State emails: Clinton aides fretted over potential hackers

Story highlights

  • The State Department released a new trove of Hillary Clinton's emails on Wednesday
  • State is under a court order to make public new batches of Clinton emails at the end of each month

Washington (CNN)Hillary Clinton's top State Department staffers discussed their use of private email -- with her chief of staff wondering if it'd invite hackers -- in 2011, new emails show.

The State Department released the latest batch of Clinton's emails Wednesday. This round features 3,849 documents and mostly covers 2010 and 2011. It also includes five phishing attempts targeting her account on August 3, 2011.
The use of private email addresses, rather than government accounts on State Department-owned servers, came up in a June 2011 exchange started by Anne-Marie Slaughter, the department's director of policy planning. And it was in the context of antiquated equipment -- which, she warned, would get worse amid congressional budget cuts.
    She wrote to Clinton: "I'm sure you've thought of this, but it would be a great time for someone inside or outside to make a statement/ write an op-ed that points out that State's technology is so antiquated that NO ONE uses a State-issued laptop and even high officials routinely end up using their home email accounts to be able to get their work done quickly and effectively. Further cuts to State's budget just makes matters much much worse. We actually need more funds to significantly upgrade our technology."
    Clinton followed up, writing that "I think this makes good sense. How should we follow up?"
    But chief of staff Cheryl Mills hit the brakes, making reference to an attempt to hack into her personal account, which she implied she'd been using for State Department business.
    Her response -- highlighted by the Republican National Committee as soon as its researchers found it Wednesday -- also shows that Mills wondered if the public revelation of the use of private email addresses might attract more hackers.
    "I think this is easier to do as a former employee rather than current; second and more significantly, as someone who attempted to be hacked (yes I was one), I am not sure we want to telegraph how much folks do or don't do off state mail b/c it may encourage others who are out there," she wrote.
    Slaughter responded that Mills' point made sense, and noted that policy aide Jake Sullivan had also expressed concerns. "Perhaps a better approach is to make the point more quietly to legislators through H," she wrote -- with H referencing Clinton.
    The State Department is processing 55,000 pages of emails that Clinton's lawyers turned over. New tranches of emails are being released at the end of each month under a federal judge's order -- but only after those emails are picked through by officials from a group of U.S. intelligence agencies to make sure sensitive information isn't made public.
    In the latest production of emails, portions of 215 documents that were upgraded to "classified" status retroactively and therefore won't be made publicly available. That nearly doubles the number of emails that were classified after the fact.
    Secretary of State John Kerry said his department is "moving as fast as we can to get every email out of there."
    "It can't be put out in one fell swoop because we have an obligation to review what is classified information and what is not," he said in an interview with CNN's Elise Labott. "And if any other department in the government is mentioned in a particular email it has to go to that department, in order for them to be able to clear it. So it's by nature a cumbersome process."
    Here are some of the interesting tidbits from Wednesday's email release:

    Abedin accessed Clinton's emails

    Abedin, Clinton's close aide, appeared to have access -- at least at times -- to Clinton's email account.
    She responded to a note policy adviser Jake Sullivan had sent to Clinton's account, on the secretary of state's behalf.
    "Hey its huma," Abedin wrote from Clinton's account. "She can't talk right now."
    "She will call when she gets in car. What flight u on? Can u email me on other email?"

    An urgent call about Netanyahu's 'short fuse'

    Before meeting with U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice needed to talk to Clinton.
    And it had to do with the "short fuse" of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
    Rice wrote to Clinton: "I would like to share the outcome of the meeting I had with Netanyahu today. I need some guidance from you urgently, and before I talk to SG (at Netanyahu's short fuse request)."

    Clinton defends the terms 'mother' and 'father'

    In January 2011, the State Department was set to replace the terms "mother" and "father" with the gender-neutral "parent" in reports of overseas births.
    Clinton caught wind of this bureaucratic change and then halted it publicly. She also expressed serious reservations privately.
    In an email to chief of staff Cheryl Mills, Clinton wrote: "I'm not defending that decision, which I disagree w and knew nothing about, in front of this Congress. I couuld w letting people in nontraditional families choose another descriptor so long as we retained the presumption of mother and father."

    Wrestling with the White House's phone operator

    When California Rep. Diane Watson announced her retirement in 2010, Clinton wanted to talk with her -- but it turns out it's not easy verifying your identity when you're the most famous female politician on earth.
    "I'd like to call her," Clinton wrote to Abedin. "But right now I'm fighting w the WH operator who doesn't believe I am who I say and wants my direct office line even tho I'm not there and I just have him my home # and the State Dept # and I told him I had no idea what my direct office # was since I didn't call myself and I just hung up and am calling thru Ops like a proper and properly dependent Secretary of State--no independent dialing allowed."

    Barbara Mikulski, unedited

    Maryland Sen. Barbara Mikulski wrote to Clinton in January 2010 that in the Senate, they were facing "The. Mass. Catastrophe."
    It was a note about Mikulski missing Clinton since she'd given up her seat to join Obama's administration, and the political trouble Democrats -- still struggling to pass Obama's health care law -- faced there.
    The long-time serving Maryland senator told Clinton about a behind-closed-doors caucus meeting where Democrats expressed frustration. She wrote: "this wk in caucus we were avolcano ready to erupt---real frustration with. Pres white house team and tin ear/ thin plans to deal with. Deep. Economic. Anxiety."
    Mikulski added: "Middle class feels their way of life. Slippingaway. And dems. Are only offering spending plans. Not solutions"

    An endorsement from Bush world

    Anita McBride, who was first lady Laura Bush's White House chief of staff, offered kind words in a March 2011 email to State Department staffer Melanne Verveer. Verveer forwarded it to Clinton.
    She wrote that she'd had dinner with longtime Reaganites who had told her, "I feel safe with Hillary."
    "We are so fortunate she is where she is. I know it's so damn hard," McBride wrote. "I'll pray for her. We need her."
    She added: "I can't tell you how grateful I am as an American for Hillary's leadership and hard work. Really - it kind of makes me weepy - and it does make me proud."

    Mark Penn kept at Obama

    Mark Penn was a controversial messaging guru in Clinton's 2008 Democratic primary campaign -- and it appears he never warmed to the president.
    In June 2010, he wrote to Clinton that the Obama administration has an "inadequate plan for long-term innovation and growth."
    In November 2010, he criticized the White House's handling of WikiLeaks. "The administration's response seems quite weak to me," he wrote.

    Clinton watched her poll numbers

    The secretary of state calibrated her interactions with the press to bolster how she was viewed by the public. Passing along a CNN/ORC poll from March 2011 that showed Clinton's favorability rating then at 65%, communications aide Philippe Reines wrote: "This is why we cooperate with so many profiles."
    That September, top aide Huma Abedin emailed Clinton with a Bloomberg article about whether her popularity is prompting "buyer's remorse" from Obama backers.