- - Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her aides tried to use personal hand-held electronic devices inside areas used to store classified information, according to the just-released State Department inspector general report.

The Bureau of Diplomatic Security, the State Department’s security arm, told the inspector general that in March 2009 Mrs. Clinton rejected an offer from security officials to provide her with a secure government smartphone. “DS was informed that Secretary Clinton’s staff had been asking to use BlackBerry devices inside classified areas,” said the report, released late last month.

Another portion of the inspector general’s report states that Mrs. Clinton sought in late January 2009 to bring her BlackBerry into a secure area. Instead, State Department officials offered to set up a computer near her office desk to check emails, although the report says the stand-alone computer was never installed.

Classified areas are called SCIFs, for “sensitive compartment information facilities,” and are used by officials with security clearances to read secret or top-secret intelligence and other classified information. Security rules prohibit bringing in electronic devices like smartphones that could be used to photograph or copy secret documents or to take notes.

The facilities also are protected against external eavesdropping, and those entering are required to leave all phones and other hand-held electronic devices outside.

The report does not say whether Mrs. Clinton or her aides violated the ban on using smartphones inside the SCIFs. However, if she or her aides improperly used their BlackBerrys inside the SCIF, it could explain how classified information ended up on Mrs. Clinton’s private email server.


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The disclosure of secrets found on some of the 55,000 emails from Mrs. Clinton’s unsecure private server is the focus of an FBI investigation. As part of the investigation, the FBI on Oct. 12 seized four servers used within the secretary’s office by Mrs. Clinton and her aides.

According to the inspector general’s report, after the aides requested to use BlackBerry devices inside the classified areas, the assistant secretary for diplomatic security sent a classified memorandum to Mrs. Clinton’s chief of staff, Cheryl Mills, describing the vulnerabilities of using BlackBerry devices and emphasized that they are prohibited from being used inside sensitive areas.

Mrs. Clinton contacted the assistant secretary after receiving the memo and informed him that she “gets it” regarding cellphone use in secure areas.

Diplomatic Security also issued a warning directly to Mrs. Clinton about hacking threats against the department in March 2011. The memo said there had been a “dramatic increase” since January 2011 in cyberattacks by hackers whose identities were redacted in the report. The hackers were seeking “to compromise the private home email accounts of senior department officials.”

“Although the targets are unclassified, personal email accounts, the likely objective is to compromise user accounts and thereby gain access to policy documents and personal information that could enable technical surveillance and possible blackmail,” the memo said. “The personal email of family members also is at risk.”

The inspector general’s report concluded that Mrs. Clinton failed to request or obtain approval to use the private email server and did not report suspected hacking attempts against the server.

REPORT: MOSCOW BUYING POLITICIANS IN EUROPE

Russia is conducting so-called influence operations in Europe that include funding pro-Russia politicians, according to a report by the Virginia-based Centre for Counterintelligence and Security Studies, a think tank.

“Despite sanctions crippling the Russian economy and its currency in tailspin, the Russian government has increased monetary support for politicians throughout Europe,” the report states.

Moscow also has spent millions of euros to influence elections, and U.S. intelligence officials have warned that Russian strategic influence operations are underway in France, the Netherlands, Hungary, Austria and the Czech Republic.

“Russia has reportedly also given funding to far-right groups, including Golden Dawn in Greece, Jobbik in Hungary, and the National Front in France,” the report by CI Centre lead analyst Mihkel Smit states.

Russian intelligence and cyberoperations also are increasing across Europe and the United States, the report said. “In counterintelligence reports, several European nations have warned that they are vulnerable to Russian cyberespionage.”

Traditional Russia espionage also is increasing and was described as aggressively operating at the highest levels since the end of the Cold War. The Russian spies are targeting NATO intelligence and defense information. Key locations appear to be new NATO members in a bid to circumvent more established counterintelligence services in older alliance members.

One Russian spy ring was uncovered operating in Lithuania in December 2014, when an officer of the Russian Federal Security Service, known as FSB, was identified as seeking to influence senior Lithuanian government officials.

Russian spies and intelligence officers were uncovered in Germany (2015), Poland (2014), the Netherlands (2012) and the United States (2015).

“Russia has also repeatedly attempted to acquire U.S. military technology, including an FSB-directed operation in Houston that shipped $50 million worth of microelectronics and other sensitive technologies to Russian military and intelligence entities between 1998 and 2012,” the report said.

INF TREATY BREACH IGNORED

The Obama administration continues to ignore Russia’s violation of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.

The State Department’s latest annual report on arms control compliance, made public in April, states that Moscow “continued to be in violation of its obligations under the INF Treaty not to possess, produce or flight-test a ground-launched cruise missile (GLCM) with a range capability of 500 kilometers to 5,500 kilometers, or to possess or produce launchers of such missiles.”

The violation was triggered by the development of a ground-launched cruise missile banned by the treaty.

The report provided no details on the violation, one that has undermined the Obama administration’s national security agenda centering on arms control that stresses reaching agreements.

“As was the case in previous years, in 2015 the United States again raised concerns with Russia on repeated occasions in an effort to resolve U.S. concerns. The United States will continue to pursue resolution of U.S. concerns with Russia,” the report says.

Omitted from the report is the fact that Russian officials have not only denied the treaty breach, but have also accused the United States of violating the treaty through testing drones and target missiles that are not covered by the treaty.

Blake Narendra, spokesman for the State Department Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance, said the administration has been seeking Moscow’s return to verifiable compliance.

“At the same time, the administration is working to implement appropriate response options to ensure our security and that of our allies is maintained should Russia continue its violation of the INF Treaty,” he said. “The security of the United States and its allies is not negotiable, particularly when there is a serious violation of one of the cornerstone arms control agreements for European and Asian security.”

Pentagon officials have identified the illegal missile as the SSC-X-8 cruise missile that was flight-tested Sept. 2.

The House defense authorization bill for fiscal 2017 includes a provision that would block $10 million from Pentagon military support to the White House until Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter provides Congress with military plans for countering the Russian treaty breach.

Contact Bill Gertz on Twitter via @BillGertz.

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