back to article Former FBI boss Comey used private email for official business – DoJ

Former FBI director James Comey was using Gmail for FBI business while overseeing the controversial probe into Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server during her tenure as US Secretary of State. A report from the US Department of Justice found Comey was "insubordinate" in his handling of the investigation while …

  1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    Lock them all up?

    Just a thought.....

    1. ITS Retired

      Re: Lock them all up?

      That's my prayer too.

      1. BillG
        IT Angle

        Re: Lock them all up?

        'I did not have an unclassified FBI connection at home that worked'

        Ah, so it's tech support's fault?

        FYI government laptops have two separate physical hard drives, one for classified and another for unclassified. Copy/paste between the two is supposed to be blocked. But all actions and each keystroke on the laptop for both hard drives is logged, and detailed telemetry sent back to HQ.

    2. DagD

      Re: Lock them all up?

      all I can say is Thank you Reg for being non-biased in reporting this.

      There are many of us who agree, Clinton should have been locked up.

      Now we know why that didn't happen, the investigator almost just as guilty of the same lack of adherence to the rules.

      Muahahaha "lock'em up!"

      1. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

        Re: Lock them all up?

        @DagD - The US security clearance rules require one to take very seriously the security of any information that might be useful to an adversary. The actual security classification is not relevant. This is from someone who had US security clearance training. The issue with Hildabeast was she did not follow the requirements that someone like me would be looking a few years in Club Fed for doing lesser stupidities.

      2. tom dial Silver badge

        Re: Lock them all up?

        James Comey's reported use of a personal email account generally falls within the bounds of what is allowed, although discouraged strongly, for federal employees. As he is quoted, it was not routine, he took care to ensure that it was properly archived by the FBI, and was not very sensitive. I did that myself as a federal employee, mostly in connection with night and weekend operations problem resolution before I was issued a government laptop that provided VPN access to the agency LAN.

        This was quite different from Hillary Clinton's exclusive use of unaccredited, uncertified, poorly maintained, and insecure servers for all of her, and much of her staff's, State Department email, including a small amount of classified material.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Lock them all up?

          Not sensitive?

          He revealed the email addresses of those who he sent the email to, and anyone who responded and when (which, with a bit of extra work, can help to narrow down where they live).

          If IP addresses etc were logged they've also got a bunch more information that can be tied to their personal lives. Got a MAC address from the sending machine? That can tell you information regarding the NIC, so hey- maybe it's one with a known exploit.

          As email isn't normally encrypted and nothing was mentioned on this, responses will also include job titles, phone numbers and whatever else is on email signatures or Out-of-Office notifications.

          Then do the same with any of those addresses which are, send to or receive from a gmail address. You've started to build up quite an interesting metadata map of a high-ranking FBI official, their locations and sleep patterns, their TV/movie/porn preferences, their kids high school when they googled that, all that sort of thing. If the family uses Gmail then hey, all those accounts can get slurped for information too.

          Suddenly Google have information required to, say, blackmail ranking FBI officials to make things go away. Or maybe Chrome phones home with saved passwords as a 'cloud backup'.

          I'm not saying Google are doing this, I'm saying that it's possible. It opens up a whole host of extra exploits that can be used against the FBI and its agents. It IS a big deal, even if the contents aren't known or even that sensitive.

    3. bombastic bob Silver badge

      It's a swamp!

      It's a swamp. DRAIN it!

      I bet Admiral Ackbar thinks so., too [he kinda looks like a swamp creature, heh]

      (I invented a new meme! Oh, noze!)

  2. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

    Using Private Email for Gov Biz?

    Jail the lot of them!

    Oh wait, that includes members of the Trump cartel so better forget that.

  3. Only me!

    Beer is the answer on National Beer Day

    If I have enough beer, I might get my head around why he did this......but I will have forgotten by the morning (for security purposes)!!!!

  4. Khaptain Silver badge

    Do as I say not as I do

    Typical of many people in a position of responsability. They neither respect nor adhere to the practices or procedures that they expect from others.

    It's sad to imagine how much these kind of investigations cost the law abiding tax payer. Why does there also appear to be a severe lack of honest people in these roles....

    It's Friday, it's warm outside and the lake front is where I am going for my beer/wine/appero...

    Cheers to all the honest people....

    1. FlamingDeath

      Re: Do as I say not as I do

      "Cheers to all the honest people...."

      We're a dying breed unfortunately, because it turns out that those who lie constanty and are generally deviant, are more successful. Sociopaths breed sociopaths, the esitmation of 3% of the human population needs to be revised, but will probably be done by, you guessed it, a sociopath, so take any future estimated figures with a pinch of salt

  5. Gordon 10 Silver badge
    Black Helicopters

    Insecure by default.

    All the better to lose those mails when perps "fall down the stairs"

  6. Blockchain commentard Silver badge

    It's not that difficult to have a web front end for a mail server (think Exchange). Harden it properly and everyone can use it whilst on the road/at home.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      web front end

      And just how do you harden the "web front end" against a keylogger on the home PC?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Harden Exchange?!?!

      Hahahahahaha haHAAAAAHAHAhahahaha hihihi. Hahaha, hihi, Gniffel.

      Hahaha. Cough. Hihihi.

      <wipes eyes>

      Thanks for that, I needed a laugh. Hahaha.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not a tech problem: an attitude of entitlement problem among elites of all sorts. It permeates the system. Starts with the "one man, one million votes" rule of corporate "democracy", and the conceit of taking credit for work done by anonymous contributors behind the scenes. Wouldn't be a problem if they weren't spending our money and gambling with our children's futures.

  8. jmch Silver badge

    FBI IT infrastructure fail

    I've worked for a number of financial institutions. Every case, I had an office laptop through which I could securely access the office network through VPN. Laptop disk was encrypted with safeboot or similair. This isn't rocket science, it was standard practice 10 years ago.

    So important people high up in the FBI don't even have a secure work laptop and he had to type things up on his own laptop? Seriously???

  9. BebopWeBop Silver badge

    Comey does appear to have been a somewhat dangerous, out of control individual in a position of great power who abused his position. Mayben Donald learnt from him?

    1. Commswonk Silver badge

      Comey does appear to have been a somewhat dangerous, out of control individual in a position of great power who abused his position.

      It would certainly seem so. Having read his A Higher Loyalty recently this lapse seems to be at odds with his presentation of himself as pillar of rectitude, a claim that he makes more than once, almost to the point of tedium on the reader's part if not his own.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Having read his A Higher Loyalty recently ....

        Why? Are you a literary masochist?

        I hope you feel guilty, now because its people like you that create the demand for this stuff. As guilty as the perpetrator himself. If nobody bought the bilge spouted by politicians and high rank administrative officials, the supply would dry up.

        1. Commswonk Silver badge

          @ Ledswinger:I hope you feel guilty, now because its people like you that create the demand for this stuff.

          No; I don't - not even slightly. Why should I? I have no idea where you are, but I am in the UK where I have no access to US - based information that has not been "polluted" by others who probably have their own axes to grind.

          Am I expected to form judgements on the basis of hearsay evidence? Or am I expected to fall into line with the prejudices of others in conformance with a herd mentality? Or am I expected to agree with an opinion (in this case yours) merely because you tell me to?

          1. Geoffrey W

            RE: "Am I expected to form judgements on the basis of hearsay evidence?"

            Of course not. Twitter and Facebook are the go to sources of all knowledge these days. Might I suggest Alt.Conspiracy on UseNet; that's a good one too.

  10. kain preacher

    So Hillary was suppose to know what she was doing was wrong but not James Comey ?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Realistically, I expect they both knew, but it was common practice so neither expected it would them in the ass.

      1. Geoffrey W

        Yet Comey, with knowledge it was common practice and would never bite even himself in the ass, decided to re-open just before the election a case that had already been closed and signed off on, with full expectation that nothing would ever come of it...It could only have been a cynical and political action in attempt to influence said election, going against all his fine sounding and honorable words. With that he reveals himself and has found himself without aid from either side and I hope he burns. Put him in the cell alongside Manafort and leave cells free for Pruitt and Pai.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Maybe if Comey had deleted any incriminating emails, bleach-bitted his laptop, and taken his phone that also stored his emails and smashed it with a sledgehammer to make sure that nothing was recoverable - then he might be in the same league as Clinton. Oh, and I forgot, also did all this AFTER he had been served with a subpoena for those same emails.

      It seems clear that some people just don't get the level of criminality indulged in by Clinton and how astounding it is that she was given a free pass for doing so.

  11. Androgynous Cupboard Silver badge

    Unclassified email

    Dear FBI staff

    Today the canteen will be serving chicken wings and, for the vegetarians, tabooley; to address complaints from the middle-eastern desk chef tells us this is a traditional navaho word meaning "small nuggets of grain with parsley".

    Please also remember when you are parking stay between the lines, we have now had a number of complaints about wheels touching the lines - this is NOT acceptable, the wheels must be BETWEEN the lines, not ON the lines. For clarity wheel that are partly on lines are considered to be ON lines not off them, I know this point has been clarified before but it bears repeating. Where paint has worn from the line, it is important to recognise that, by lines, the overall position of the line is intended, not the visible portion of the line as paint wear is, sadly, inevitable. We would enourage all concerned to reflect on this when parking vehicles and to be considerate of others parking, or engaged in other motor vehicle related conduct.

    Jerry from accounts is running the Marathon next week to raise money for leukiemia or somesuch. Please give generously, etc.

    We would remind everyone that their timesheets need to be in by 4pm monday the following week otherwise there may be delays to salary payments. Please ensure you submit on revision 12312312/asdqw4124, the earlier revision 123123123125/fasdased is no longer acceptable and will again mean delays in salary payments.

    Thank you


    [distribution: unclassified]

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Unclassified email

      "Dear FBI staff"

      That reads almost identically to our corporate Yammer feed. Do I know you? :-)

      1. DJO Silver badge

        Re: Unclassified email

        Yes a boring banal message, with a CC list containing the names of agents and FBI staff.

        Often the metadata is more useful then the message itself.

        As most politicians seem to have little understanding of the difference between CC & BCC it's not a huge leap to assume some addresses would be revealed, with a copy of that mail it would be easy to construct a similar looking one, spoof the origin and go phishing.

        If FBI staff are used to insecure mails from higher-ups it's a weakness begging to be exploited.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Government IT security

    I can say from experience that US Government IT security is making a device not work. It's a mentality that people can't be trusted to use a computer securely so all actions must be strictly regulated in software. Problems always come from personal hardware or software because there is nothing else functioning.

    1. FlamingDeath

      Re: Government IT security

      "It's a mentality that people can't be trusted to use a computer securely"

      It's a fair assumption, most people are idiots

      Remember, "stupid is the default setting"

  13. Paul Herber Silver badge


    Good grief. Timesheets done by after the week worked? A defence contractor I used to contract for wanted the Monday to Friday timesheet filled in before the Thursday lunchtime. We were told to just fill in the hours you expect to do!

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Re: timesheets!

      "Sorry, I always expect to work a full day Friday but then I wake up and realize I don't feel like going to work like I expected to"

  14. GnuTzu Silver badge

    "So Hillary was suppose to know what she was doing was wrong but not James Comey?"

    @kain preacher,

    That's just it. The fact that he was investigating use of an unauthorized email server should have clued him in that GMail is much, much worse.

    And, it was under a highly politicized case.

    What kind of blind-ass cognitive dissonance allowed him to be that f*cking stupid?

    This is a seriously, to-the-floor, jaw-dropping, punch-in-the-face, kick-in-the-nuts, dumb-ass moment.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "So Hillary was suppose to know what she was doing was wrong but not James Comey?"

      The funny thing is that he offered a weak excuse, which reminded me of the weak excuse Hillary offered. Her excuse wasn't good enough to stop him from berating her before saying the FBI wasn't going to charge her, but apparently his excuse was good enough to keep using GMail.

      Its the same "I know better than anyone else" attitude that let him overrule established DOJ guidelines and precedents by making public details of Hillary's email case while it was under investigation, berating her when he announced it was closed, announcing it was reopened a week before the vote, while not making details of Trump's already-ongoing Russian collusion investigation public.

      Those DOJ rules exist to take the decision making of an individual out of it, so everyone is treated equally. Had both investigations been made public, or both remained secret, at least the treatment would have been even handed. But his "I know better" policy prevented even that. And yet there are still some republicans who claim Comey favored Hillary!

      1. kain preacher

        Re: "So Hillary was suppose to know what she was doing was wrong but not James Comey?"

        DougS, If I was Hillary I would say Comeys use of Gmail vindicates me. At least with private server you have control over who reads your email. But yeah used GMail while investigate Hillary looks very bad. Then Making that announcement weeks before the election makes it look like he had an agenda .

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "So Hillary was suppose to know what she was doing was wrong but not James Comey?"

          Eh, there's no vindication when you do something wrong and someone else is doing the same wrong thing. Though it might have been an argument against prosecution had she been prosecuted (the "everyone in government is doing it, why am I alone taking the fall" argument)

          She was doing it to avoid leaving a paper trail because she knew she was going to run for president and didn't want a bunch of investigations dogging her. Ironic, isn't it, that instead of having a few congressional committees getting hold of her work emails and finding nothing of note, instead ALL her emails both work and personal were released the world, and the main thing of note found was her improper use of private email! If she'd done the right thing, she most likely would be president.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: "So Hillary was suppose to know what she was doing was wrong but not James Comey?"

            No, all her emails weren't released, they have never been released.

            You make the same error that many do and conflate the DNC and Podesta emails with Hillary Clinton's emails.

            The FBI is though to have recovered a few of the deleted emails, and Clinton herself released about half of the actual emails. The rest, around 33.000 were deleted then wiped clean by her email administrator several days after receiving a valid subpoena for the same. The recovered and released emails have not been fully released, but one can be sure all the real juicy ones - all those with Clinton Foundation $$$ signs in were in the deleted and unrecovered category.

            The best info we have to date is that the DNC emails were collected and released by an insider (not necessarily Seth Rich !), John Podesta's emails were hacked by a classic piece of phishing by unknown people, and Hillary Clinton's email server was indeed most probably hacked by "State Actors" who left no specific traces when doing so. The DNC and Podesta emails finished up on Wikileaks.

            And just to note, the Guccifer2 persona is almost certainly a plant by Cloudflare as it is now confirmed that contrary to the claims made by that persona, the files he first released to show that he was responsible for the DNC "hack" did NOT come from the DNC but from John Podesta's email account. And the Russian metadata was planted and only exists in 4 of the documents. Planted by a specific series of steps using specific versions of MS Word to ensure that url's with spaces in them will show up with embedded error messages.

          2. ThePieMan

            Re: "So Hillary was suppose to know what she was doing was wrong but not James Comey?"

            But that’s kind of the point. Hope she realises that now and sees the suffering that The Donald is inflicting.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "So Hillary was suppose to know what she was doing was wrong but not James Comey?"

          Bullshit, Comey was totally on side with Clinton. If he was an honest broker he would have presented the facts that she broke the law not once but multiple times. The FBI is not supposed to give recommendations as to prosecution - just present the facts and it is supposed to be up to the DOJ to decide on whether to prosecute. But the facts are out there - Clinton obstructed justice, perjured herself, and broke the laws on security.

          Of course the chances that Lynch would ever recommend prosecuting Clinton was at best guess precisely zero regardless of the evidence. That fix was already in.

          Comey's use of gmail is absolutely unimportant - foolish no doubt, but irrelevant to the criminal nature of Clinton's conduct.

      2. Jtom

        Re: "So Hillary was suppose to know what she was doing was wrong but not James Comey?"

        The theory is: Had Hillary been elected, as highly expected, she would have started with a clean slate. The response would be that everybody knew everything before voting her into office. The FBI would have closed the books before her inauguration, never to open them again on her actions.

        It simply backfired on them.

        The Trump investigation, in the actual words of an investigator, was their 'insurance policy' in the very unlikely event of his election. There was no reason of giving the appearance of maybe being biased against him before the election. So they just held it in case the unthinkable happened, to damage him or remove him from office..

        We will never really know what is true. What we know without doubt is that Hillary had many friends, and Trump had only enemies, in the FBI. For a group that is suppose to be apolitical, that is unacceptable.

  15. pɹɐʍoɔ snoɯʎuouɐ

    Just, what the actual fuck?

    nothing more to say........

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I can just imagine what Google ads were pushed at Comey

    I read that he used a Gmail account.

    I wonder if the sidebar of his webpage or Gmail app had advertisments for Stingrays or other covert gear?

    Better yet, an advertisement for Kaspersky AV!

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward




  18. This post has been deleted by its author

  19. razorfishsl Silver badge

    And they are continually crying about being hacked by Russia & China..

    You would think they would have an off the shelf box or suitcase... that could be wired directly into a home circuit to secure all digital comms .

    It's just Pathetic........

  20. MachDiamond Silver badge

    At the top

    This is a common problem with people at the top. Some exec wants to bridge an air-gap to sensitive information on the company server so he/she can access it remotely. A power company exec wants to be able to query power plants and grid control equipment remotely. A government flunky with no computer skills creates their own work-around because nobody can teach them "in plain language" how to use the secure system. Since all of these people are at the top, the person they are requiring to do the work can't say no without getting sacked. Never mind that in all of the cases, what they are being asked to do negates all of the security setup work that was done.

    Remember when Sony was hacked and several unreleased films were posted online? Power grids have been hacked and in Ms. Clinton's case, it's a near certainty that sensitive government information was release to the wrong people.

    The FBI has a whole department dedicated to technical things. If the head of the outfit needed a secure connection between home and work, that would have been a priority. Anybody in a top level position should also understand that, since they don't carry the laptops themselves, they should have one for work and one for personal use and never the two shall mix. The same goes for email. I never used my work email for personal correspondence and didn't use my personal email for work. It's not that hard. It's no more difficult than having separate bank accounts when you are a small businessman.

    Perhaps Comey didn't want to go after Hillary since it would have exposed too many of his own indiscretions. I have to wonder if they were known and used against him.

  21. GrapeBunch

    Communication forest

    I'm surprised anybody in (important) gov't is allowed to use e-mail, as we know it, at all. Ever. It's not enough to encrypt and attach every text. Plus, such a stricture would be a good impetus to create end-to-end, cradle-to-grave, secure e-mail, a hoary idea without an expiration date. I guess they're afraid that if it existed, citizens would use it.

  22. ColonelDare
    Paris Hilton


    Who cares?

  23. mwnci

    Seems to me, you can do what you like and leak what you like in the US and they aren't bothered so long as you are part of the D.C elite. So Snowdon gets hounded around the world, Hillary gets nothing, and Comey gets nothing, not to mention the endless D.C leaks at the tail end of Obama's presidency and the beginning of Trumps.

    I would respect the US Government a little more, if they consistently applied the law, and help the peoples representatives and Federal Agency Senior Leadership to the same values. Until then, it will be back to blaming "Chelsea" Manning, Edwards Snowden transgressions as outside of the law, and ignoring Hillary Clinton and James Comey legal transgressions under the 18 U.S. Code § 641 - Public money, property or records .

    The US really needs an Official Secrets Act....All this leaking is making the US laughing stock.

    1. DryBones

      Classification should never be used to hide things that are embarrassing and reflect negatively on the government. It's been seen before, and ridiculed before when found.

    2. MachDiamond Silver badge

      "The US really needs an Official Secrets Act....All this leaking is making the US laughing stock."

      It does. It doesn't have a short name but instead a bunch of statute codes. The problem is not that there aren't laws in place, it's how they are applied. I suggest that the higher the person's position, the greater the punishment all the way up to capital punishment. If it could be shown that Ms. Clinton's lack of care with official government secrets while she was Secretary of State lead to deaths that she herself should be subject to the death penalty for treason.

      I would argue that what Ed Snowden did was release information that showed a government agency's actions were illegal and in contrary to the tenants of the US Constitution. I concede that it could be argued the other way and the US government is taking that stance. In his case, if he were to bring the information he had to the attention of a superior, he likely would have been disappeared or actively discredited and hounded until he committed suicide.

  24. Jtom

    The Weiner computer emails were not 'substantive' only because the FBI wanted them not to be. There were classified emails among them. Now consider: the computer of a sexual deviant kicked out of public office contained classified emails from a period AFTER he left office. This isn't a cluster f-up of all involved???

    With security like that, you might as well give everyone access to begin with. The only ones NOT privy to the secrets of the government were the voters and the country's allies!

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