- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 13, 2015

Now that former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has turned over to the FBI an email server that once contained tens of thousands of emails, some of which are believed to have contained classified information, the work begins for federal investigators to determine what, if any, information is recoverable.

Mrs. Clinton has previously said that the server, which she used while she was secretary of state, was wiped clean after she turned over official work-related emails to the State Department.

Cybersecurity experts say the FBI will begin first by trying to recover any information from the server. If emails are retrievable from the server, then investigators would likely start piecing together where the emails came from, who they were sent to and to what degree the information they contained was classified.

“Actually having the device enables the investigators to do a heck of a lot in terms of what the person was doing with that server, and also what was on that server and bringing back deleted files,” said Darren Hayes, a cybersecurity professor at Pace University’s Seidenberg School of Computer Science and Information Systems.

An attorney representing Platte River Networks, a computer services firm that has overseen Mrs. Clinton’s private email system since 2013, has said that the old server is blank and contains no usable information.

“To our knowledge, the data on the old server is not available now on any device or server in Platte River’s control,” attorney Barbara J. Wells told CBS News.

The FBI, however, also has access to a thumb drive with electronic copies of the emails Mrs. Clinton saved, stored in a .pst format commonly used for email programs like Microsoft Outlook.

The .pst file can offer FBI agents other clues, since it can contain metadata that might indicate how emails were originated and where information was pasted from, according to people familiar with the handover of the thumb drive to the FBI.

Concern over the security of the private server was first raised in December, when Mrs. Clinton handed over 30,000 printed emails in response to a special House committee investigation of the deadly 2012 attack on a U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya, and it was discovered the emails were all on her own server. The 30,000 emails, comprising about 55,000 pages, were the ones Mrs. Clinton deemed to be government business and returned to the department. She said there were about 32,000 other messages that were entirely personal, which she didn’t turn over.

This week the inspector general for the intelligence community, I. Charles McCullough III, said he found that two out of a sample of 40 of Mrs. Clinton’s work emails contained top secret classified information.

Mrs. Clinton had initially said no classified information was sent or received on her server, though she has more recently clarified that meant no material that was officially marked as classified at the time.

A federal judge overseeing the public release of Mrs. Clinton’s emails as part of an open records case filed by Judicial Watch issued an order Thursday requiring the State Department to include in a status report due Friday the extent to which it is “working with other government agencies, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Justice, to search Mrs. Clinton’s private email server for information.”

Thus far the FBI isn’t talking about what it is doing to probe the server or recover any files.

Mr. Hayes said investigators could try to recover an activity log from the server, which would show any action that a user took to erase or delete data. They could also potentially trace the path of emails and detect other devices to which the messages were sent — opening the way for discovery of other devices containing the data.

“You can subpoena those devices as well for evidence. That’s probably where this investigation would progress,” Mr. Hayes said.

Another secrecy lawyer and former CIA officer, who spoke on background, said if information is recovered, that investigators would then face the task of comparing data recovered with various federal agencies to see whether it matched any data that was deemed classified.

The FBI’s probe has been described as an investigation into security of Mrs. Clinton’s emails rather than one of the Democratic presidential front-runner herself.

But where the investigation could go depends on what is recovered.

“It’s wide open,” the former CIA officer said. “The FBI will do their job, and then it’s up to national security.”

⦁ John Solomon contributed to this story.

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