No Computer in Clinton’s Office? ‘Email’s a Relatively New Beast,’ State Dep’t. Says

By Patrick Goodenough | October 23, 2015 | 4:10am EDT
House Benghazi Committee member Rep. Susan Brooks, R-Ind., sits behind a pile of email printouts as former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton testifies on Capitol Hill on Thursday, Oct. 22, 2015. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

( – Hillary Clinton said Thursday she did not have a computer in her office while secretary of state, and when a State Department spokesman was asked whether that was unusual, replied that “email’s a relatively new beast.”

During the department’s daily briefing, a reporter noted that Clinton told the House Committee on Benghazi that she did not have a computer in her office at the State Department.

“Is that an unusual thing, for the secretary to not have a computer within their office at the State Department?” she asked spokesman Mark Toner.

“It’s – I mean, unusual – I mean, look. I mean, we’ve only had – email’s a relatively new beast, shall we say, and – or a new creation,” Toner replied.

“And so I think each secretary’s a little bit different in how they get information. And certainly that evolves as technology is developed over time.”

As for whether it was unusual for Clinton not to have had an office computer was hard for him to say, Toner said. “I would have to refer you to previous secretaries.”

Email became popular in the early 1990s – two decades after the communication form was first developed – with the birth of the World Wide Web.

By the time Clinton became secretary of state in 2009, 247 billion emails were being sent every day, according to the Radicati Group’s Email Statistics Report 2009.

Clinton made the remark about not having an office computer during Thursday’s hearing on the September 2012 terrorist attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, in which U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed.

Rep. Susan Brooks (R-Ind.) noted that Clinton’s sending and receiving of emails relating to Libya had dropped significantly between 2011 and 2012 – 795 emails between Feb. and Dec. 2011, compared to 67 emails between early 2012 and the Benghazi attack that September.

“I’m troubled by what I see here. In this pile in 2011 I see daily updates, sometimes hourly updates, from your staff about Benghazi and Chris Stevens,” Brooks said. “When I look at this pile in 2012 I see only a handful of emails to you from your senior staff about Benghazi.”

“I can only conclude by your own records that there was a lack of interest in Libya in 2012,” she said.

(2011 was the year of the Libyan uprising and NATO intervention, and dictator Muammar Gaddafi was killed that October; 2012 saw clashes between militias, a proliferation of weapons, and a surge in violent Islamism, all contributing to a deteriorating security situation, culminating in the terrorist attack in Benghazi.)

Responding to Brooks, Clinton disputed the notion that the number of emails sent or received on Libya reflected her level of attention to the subject.

“I did not conduct most of the business that I did on behalf of our country on email,” she said. “I conducted it in meetings, I read massive amounts of memos, a great deal of classified information, I made a lot of secure phone calls, I was in and out of the White House all the time. There were a lot of things that happened that I was aware of and that I was reacting to.”

“If you were to be in my office in the State Department, I didn’t have a computer,” Clinton continued. “I did not do the vast majority of my work on emails.”

One of Clinton’s predecessors, Colin Powell, became secretary of state in January 2001 – eight years before her.

During an appearance on ABC’s “This Week” last March, Powell recalled that when he took office he “found an antiquated system that had to be modernized and modernized quickly.”

He said he oversaw the purchase of 44,000 computers, “put a new Internet-capable computer on every single desk in every embassy, every office in the State Department.”

Powell said he started to use email “in order to get everybody to use it, so we could be a 21st century institution and not a 19th century [one].”

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