Hillary Clinton and a senior aide discussed sending a secure cell phone to the secretary of state by FedEx or a personal courier, according to emails from 2010 released by the State Department. Either approach would have been acceptable, the State Department says in retrospect, if the telephone was rendered inoperable for the journey.
The unusual exchange from six years ago begins with Clinton confidante Huma Abedin telling her boss that she would mail the secure phone from Washington before her husband, then-Rep. Anthony Weiner, takes her to the airport. Clinton asks if one of Weiner’s assistants could make the delivery.
“OK I will (redacted) just fedex secure cell phone from dc. Anthony leaving office to bring me to airport now so hopefully will make it just in time,” Abedin writes in the afternoon of Aug. 2, 2010.
“Maybe one of Anthony’s trusted staff could deliver secure phone?” Clinton responds four hours later.
The emails released Thursday show the degree of trust Clinton had for Weiner before he was hit by scandal. Abedin is perhaps Clinton’s closest aide and Bill Clinton officiated at her wedding to Weiner.
Abedin recently separated from Weiner after the latest in a series of sexually explicit text messages surfaced from the one-time rising star of the Democratic Party.
Clinton and Abedin wrote to each other using private email addresses outside the State Department’s system, a practice that has roiled the Democratic nominee’s campaign for the presidency. Clinton has apologized for using a private email account connected to a server in the basement of her New York home. The FBI announced last week it was examining emails found on a computer seized from Weiner during its unrelated investigation of his sexually explicit texts to a 15-year-old girl in North Carolina.
Weiner resigned his seat in Congress in 2011 after accidentally posting on Twitter a picture of himself in his underwear, which he intended as a private message to a woman who was not his wife. In 2013, the publication of further messages killed his campaign for New York mayor.
It is unclear where Clinton was at the time of the emails. State Department schedules listed no public events for her between July 27 and Aug. 2, 2010.
State Department spokesman Mark Toner said it was unclear how the phone might have been delivered, or if it was at all. He said officials wouldn’t speculate.
But Toner stressed that the options mentioned by Clinton and Abedin would have been appropriate, if the necessary safeguards were taken.
“In 2010, secure cell phones were available to State Department employees, and they could be configured in such a way as to render them suitable for transport. When configured in this manner, the device would be inoperable until paired with additional components,” Toner told The Associated Press.
A secure cell phone would be shipped through a carrier that provides tracking, like FedEx, and an individual outside the State Department would be allowed to deliver the device.
The use of secure cell phones is commonplace among State Department staff when traveling to countries with advanced cyberespionage capacities, such as China or Russia.
When the FBI interviewed Abedin as part of its emails probe, she told investigators that Clinton’s team “would sometime use secure cell phones when they were traveling but they were not used on every trip.”
“Secure phones were only used when traveling in hostile operational environments,” Abedin said, according to the FBI’s notes of the interview. “The secure phones were maintained by Diplomatic Security (DS) and would be provided to the team.”
The exchange over the secure phone was among 1,280 pages of emails that the department released Thursday. The department received the documents from the FBI and received a court order to release them under the Freedom of Information Act. The documents weren’t among the 55,000 pages of emails Clinton provided to the department in 2014 and which have already been published online.
Of those previously released, the department classified more than 2,000 emails, mostly at the “confidential” and next-highest “secret” levels. Twenty-two emails were withheld entirely from publication on grounds that they were “top secret.”
No new classifications were made Thursday. Many of the new documents are “near duplicates” of those previously released, Toner said.