The U.S. National Security Agency refused a request from Hillary Clinton's top aides that the then-new Secretary of State be given a secure smartphone like the one given to President Obama when he took office, new emails show. Clinton's BlackBerry was banned for security reasons, NSA messages indicate, though officials also said some of the alternative proposals “would remove the very functionality desired...while others might take time to develop.”
The messages between top NSA and State Department officials, as reported by Ars Technica Thursday, show that Clinton aides pressed the NSA to permit Clinton to continue using a “BlackBerry-like” device after she became “hooked” on her phone during the 2008 presidential campaign. But while the NSA granted a similar request from Obama, beefing up the new president's phone with additional cryptography, the agency denied the request from Clinton's team. Instead they offered her a Secure Mobile Environment Portable Electronic Device (SME PED), an NSA-developed hand held mobile device, and other alternatives.
“Each time we asked the question 'What was the solution for POTUS,' we were politely asked to shut up and color,” Donald Reid, State Department coordinator for security infrastructure, said in a 2009 email first obtained as part of a Freedom of Information Act request by the political action group Judicial Watch.
It's not clear if Clinton ever used the SME PED offered by the NSA, though she was initially frustrated by her being forced to send emails via a desktop computer located in a 7th floor office at State Department headquarters in Washington. The use of mobile devices was prohibited in the secure office spaces there, known as a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility.
“[N]ow every day, she feels hamstrung because she has to lock her BB up ... she does go out several times a day to an office they've crafted for her outside the SCIF and plays email catch up,” Reid said in another email. “Cheryl Mills [Clinton's Chief of Staff] and others who are dedicated BB addicts are frustrated because they too are not near their desktop very often during the working day.”
This news comes amid the ongoing, intense scrutiny over the revelations last year that Clinton used a private email server as Secretary of State, creating a security risk and possibly sending classified emails to other top government officials.