Cybersecurity

Clinton aide wanted to go public about State's 'antiquated' tech

Anne-Marie Slaughter, previous employee of the State Department under U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

(Anne-Marie Slaughter / Princeton)

A former senior State Department official pitched then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton directly on the idea of going public with the "woeful state of civilian technology" in June 2011.

The request came in the wake of disclosures that the Google accounts of political activists in China were being targeted by hackers. It was made public in the State Department's most recent release of emails from Clinton's private email server.

Anne-Marie Slaughter, a scholar and foreign policy analyst perhaps best known to the public for her essays on work-life balance in The Atlantic, e-mailed Clinton at her private e-mail address suggesting it would be "a great time" for a statement or 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."

Slaughter argued that "[f]urther cuts to State's budget just [make] matters much, much worse. We actually need more funds to significantly upgrade our technology."

Clinton was open to the suggestion, replying, "I think this makes good sense. How should we follow up?"

Cheryl Mills, Clinton's chief of staff at the State Department, put the brakes on the idea.

"I think this is easier to do as a former employee rather than current," Mills wrote. "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."

It's not clear what hacking attempt Mills was referring to. Mills used her official .gov address in thousands of emails already released by State.

Slaughter took the hint, and noted that Clinton aide Jake Sullivan also "has concerns" about a public airing of the IT practices of senior State Department officials, although it's not stated in the exchange what those concerns were.

"Perhaps a better approach is to make the point more quietly to legislators through H," Slaughter wrote.

About the Author

Adam Mazmanian is executive editor of FCW.

Before joining the editing team, Mazmanian was an FCW staff writer covering Congress, government-wide technology policy and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Prior to joining FCW, Mazmanian was technology correspondent for National Journal and served in a variety of editorial roles at B2B news service SmartBrief. Mazmanian has contributed reviews and articles to the Washington Post, the Washington City Paper, Newsday, New York Press, Architect Magazine and other publications.

Click here for previous articles by Mazmanian. Connect with him on Twitter at @thisismaz.


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Reader comments

Thu, Oct 1, 2015

Should be pretty easy to evaluate how accurate or exaggerated the statement "high officials routinely end up using their home email accounts" is just by looking at the return addresses of the Clinton emails already released. Consider that a journalism suggestion...

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