Was Hillary grossly negligent?

The whole issue of whether Hillary Clinton should be charged over her use of an unsecured private email server as Secretary of State comes down to whether she was “grossly negligent”. FBI Director James Comey just gave his verdict (the full text can be found here).

Director Comey’s statement includes three crucial findings:

1. Hillary Clinton was “extremely careless” in her handling of very sensitive, highly classified information.

2. None of Hillary Clinton’s emails “should have been on any kind of unclassified system”.

3. Hillary Clinton should not be charged.

The applicable law can be found ad 18 U.S.C. Section 793 (f):

Whoever, being entrusted with or having lawful possession or control of any document. . .relating to the national defense, (1) through gross negligence permits the same to be removed from its proper place of custody (…) Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both.”

The highlighted section of the applicable law means that a crime occurs where someone:

1) handles data related to national defense, and

2) is grossly negligent

3) in allowing the data to be removed from its proper place of custody.

Requirement 1) is fulfilled pursuant to FBI Director Comey’s statement that highly classified information was being handled. Requirement 3) is fulfilled by FBI Director Comey’s statement that none of Hillary Clinton’s emails should have been stored on her unsecure private server.

This leaves requirement 2), specifically that storing the data in an unsecure place was through “gross negligence”.

As any legal dictionary will tell you, “gross negligence” means “extremely careless”. Even without the help of a legal dictionary this is easy to comprehend. Being negligent means being careless. Being grossly negligent means being extremely careless.

It is interesting – perhaps instructive – that FBI Director Comey used the exact definition of  “gross negligence”, i.e. the words “extremely careless”, in his statement on Hillary Clinton. That cannot be a coincidence.  And yet, he decided not to recommend charges.

The fact that Barrack Obama had scheduled a campaign event with Hillary Clinton for two hours after FBI Director Comey’s statement can equally not be a coincidence, at least not unless he held such events frequently at the time (he did not).


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