no one knew it existed, then no one could ask any questions about what was on it.
It’s not hard to imagine the conversations leading up to the decision to go with this plan versus using Google or Yahoo accounts. They figured that the reason guys like General Patraeus got caught using Gmail was that the government IT people were able to tell when people were accessing these systems via their work computers. Alternatively, they just assumed the government had access to these system like they do in the movies. Either way, they determined that using these options for personal stuff was a bad idea.
Hilariously, it appears they came to the conclusion that having their own e-mail server meant that all the e-mail was magically hidden in the box in Hillary’s bathroom. Their subsequent attempts to erase the hard drives suggests they did not know that e-mail travels across networks and is also stored on the receiver’s servers. Those servers are usually on a network not controlled by the recipient. They started to realize this at some point, which is why they smashed their phones and laptops.
The most amusing part of this caper is they started sending e-mails from this domain to people outside the domain. If they had kept this as a tight internal communication system, they could have got away with it. Highly secure e-mail systems actually work this way. You cannot send or receive mail from outside the domain. That way people cannot forward mail off the system and the system is not exposed to outsiders looking for an open window. In some government facilities, access is only through terminals in the facility.
Once e-mail was sent from the domain to outsiders, it was only a matter of time before the secret was out. They were lucky that most media people are remarkably stupid so they lack the wherewithal to wonder why Hillary Clinton did not have a State Department e-mail account. Watch the cable channels and you come away thinking that the people on TV just learned about e-mail last week. Eventually the Romanian cab driver unearthed the whole thing and the enterprise came crashing down.
The other bit of interest in the area of technical competence is how they responded to FBI requests for their e-mail. They printed them off and turned them over as paper documents. These are lawyers and they just assumed they could bury the government with paper. After all, how can they possibly organize 50,000 pages of e-mail? This is an old trick. In discovery one side asks for everything so you give them everything plus a mountain of junk they have to sort through to find what they want.
What they failed to understand is that the FBI digitized this stuff in a day or two. Modern high speed scanners can process 50 pages a minute. OCR technology can turn the paper into a machine readable document. Content management systems let you store millions of documents so they can be searched and sorted based on content. I have this on my laptop so I can stash all of my documents in a database, rather than file folders. The Clinton people were as ignorant of this as they were of how e-mail worked.
There are a lot of angles to these Clinton scandals, but the thing that transcends all of it is the rank stupidity of the people involved. There were safer and more secure ways to establish clandestine communications. Even with their setup, a modest amount of discipline would have prevented most of this from happening. All they had to do was limit mail going out of the system. When the time came to burn it down, they only had to destroy the server entirely and no one would be able to prove anything.
The argument from Team Trump in the closing days of the election is that Hillary Clinton is too corrupt to rule. He’s painting her as the face of the larger problem, which is the metastasizing corruption of the ruling class. It’s a good closing argument and it resonates, but the reason Hillary should not rule is she is dangerously incompetent and she surrounds herself with outlandishly stupid people. A society can survive crooked rulers, but it cannot survive stupid ones. Hillary Clinton is too stupid to rule.