Fox News is scandalizing reports that the State Department-issued BlackBerrys of two Clinton aides were destroyed when Hillary Clinton stepped down as secretary of state, despite the fact that the destruction of such devices is “standard operating procedure” at the agency.
Clinton Aides' Government-Issued BlackBerrys Were Reset After Clinton Left State Dept.
State Dept.: Clinton Aides' Government-Issued BlackBerrys Were Reset After Clinton Left Agency. The State Department responded to a lawsuit from the conservative group Judicial Watch with information about Clinton-aides Huma Abedin and Cheryl Mills' government-issued BlackBerrys used while Clinton was secretary of state, as Politico explained:
BlackBerry devices the State Department issued to former Hillary Clinton aides Cheryl Mills and Huma Abedin have likely been destroyed or sold off as surplus, a State official said in a court filing Wednesday.
The secretary of state's information technology office “believes that Ms. Mills and Ms. Abedin were each issued BlackBerry devices,” State Executive Secretary Joseph Macmanus wrote in a declaration submitted to a federal court in Washington (and posted here). The office, referred to as S/ES-IRM in agency parlance, “has not located any such device at the department” and “standard procedure upon return of such devices is to perform a factory reset (which removes any user settings or configurations) and then to reissue the device to another employee, to destroy it, or to excess it,” he added.
“Because the devices issued to Ms. Mills and Ms. Abedin would have been outdated models, in accordance with standard operating procedures those devices would have been destroyed or excessed. As stated above, the state.gov email accounts themselves are generally housed on the Department's servers," Macmanus said. [Politico, 8/19/15]
Fox News Attempts To Paint BlackBerry Reset As Proof Of Wrongdoing By Clinton And State Dept. Aides
Fox & Friends: Clinton Aides “Wiped [BlackBerrys] Clean” Before Turning Them In, “And Nobody Now Knows Where They Are.” On the August 20 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade claimed Abedin and Mills “wiped [their BlackBerrys] clean first, and nobody now knows where they are,” while co-host Steve Doocy added, “they can't find them. Have they been wiped clean? Don't know”:
KILMEADE: So there's another thing we'd like to find out is -- Actually what happened during her four years at the State Department. To do that, you have to have people on the record, for example people who used private servers, who used government equipment like BlackBerrys, which were once cutting edge when President Obama was taking office, now they're looked at as antiquated. So it turns out that Huma[CROSSTALK] had a BlackBerry given to her. And so did Cheryl Mills. She had a BlackBerry. They handed them in like they were supposed to, and wiped them clean first, and nobody now knows where they are.
DOOCY: Yeah, they can't find them. Have they been wiped clean? Don't know. They just aren't there. And Hillary Clinton, as it turns out, you didn't know, you've seen all those pictures of her where she's secretary of state and she's on a BlackBerry, or she's on an iPhone. As it turns out, whatever -- Nobody knows where those came from. Because the Department of State did not issue her any of those. So those are completely unsecured. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 8/20/15]
America's Newsroom: Clinton Aides' BlackBerrys Were “Likely Destroyed.” On the August 20 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom, anchor Martha MacCallum and correspondent Kristin Fisher hyped news that the aides' BlackBerrys have “likely already been destroyed,” giving no mention of the State Department's explanation that this is standard procedure:
MACCALLUM: There are new reports that the presidential candidate wiped her server clean before heading out on the campaign trail. We're also learning that her BlackBerry was not government-issue, and the ones that were, for her aides Cheryl Mills and Huma Abedin, were likely destroyed.
FISHER: What [Judicial Watch has] done is, they've filed a Freedom of Information Act request to get records from that same Clinton aide, Huma Abedin. But we now know according to a State Department official, that her BlackBerry has also likely already been destroyed. [Fox News, America's Newsroom, 8/20/15]
But It's Standard Procedure For State Department To Reset Or Wipe Clean Devices After Use
State Department Executive Secretary: BlackBerrys Were Reset “In Accordance With Standard Operating Procedures.” The State Department's executive secretary, Joseph E. Macmanus, wrote in a statement submitted to the court that Abedin and Mills turned in their State Department-issued BlackBerrys before leaving their positions with the Department, and those devises were then reset or wiped clean before giving them to someone else for reuse. From CNN:
BlackBerry phones were issued to Abedin and Mills, he said, but those devises would have been cleared through a factory reset once they were returned to the department.
“Because the devices issued to Ms. Mills and Ms. Abedin would have been outdated models,” he said, “in accordance with standard operating procedures those devices would have been destroyed orexcessed.” [CNN, 8/19/15]
State Department Spokesman: BlackBerrys Were Returned To State Department. State Department Spokesman John Kirby also confirmed that Abedin and Mills returned their BlackBerrys to the State Department upon leaving office. From The Hill:
State Department spokesman John Kirby confirmed later on Wednesday afternoon that the two former officials' devices were returned to the department after they left office.
“They belong to the United States government, and when you leave an agency you just turn it in,” Kirby said. "So yes, they were turned in. Where they are now I couldn't begin to tell you.
“It's also likely, because this was a while ago, that those devices may have been destroyed,” he added. “I don't have the records of it because they were old and outmoded and often times we purchase new devices” in those circumstances. [The Hill, 8/19/15]