Bob Franken: Hillary and the NSA

  • By Bob Franken
  • Wednesday, March 18, 2015 4:45pm
  • Opinion

Sometimes, when I’m not able to sleep, my mind is racing. Tucked in with all the neurotic fears, there also are ideas tumbling all over themselves. So it was a few nights ago that I was pondering Hillary Clinton and her obsessive attachment to secrecy.

Obviously, my insomniacal firestorm was fueled by the disclosures that Hillary had gone to such extreme lengths to keep her public emails ultra-private that she even set up her own individual server. By now, we all know the story and her decision that she alone will decide what to share and her insistence that she will not turn over her server, in case someone wants to do some cyber forensics to see if she’s hiding anything.

First of all, that might not be her decision to make. If she’s presented with the right enforceable subpoena or court order, it’s highly likely she’ll exhaust legal appeals and then grudgingly turn over the hardware.

Again, my synapses were arcing, and the sparks spread to the National Security Agency. None of the mundane sleepless worries about personal or financial matters for me. I was into more exotic delirium. I started wondering who has more of an attachment to dark furtiveness: Hillary Clinton or the NSA?

Thanks to Edward Snowden, we know why the NSA is absolutely fixated on keeping things so hush-hush. Snowden’s lifting of the cloak has revealed thousands of records documenting a spying program where the target was us. Understandably, NSA officials are a teeny bit touchy about being caught with their hands in the cookie jar of our privacy.

But we have no reason to believe that Hillary is concealing any conduct like that. We just don’t know what to make of her behavior, other than the impression that it’s mighty suspicious.

Perhaps her strategy is that this uproar will die down, and by the time she makes the announcement that she’s running, this will all be a distant memory in our minds, as we’re distracted by whatever is the new scandal du jour.

But if someone like, say, the hostile Republicans plan to keep this story alive, and if someone actually pushes a way to reveal whether there was something embarrassing or worse in those hidden emails, there could be a protracted court battle.

Often, the wanderings of even the most addled minds can produce a totally sane idea. This is one of those times. Hillary argues that she’s withheld strictly personal emails … stuff like her yoga routines. It surely would be a shame to go through legal, uh, contortions over yoga routines. So here’s an idea that is so appealingly simple:

Why not get the Clinton emails from the NSA? Obviously, it has them. If it was spying on French leader Francois Hollande and Germany’s Angela Merkel, it definitely has Hillary Clinton’s. Surely our intelligence leaders, who are trying to show that all their electronic snooping had a useful purpose beyond massive voyeurism, will jump at the chance.

Maybe Snowden can help out. He’s made it clear that he’d like to come back from Russia if he can work out some sort of deal as an alternative to the legal hell and imprisonment he’d be certain to get at the hands of irate U.S. government officials. Maybe he can just check out his file on “NSA-HILLARY” and turn it over to Republicans and reporters so we can feast on whatever it is she so badly wanted stashed out of sight forever.

Possibly it’s much ado about nothing, as Hillary wants us to believe. We have the resources to find out: the wonderful people who have decided that there is no such thing as out-of-bounds personal business. This is an idea I plucked from the thoughts racing around the dark in my brain. It’s all made me very sleepy.

Bob Franken is a longtime broadcast journalist, including 20 years at CNN.

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