NEW YORK – In a seemingly innocuous deposition with Lewis Alan Lukens – a 27-year veteran State Department Foreign Service officer in charge of logistics and management support while Hillary Clinton was secretary of state – Judicial Watch set the stage to expose Clinton for her creation of an allegedly illegal private email system to conduct official government business.
Judicial Watch attorneys began with a series of tightly constructed questions exploring how Clinton’s top aides, including Cheryl Mills and Huma Abedin, were able to convince Lukens to allow Clinton to use a personal BlackBerry smartphone to send and receive emails. Lukens initially objected because of security concerns, but after considering alternatives, finally gave up when Mills and Abedin assured him Clinton wanted to use it only because it was more convenient for her to communicate with friends and family.
Lukens was the deputy executive secretary in the State Department from 2008 through 2011, responsible for the office of Information Resource Management, which ensures State Department leaders and their staffs have the communications tools needed to do their jobs.
Judicial Watch’s questioning of Lukens’ was the first of a series of depositions planned to explore Secretary Clinton’s use of a private email system. The questioning established the groundwork, in legal terms “the predicate,” for questioning more senior witnesses, including Mills, Abedin and possibly Clinton herself.
What Judicial Watch established in questioning Lukens was that Clinton and her aides obtained State Department approval to use a private email system, ClintonEmail.com, under the false pretense that it would only be used to communicate more conveniently with family and friends, not to conduct official State Department business.
By inference, Lukens’ deposition showed that a direct request by Clinton to bypass the State Department’s secure email system to conduct official State Department business over a non-secure line accessed by a personal communications device such as a BlackBerry would have been summarily denied as a clear violation of federal laws regarding the handling of classified national security information.
Get a first-hand account of the Democratic presidential front-runner’s character in “Hillary The Other Woman.” Then take action with the Hillary Clinton Investigative Justice Project and let others know, with a bumper sticker calling for “Hillary for prosecution, not president.”
That Clinton had to resort to claiming that using a PC to access emails was too complicated for her, strongly suggests Mills and Abedin were knowing accomplices in the email scheme.
Emails entered as exhibits to the deposition make clear Clinton’s goal was to conduct her official State Department email business on an email system the federal government could not access without NSA-like interception. The system would make it more difficult, if not impossible, for her to comply with FOIA and Federal Records Act legal requirements.
‘Too complicated’ for Hillary to operate
Shown an email chain involving Mills, Abedin and Patrick Kennedy, currently under secretary of state for management, Clinton’s staff argued to Lukens that the log-in system for using the State Department’s secure email system was too complicated for Clinton to operate.
Instead, Mills and Abedin argued Clinton needed to be issued a Blackberry not tied into the State Department secure system so she could more conveniently access her personal emails with “family and friends.”
“So the crux of the issue was that BlackBerrys and iPhones are not allowed in the secretary’s office suite. So the question was, how is the secretary going to be able to check her emails if she’s not able to have the Blackberry at her desk?” Lukens testified under oath.
The problem was that the office for the secretary of state is on the seventh floor of the State Department building in Washington, D.C., a floor identified as a SCIF, or Secure Compartmentalized Information Facility. On the floor, wireless communications are prohibited, and all emails must be transmitted and received through the State Department’s secure “OpenNet” email system.
Lukens explained in his deposition that he suggested setting up a stand-alone personal computer in the secretary’s office that could access the Internet and bypass OpenNet so Clinton could check her personal emails from her desk and remain in compliance with the SCIF requirements.
In an embarrassing email Lukens addressed to Kennedy on Jan. 24, 2009, he explained that Mills rejected the solution, claiming Clinton “does not know how to use a computer to do email.”
Lukens explained to Kennedy his response to Mills that it “would not take much training to get her [Hillary Clinton’ up to speed.”
‘Too many passwords’ for Hillary to master
Lukens testified that Mills made clear the only solution Clinton would accept would be use of a personal BlackBerry, since accessing her personal email through an OpenNet computer involved “too many passwords” for her to master. Also, a stand-alone computer on her desk that could by-pass OpenNet still required the ability to use a PC to access her personal emails.
Finally, Lukens suggested setting up an office across the hall from Clinton’s seventh floor secretary of state office where a phone line could be installed, allowing her to leave her desk, walk across the hall and access her personal emails via BlackBerry.
Under direct questioning, Lukens admitted he did not believe Clinton was ever issued a State Department BlackBerry.
“I don’t remember if we talked about issuing her a State Department Blackberry,” Lukens testified. “We did talk about how she could access her Blackberry.”
Lukens further testified he remembered seeing Hillary carrying two BlackBerrys at the same time, and he distinctly remembered Hillary stepping out of her office and into the hallway to use her BlackBerry.
“I did on occasion see Secretary Clinton in the hallway outside the SCIF standing there looking at her BlackBerry,” he explained.
Asked whether Hillary was sending personal email or reading personal email in those occasions, Lukens answered, “I had no idea what she was doing.”
‘Only a convenience for emailing family and friends’
Lukens testified he could not recall any time when Mills, Abedin or Clinton asked him to provide a computer to conduct official government business, suggesting Clinton used her BlackBerry for conducting State Department business as well as for exchanging emails with family and friends.
“My understanding was that [Clinton] was using the equipment (her two BlackBerrys) to contact family and friends,” Lukens said.
Asked whether he ever had a conversation with anyone about whether Clinton used her BlackBerrys to conduct official government business, Lukens answered, “Not that I recall.”
Asked at the conclusion of the deposition if he ever thought about how Clinton was going to conduct official government business via State Department-secured emails if she never asked him to provide her a government computer and she only ever used her two BlackBerrys for transmitting and receiving emails, Lukens answered simply, “No.”
Unasked as the nearly two-hour deposition came to an end was the follow-up question, “Why didn’t you think about this?”