A privately funded effort to test whether sensitive information from former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s home-brew server might have uncovered evidence that classified information from Clinton’s server did indeed end up in the hands of bad actors.
A cyber security expert hired by the conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch shut down the project after discovering an email he thought might be classified on a Romanian server, according to investigative notes released Monday by the FBI.
“It is unfortunate that Judicial Watch — not Congress or federal law enforcement — undertook this basic investigative step.”
The expert found a sensitive Excel file listing the names of suspected or known jihadists in Libya, according to the FBI report. A portion of the file was in Russian. The Clinton camp has admitted in the past that hackers breached Clinton confidante Sidney Blumenthal’s email server but have always maintained Clinton’s email was never successfully hacked.
But this document did not come from Blumenthal’s server. It did, however, contain a reference to an internet protocol address range that included the IP address of Clinton’s server.
“Upon reviewing this file [the expert] became concerned he had found a classified document and stopped the project,” the FBI report states. “This work completed Phase I and [the expert] planned to deliver the final report to Judicial Watch soon.”
That nugget is among the revelations contained in 100 pages released by the FBI of its now-closed probe into Clinton's use of a private server to store work-related emails during her tenure as America's top diplomat. Notes released Monday also reveal an effort by Under Secretary of State Patrick Kennedy to pressure the FBI to classify one email as "classified" in order to prevent it from becoming public under the Freedom of Information Act and revelations that Clinton ignored security protocols put in place by the agency tasked with her protection.
The Judicial Watch project started in summer 2015 with a concerned senior staff member of the Senate Judiciary Committee enlisting the help of a defense contractor who owns a company focused on domestic data acquisition. The FBI notes reflect that the staffer feared that information hacked from Clinton's server could endanger her three sons, who are Marines.
"Additionally, she was upset as a citizen and Senate staff member that this situation could occur," the FBI document states.
The defense contractor to whom the Senate aide turned did not have funding to undertake such a project, so he referred her to former House Speaker Newt Gingrich in August or September 2015. After a series of discussions, Judicial Watch put up $32,000 to pay for the work. The expert hired to do the job turned up files connected to Clinton, many from Blumenthal, on a server in Romania. That server contained about 200 Microsoft Word, Excel, and other file types belonging to Blumenthal.
Some of those files were dated on or about January 2012, the same period when an FBI witness raised questions about the Libyan Rogue Nation Judgement Program. A source claimed he was hired by the Libyan opposition government to recover assets belonging to deposed Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi's government.
The FBI notes indicate that the cyber expert hired by Judicial Watch discussed the matter with Tyler Drumheller, a former CIA officer who argued that the George W. Bush administration ignored credible evidence that cast doubt on whether Iraq was developing weapons of mass destruction under Saddam Hussein. Blumenthal sent "highly sensitive information" that he obtained from Drumheller in an email to Clinton in March 2011, according to information released last year by the chairman of the House Select Committee on Benghazi.
The security expert interviewed by the FBI speculated that Blumenthal, "if involved in the LRNP, could have written the memos as a 'shake and bake' tactic."
Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said Monday in a prepared statement that it is troubling that the government did not undertake a proactive effort to learn what his organization did using publicly available sources.
"Having uncovered evidence from open-source data of possible hacking and the existence of a document that might be classified, Judicial Watch's expert on the matter immediately contacted the FBI and turned his initial findings over to the agency," he said in the statement. "Our investigation is ongoing. We are disconcerted by what we have found thus far from publicly accessible sources about the possible hacking of Hillary Clinton's illicit server. It is unfortunate that Judicial Watch — not Congress or federal law enforcement — undertook this basic investigative step."
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