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Culture > News

What You Need to Know about Hillary Clinton’s Private Email Server

It seems like no matter how much time passes or how many votes she got in the primaries, Hillary Clinton just can’t seem to escape the controversy surrounding her use of a private email server while she was Secretary of State. While Clinton’s email scandal has been in the news for months now, the intricacies of the issue are hard to pin down.

Breaking the controversy down, here are the main points of Clinton’s ongoing email scandal explained:

Why Clinton used a private email server and how it was discovered

Last March, in the midst of the Benghazi Committee’s investigation into the attack of the United States consulate in Benghazi, Libya that resulted in the deaths of four Americans, it was discovered and then widely reported that Clinton had been using a private email server during her time as Secretary of State. After the Benghazi Committee learned about Clinton’s use of a private email server, Chairman Trey Gowdy and then Speaker of the House John Boehner asked Clinton to grant a neutral third party access to her server so they could determine what data should remain private and what should be made public.

Clinton later said that she used a personal email server because she did not want to carry around two devices and because her predecessors had done the same. While many politicians have used their own personal email addresses during their terms, Clinton’s case is different because she used her own server located in her home instead of using one provided by the state department.

Why Clinton’s use of a private server is a problem

In July 2015, the FBI began reviewing a number of Clinton’s emails and found that some of them contained classified information. Having emails containing sensitive, classified or top secret material on a private email server not maintained by the government posed a possible security risk, according to the State Department.

Additionally, Clinton’s use of a private server meant that her emails were not being archived by the State Department, as was the common protocol under the Federal Records Act, legislation that exists to ensure transparency and record-keeping. Therefore, if someone were to file a Freedom of Information Act request for some of the information contained in Clinton’s emails, the information would not be readily available because it was not in government control.

Much of the unrest over Clinton’s private email server comes from Clinton’s lack of transparency and accessibility. Since her emails were housed on a private server out of the hands of the government, she made it look like she had something to hide. Therefore, she is often perceived as untrustworthy by the public.

Why didn’t Clinton get charged criminally for using a private server?

James B. Comey, director of the FBI, said in a press conference that Clinton was not charged because she and her colleagues did not purposefully violate laws governing the handling of classified information. However, the FBI did find that Clinton and her colleagues had been careless in the way they handled classified and sensitive information. Additionally, the FBI found no evidence that Clinton’s server had been hacked, but also noted that direct evidence of hackers would be hard to find.

Comey recommended that the Department of Justice not pursue a case against Clinton because her actions were not severe enough to warrant criminal charges.

“In looking back at our investigations into mishandling or removal of classified information, we cannot find a case that would support bringing criminal charges on these facts,” Comey said in a July press conference. “All the cases prosecuted involved some combination of: clearly intentional and willful mishandling of classified information; or vast quantities of materials exposed in such a way as to support an inference of intentional misconduct; or indications of disloyalty to the United States; or efforts to obstruct justice. We do not see those things here.”

What does this have to do with Wikileaks?

Not much. Wikileaks recently released thousands of emails hacked from the personal Gmail account of John Podesta, Clinton’s campaign chairman. While the private email server is discussed in the leaked documents, it was not Clinton’s account that was hacked.

Rachel Popa is a college Junior majoring in Journalism and English with a concentration in Creative Writing. She is a self-descibed "Hobbit" living in the big city of Chicago. Her passions include (but are not limited to) books, writing, "Game of Thrones," caffinated beverages and corgis. Feel free to follow her on Twitter at @_poparazzi, or drop her a line at rachelpopa@hercampus.com.