Clinton Used Eight BlackBerrys, but FBI Couldn’t Get Them

  • At least one mobile device destroyed with a hammer: FBI report
  • FBI releases summaries of its interview with Clinton

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton looks at her mobile phone after attending a Russia-U.S. meeting on the sidelines of the 43rd annual Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) meeting in Hanoi on July 23, 2010.

Photographer: Na Son Nguyen/AFP/Getty Images

Hillary Clinton used at least eight different mobile devices to send private e-mail during her tenure as secretary of state -- none of which were recovered by the FBI as part of its investigation into her communications practices as the nation’s top diplomat.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation, in a heavily redacted summary of its probe released on Friday, said Clinton flouted security standards for official communications by relying on private e-mail for government business.

In addition to the eight devices she used as secretary of state, the FBI said they sought at least five additional mobile devices as part of its inquiry. Clinton’s lawyers said they couldn’t provide any of the mobile devices she used. One person interviewed by the FBI said he recalled two instances in which Clinton’s devices were destroyed by “breaking them in half or hitting them with a hammer.”

The inability to investigate the missing devices means investigators “could not make a determination as to whether” they were hacked, the FBI said. In addition, a personal laptop used to archive Clinton’s e-mails when she was secretary of state went missing after being put in the mail. While the e-mails were deleted before the computer was sent, the hard drive wasn’t permanently wiped clean.

Related Story: FBI Says Laptop That Held Clinton E-Mails Missing

The FBI released the summary to provide context on its recommendation that the Justice Department shouldn’t prosecute Clinton or her aides for using the private system. The Democratic presidential nominee was interviewed by FBI agents and federal prosecutors for 3 1/2 hours on July 2 in Washington.

Clinton Response

Clinton spokesman Brian Fallon said the campaign was pleased that the FBI released its summary. “While her use of a single email account was clearly a mistake and she has taken responsibility for it, these materials make clear why the Justice Department believed there was no basis to move forward with this case," Fallon said in an e-mail.

The report shed light on how Clinton viewed her understanding of the handling of classified information. The FBI said Clinton couldn’t give an example of how classification of a document was determined and that “she relied on career foreign service professionals to appropriately mark and handle classified information.” She added that she didn’t recall receiving any e-mails that shouldn’t have been sent on an unclassified system.

“She relied on State officials to use their judgment when emailing her and could not recall anyone raising concerns with her regarding the sensitivity of the information she received at her email address,” according to the report. “Shown copies of emails marked ‘Confidential’ and ‘Top Secret/SAP,’ Clinton said she didn’t believe those e-mails contained classified information.”

According to an FBI summary of its interview with Clinton, she said she didn’t remember an e-mail that had passages marked with a small "(c)," for classified, in the text. Asked what the marking stood for, “Clinton stated she did not know and could only speculate it was referencing paragraphs marked in alphabetical order.”

Asked about an e-mail that apparently discussed a potential air attack, Clinton said that “deliberation over a future drone strike did not give her cause for concern regarding classification” because it was “part of a routine deliberation process,” according to the summary.

Powell’s Warning

Clinton’s use of private e-mail has dogged her campaign for more than a year, prompting accusations from Republicans, including rival Donald Trump, that she is unfit for the nation’s highest office and weighing on her public support.

"Hillary Clinton is applying for a job that begins each day with a Top Secret intelligence briefing, and the notes from her FBI interview reinforce her tremendously bad judgment and dishonesty," Trump spokesman Jason Miller said in a statement. "Clinton’s reckless conduct and dishonest attempts to avoid accountability show she cannot be trusted with the presidency."

The FBI said in its summary that Clinton denied using her private e-mail to avoid federal open records laws. But it showed that she was warned about the system by one of her predecessors. Former Secretary of State Colin Powell “warned Clinton that if it became ‘public’ that Clinton had a BlackBerry, and she used it to ‘do business,’ her e-mails could become ‘official record[s] and subject to the law.”’ He told her to be “very careful” using personal e-mail.

For a QuickTake Q&A on Clinton’s E-Mail System, click here.

Beyond the eight mobile devices she used as secretary of state, the FBI cited five iPads it sought as part of the probe that were “potentially” used to send private e-mails. Investigators obtained three of the iPads, one of which had e-mails from her personal account. Those messages didn’t contain classified information.

After completing almost four years in office, the former secretary of state said she didn’t receive briefings regarding the preservation or production of records as she began transitioning out of her job in early 2013. Her departure came about a month after she suffered a concussion and blood clot.

“Based on her doctor’s advice, she could only work at State for a few hours a day and could not recall every briefing she received,” according to the summary.

FBI Director James Comey said in July that while Clinton and her staff were “extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information,” the bureau wouldn’t recommend charges because "no reasonable prosecutor would bring" a case on the issue. The Justice Department then closed the investigation.

— With assistance by Ben Brody, and Margaret Talev

    Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.