Witnesses say Clinton aide “overrode security protocols,” hoarded classified information at home.
Protective detail assigned to guard former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her two residences complained that her closest aide Huma Abedin often overrode standard security protocols during trips to the Middle East, and personally changed procedures for handling classified information, including highly sensitive intelligence briefs the CIA prepared for the president, newly released FBI documents reveal.
The security agents, who were interviewed as witnesses in the FBI’s investigation of Clinton’s use of an unauthorized private email server to send classified information, complained that Abedin had unusual sway over security policies during Clinton’s 2009-2013 tenure at Foggy Bottom.
FBI interview notes indicate that Abedin, a Pakistani-American Muslim whose family has deep ties to Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and the radical Muslim Brotherhood, was granted Top Secret security clearance for the first time in 2009, when Clinton named her deputy chief of staff for operations.
Abedin said she “did not remember” being read into any Special Access Programs (SAPs) or compartments.
If Clinton wins the presidency next month, she is expected to tap Abedin as her chief of staff, a position that would give her the power to run White House operations — including personnel security and visitor access. The position does not require Senate confirmation.
Abedin now serves as vice chair of Clinton’s presidential campaign.In a now-disclosed September 2015 interview, a diplomatic security agent assigned to Clinton’s protective detail told FBI investigators that Abedin possessed “much more power” over Clinton’s staff, schedule and security than other former chiefs of staffs.
The witness, whose name is redacted by the FBI, said that “Abedin herself was often responsible for overriding security and diplomatic protocols on behalf of Clinton.”
While Clinton was traveling with Abedin in an armored vehicle during a trip to the West Bank, for example, the driver of the limousine was “forced” to ignore longstanding procedures to keep the windows closed for security reasons. After repeated orders to open a window so Clinton could be seen waving to the Palestinian people while in “occupied territory,” the driver relented and opened the window “despite the danger to himself and the occupants.”
Another guard assigned to Clinton’s residence in Chappaqua, N.Y., recalled in a February FBI interview that new security procedures for handling delivery of the diplomatic pouch and receiving via fax the highly classified Presidential Daily Brief (PDB) had been “established by Abedin.” The witness added that Abedin controlled the operations of a secure room known as a SCIF located on the third floor of the residence.
In her own April 2016 interview with the FBI, Abedin contended that she “did not know that Clinton had a private server until about a year and a half ago, when it became public knowledge.” The clintonemail.com server was set up in the basement of the Chappaqua residence.
However, another witness told agents that he and another Clinton aide with an IT background built the new server system “at the recommendation of Huma Abedin,” who first broached the idea of an off-the-grid email server as early as the “fall (of) 2008,” ostensibly after Barack Obama was elected president.
The FBI pointed out that “the only person at DoS (Department of State) to receive an email account on the (clintonemail.com) domain was Abedin.”
In other words, Abedin, whose email account firstname.lastname@example.org, was the only State Department aide whose emails were hosted by the private Clinton server she claimed she didn’t know existed until she heard about it in the news.
Skeptical, FBI agents showed Abedin three separate email exchanges she had with an IT staffer regarding the operation of the private Clinton server during Clinton’s tenure at State. Abedin claimed she “did not recall” the email exchanges.
Making false statements to a federal agent is a felony.
“Multiple State employees” told the FBI that they considered emailing Abedin “the equivalent of e-mailing Clinton.” Abedin, in turn, “routinely” forwarded State government emails — including ones containing classified information — from her state.gov account to either her clintonemail.com or her Yahoo.com account “so that she could print them” at her home, the summary of her interview with the FBI reveals.
Another Clinton aide told the FBI that “Abedin may have kept emails that Clinton did not.”
By forwarding classified emails to her personal email account, Abedin appears to have violated a Classified Information NonDisclosure Agreement she signed at the State Department on Jan. 30, 2009, in which she agreed to keep all classified material under the control of the US government.