Belmont Club

Hillary and the Mines of Moria

President Obama told Bill Plante of CBS News that “he had learned only last week that Hillary Rodham Clinton used a private email system for her official correspondence while she was secretary of state,” according to an article in the New York Times.  Asked when he first heard about the use of a private server, the president said at “the same time everybody else learned it through news reports,” according to Politico.  But he seemed to give the impression that it was no big deal.

It wasn’t as if Hillary was an infrequent user of her email system.  According to the Washington Post, 55,000 pages of emails are said to have been turned over to the State Department, though there are probably more.

Remember that the State Department doesn’t HAVE all of Clinton’s e-mails. They are held on her own private e-mail server. That’s the problem. The 55,000 pages of e-mails she has turned over to State were selected by either Clinton or someone on her team. … those are the e-mails that Clintonworld decided should be turned over.

Unless these page lengths include voluminous attachments, Hillary’s correspondence represents a fairly large quantity of emails. According to the Atlantic, the average user generates 166 pages worth of email messages per year. Megan Garber wrote:

Here’s one estimate: 41,638 words. That’s per the personal assistant app Cue, which integrates services like contacts, calendars, and especially email — and which recently released data based on a sampling of its users in 2012. While the average number of email messages each user received last year was (a relatively modest) 5,579 — and the average number of those messages each user sent was (an also modest) 879 — the output of words sent was comparatively colossal. To put those 41,638 discrete pieces of communication in perspective, that word count, in the aggregate, is roughly equivalent to a novel that is 166 pages in length. (The industry standard for page length is 250 words per page.) Which makes the average Cue user’s email output slightly greater than The Old Man and the Sea (127 pages long), slightly less than The Great Gatsby (182 pages), and just about equal to The Turn of the Screw (165 pages).

Hillary was exchanging a lot of emails to various someones. One person to whom she was not corresponding, or perhaps she was but he didn’t notice the return email address, was Barack Obama. Nor it would seem was she writing to any official person who might have noticed and thought it odd.

Lauren Harper and Nate Jones of the National Security Archive aren’t buying it.  They believe it is highly improbable  no one noticed Clinton operating her own private document management system. It was simply that either no one had the temerity to confront Hillary Clinton or people were under instructions not to. They sadly conclude that while “the Secretary of State was responsible for all of the Department’s records … she failed to preserve even her own.”

Hundreds of others at the State Department including the IT Department, its FOIA shop, and career civil servants had to have seen and known that the leader of their agency was improperly using a personal email address and –as far as the evidence has borne out– did nothing. They should have alerted the Archivist of the United States, their Inspector General, blown the whistle to congress, or leaked the misconduct to the press.

Another problem that the Clinton email scandal illuminates is that the US National Archives and Records Administration is loath to use its designated authority to to ask the Department of Justice to prosecute government officials who unlawfully destroy official records.

Purposely, one might surmise.

To all intents and purposes Clinton was in a private electronic room talking to who knows who about who knows what, not just occasionally, but often and significantly, as evinced by the quantities of information involved. And as  Harper and Jones note, lots of people in government do that, so that transparency is observed in the breach rather than in the conformity, the only exception to the rule being the president who gets all his news from the papers.

The Clinton system thus represents a discovered entrance into a Dark Network, that arrangement of communications which is neither monitored, policed nor even completely understood. Finding the Clinton email system is like stumbling over a hidden trap door in the woods, which on inspection leads to a subterranean world of no apparent limits. The discovery of the Clinton system should lead us to ask “where does it go?” For surely someone must have been on the other end of that private email system, whose identities the president either already knows or cares not to know.

Dark networks  are dangerous places.  A trip down into their depths usually takes a person to places like:

• Drugs
• Alien Smuggling
• Money Laundering and counterfeiting
• Intellectual Property
• Terrorism
• Human organs
• Stolen Art
• Sex Trafficking
• Arms Trafficking
• Nuclear Proliferation

Enter the secret portal in the woods and you are likely to find law enforcement, agents of various descriptions and criminals down there. You won’t find tourists taking snaps. If you have to ask what lies beneath, you don’t belong. The probability is that Clinton was on a Dark Network which one or several of her colleagues, perhaps even the president, knew about, which is why nobody cared. She wasn’t down in those depths to treat with Orcs or Balrogs, but rather to find a path over the mystic bridge of Khazad-dum to lead us all to the sunlit woods of Lothlorien.  Or so we have to think. We must assume it on the basis of our faith in the political system because we really don’t have any direct way of knowing, nor any way of finding out.

But the problem with such networks is that it’s hard to say where all the passages go or what kinds of connecting tunnels people have built when no one was looking.  Who knows? I don’t.  Authentic democracy is only as good as the information voters use to exercise judgment.  Without it we truly live in the Age of Faith.

There be dragons.  They don’t exist, you say? How do you know?

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