The reproduced e-mail exchange between Colin Powell and Hillary Clinton from January of 2009.
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In an e-mail exchange with then-incoming Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, former Secretary of State Colin Powell warned that the State Department Diplomatic Security (DS) would “[drive] you crazy if you let them.” The e-mail, released yesterday by Rep.
Elijah Cummings (D-Maryland), ranking minority member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, warned Clinton about the risks of using a personal mobile device in her job—but also detailed how Powell had flouted security rules set by the State Department and National Security Agency in his own daily use of mobile devices.
Powell explained that he had used a dial-up connection (as previously reported, this was a personal AOL account) to send e-mails “so I could communicate with a wide range of friends directly without it going through the State Department servers.
I even used it to do business with some foreign leaders and some of the senior folks in the Department on their personal e-mail accounts.
I did the same thing on the road in hotels.”
The private e-mail account used by Powell pre-dated the State Department’s own external unclassified e-mail capability. However, Powell also ignored rules on the use of personal devices in secure spaces at the State Department—such as the Office of the Secretary of State suite in “Mahogany Row,” a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility (SCIF)—by using a personal digital assistant, he told Clinton. “DS would not allow them in a secure space, especially up your way,” he wrote. “When I asked why not, they gave me all kinds of nonsense about how they gave out signals and could be read by spies, etc.
Same reason they tried to keep mobile phones out of the suite.”
Powell said he “had numerous meetings with them… We even opened one up for them to try to explain to me why it was more dangerous than say, a remote control for one of the many TVs in the suite, or something embedded in my shoe heel.
They never satisfied me and NSA/CIA wouldn’t back off.”
Powell believed that the electromagnetic shielding around the SCIF area made it hard to get a wireless signal out. “So we just went about our business and stopped asking,” he said.
On the topic of using a BlackBerry, Powell warned Clinton that it could be more dangerous because anything she sent and received on it “may become an official record and subject to the law. Reading about the President’s [BlackBerry] rules this morning, it sounds like it won’t be as useful as it used to be.
Be very careful.
I got around it all by not saying much and not using systems that captured the data.”
In other words, Powell told Clinton that he evaded government records laws by using a private e-mail account and keeping his mouth shut about using it for business.
Listing image by Department of Defense photo by Marvin Lynchard