You may recall that, not long ago, I offered advice to Ammon Bundy shortly before he and his followers occupied the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon (Uncivil Disobedience; January 12, 2016). I felt I had to publicize my advice, lest I be blamed if things went to hell, which they did.
A few years before this, Secretary of State-designate Hillary Clinton contacted me for advice on the advisability of setting up a private e-mail server. Yet again, I feel I must publicize my advice, lest I be blamed for what has gone at least half-way to hell.
Here are some of my observations:
At State Department, you will lead, and will depend on, a corps of officers who have survived a maze of tests and interviews, plus a rigorous security screening, and who would be fired if they mishandled classified information, whether intentionally or carelessly. Would they understand their boss’s being held to a lesser standard?
Such a seemingly benign system could tempt you to use your hand-held device compulsively and publicly. Would Americans understand their Secretary of State’s looking like a teen-aged Facebook addict?
You have said that the server would be given the highest possible level of protection. No matter whom you engage to provide that protection, would a server associated with the U.S. Secretary of State escape our adversaries’ notice and interest, and could it be protected against their extraordinary hacking capabilities?
Would your husband have access to the system? Is there a use to which he might put it that could be an embarrassment? Even if the system could be protected against our adversaries, are you confident it could be protected against his determined attempt to use it for his purposes?
Even if our adversaries hacked the system and discovered nothing of normal intelligence value, is it likely they would refrain from revealing its existence for the very harm it could do to your image and credibility?
Or, if they chose not to reveal its existence, would it not be because they were gaining insight into your personality, your interests, your values, your decision-making process, which, in toto, might be worth almost as much as official intelligence?
You have said the server would be located in the basement of your private home. Have you checked for radon? Are the walls sealed against rising damp? Does your maid do the laundry there? Does the meter-reader have access? Do either or both of them speak Russian?
If made public, would your action fuel rumors that it was designed to evade public requests for documents under the Freedom of Information Act? If so, could that, too, harm your image and credibility?
Conclusion: I recommend against proceeding with these plans. Instead, you might employ carrier pigeons, a system so old-fashioned that no one could possibly imagine that that bird, strutting and puffing on a window-ledge at the Waldorf, was on any mission other than free sex. Also, you could augment security protection by writing your messages in Pig-Latin, an encryption system so dated, yet so cunning, that no cryptographer younger than 75 could possibly unsnarl it.