Using a private email server to mail Top Secret messages relating to issues that foreign intelligence agencies would pay millions to acquire is certainly, in the words of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Director’s words,” careless”. Those who assume high office are presumed to accept higher standards of accountability than ordinary citizens, yet the FBI Director has given his verdict on Hillary Clinton on the implicit assumption that she ought to be judged as simply another US citizen, not as an official sworn on oath to respect security and secrecy, which is what she was as Secretary of State, although not in her previous incarnation as First Lady. What makes the provenance of the email server used by the Democratic Party nominee for President of the United States toxic is the fact that the Clinton Foundation (which presumably had access to the emails) received and continues to receive large sums of money as donations from foreign entities.
As Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton joined hands with Nicholas Sarkozy (then President of France) to adopt a policy of inserting NATO into the armed struggle against Muammar Kaddafy. The intervention ensured the defeat of the Libyan dictator, who had earlier surrendered all the WMD in his possession and revealed all his security-related secrets to the very NATO capitals that later destroyed his government and much of Libya along with it. The Libyan dictator was a quirky despot, but during the years that he was in charge, the country was united, terror was absent, basic facilities were available in plenty and economic conditions were comfortable. After being “liberated” by Sarkozy, David Cameron and Hillary Clinton the country soon became unlovable.
Libya is now a living hell, with jobs and security absent and incomes way below what they were before the “liberation”. Ironically, had Kaddafy succeeded in defeating the (then) ragtag group of armed extremists who were challenging his rule in Benghazi, not only would far less people have been killed than was the case because of NATO intervention, but many of the terror squads that have since proliferated in the region would have been absent. It was the Libyan intervention that ensured a bountiful flow of modern eapons to extremist groups, stocks that they have since put to use across the region, including in much of Africa. Of course, the guiding principle of NATO is that whatever goes wrong is the fault of others, and hence there has thus far been zero accountability for the hugely consequential 2011 intervention in Libya, or indeed for the 2003 invasion of Iraq and its aftermath.
There have been individuals who claimed that elements in the Clinton Foundation (presumably unauthorisedly) accessed several of the Hillary Clinton emails and showed them privately to foreign nationals from countries in which the foundation was soliciting funds. However, even the Republican Party has declined to make such a charge, presumably respecting the fact that several of its grandees are themselves close to the entities and individuals who have so generously made the Clinton Foundation among the richest in the world, able to support the former President in the lifestyle of a corporate czar, complete with private jets and luxury suites in hotels. Attorney General Loretta Lynch has formally distanced herself from the conclusions of the FBI investigation into the Clinton emails. This is fortunate, for the FBI has taken the same stand as Bernie Sanders did at the start of the primary campaign season, dismissing the issue as of little consequence.
Had Sanders been as aggressive towards Hillary Clinton from the start as he was towards the close of his campaign, he may have overtaken her in pledged delegates. The way in which he dismissed the matter of the “damned emails” gave the impression of a man who was more comfortable talking about putting up a fight that actually doing so. This led to several individuals sitting out the primaries rather than getting involved in the side of Bernie Sanders, who was far and above the candidate with the highest level of integrity in the US Presidential race.
The shadow of Barack Obama falls upon the FBI Director’s exoneration of Hillary Clinton, for it is otherwise inexplicable how he gave a clean chit to the former First Lady. The possibility that the shifting of emails to a private server was not an accident or a sign of “carelessness”, but that this was done to enable unauthorised individuals to access them and to possibly make them available to big donors was not even considered by the FBI. An assumption of innocence was present from the start, although it is likely that even should Hillary Clinton be elected President of the US, the issue will not go away. There will be more investigations, including into the role of the FBI Director in giving instructions to the officers probing the matter.
If some within the system are to be believed, several junior FBI officials wanted to pursue the question of motivation and that of possible damage to security interests because of the fact that emails relating to the most sensitive of matters were potentially at risk of discovery, including by those who had directly or otherwise made contributions to the Clinton Foundation. Add to that the fact that several of these donors had a direct and substantial interest in US foreign policy, and it becomes easier to understand why the FBI Director’s exculpation of Hillary Clinton is very similar to what was done by George W Bush soon ager 9./11,when he allowed several individuals known to have funded radical groups to leave the country on special flights.
The reality is that on several matters of foreign policy, Donald Trump is right (such as his statement that Saddam Hussein kept terrorists in check in Iraq, or his pointing to the consequences of the Libyan intervention). Of course, Saddam kept not only terrorists but his own people in check, and deserved to be removed from power. However, what took place afterwards ( accompanied by backing from Hillary Clinton) has proved a disaster for a once proud country and the world. The FBI Director has shown that it is not only in Africa and in South Asia that the powerful get away with anything. It happens in the US as well.
—The writer is Vice-Chair, Manipal Advanced Research Group, UNESCO Peace Chair & Professor of Geopolitics, Manipal University, Haryana State, India.