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Hillary Clinton email operator may have asked Reddit for help

Engadget Engadget 20/09/2016 Jon Fingas
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When you're involved with a highly sensitive (and possibly illegal) IT operation, it's generally a bad idea to post on social networks about it... and one man is learning that the hard way. Reddit users on a pro-Donald Trump subreddit have discovered evidence suggesting that Paul Combetta, a Platte River staffer involved in managing Hillary Clinton's private email server, might have asked Reddit for help with sanitizing and deleting older messages. The connections are circumstantial, as US Newssays, but there are too many to simply dismiss out of hand.

To start, a user named Stonetear (a nickname linked to Combetta online) asked Reddit how to strip out a "very VIP" person's email address from archived messages on July 24th, 2014 in a bid to prevent them from being "exposed to anyone." Conveniently, that's the day after a House committee on Benghazi reached a deal with the State Department on handing over records (as documented in the FBI's report on Clinton's server). On December 10th of that year, Stonetear asked about a customer who wanted a standard 60-day data retention policy for some email users -- around the same time as Clinton aide Cheryl Mills asked for a 60-day window, defying government retention rules. Given that Combetta is known to have belatedly followed such an order in March 2015, when news of the server broke, it's hard not to raise an eyebrow.

Stonetear hasn't helped allay suspicions, either. The user deleted the Reddit posts in question just hours after the alleged Clinton connections surfaced, and they're surviving only thanks to quick-thinking online archivists.

A Republican heading the House Science Committee, Lamar Smith, is calling for interviews with Combetta and fellow Platte River employee Bill Thornton in the wake of the discoveries. He's concerned that the FBI didn't know about these facts before declaring that Clinton hadn't violated the law, and has threatened to subpoena the staffers if there isn't a scheduled interview by the 23rd.

Whether or not Smith and Reddit's Trump supporters get what they want is another matter. Combetta has already invoked the Fifth Amendment to avoid self-incrimination while testifying, and the US Attorney General has already said her office won't bring charges against Clinton. Even if there's smoking gun evidence linking Combetta to shady email server activity, it may be a case of too little, too late for those hoping to bring Clinton to trial.

Reddit, (1), (2)

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