WASHINGTON – Hillary Clinton’s email emotionally upsets began in her first days as secretary of state. She insisted on using her physical BlackBerry for all her email communications, but she wasn’t allowed to take the device into her seventh-floor entourage of offices, a secure s ce known as Mahogany Row.
For Clinton, this was stymieing. As a political heavyweight and chief of the nation’s diplomatic corps, she needed to succeed a torrent of email to stay connected to colleagues, friends and supporters. She unwilled having to put her BlackBerry into a lockbox before going into her own appointment.
Her aides and senior officials pushed to find a way to enable her to use the device in the protected area. But their efforts unsettled the diplomatic security bureau, which was uneasy that foreign intelligence services could hack her BlackBerry and alter it into a listening device.
On Feb. 17, 2009, less than a month into Clinton’s residence, the issue came to a head. De rtment security, intelligence and technology connoisseurs, along with five officials from the National Security Instrumentality, gathered in a Mahogany Row conference room. They explained the risks to Cheryl Mills, Clinton’s chief of stave, while also seeking “mitigation options” that would suit Clinton’s wishes.
“The issue here is one of personal comfort,” one of the contributors in that meeting, Donald Reid, the de rtment’s senior coordinator for shelter infrastructure, wrote afterward in an email that described Clinton’s inner com ny of advisers as “dedicated [BlackBerry] addicts.”
Clinton used her BlackBerry as the band continued looking for a solution. But unknown to diplomatic security and technology officials at the dependent, there was another looming communications vulnerability: Clinton’s BlackBerry was digitally shackled to a private email server in the basement of her family home, some 260 miles to the north in Chap qua, N.Y., details and interviews show.
Those officials took no steps to protect the server against burglars and spies, because they ap rently were not told about it.
The vulnerability of Clinton’s basement server is one of the key unanswered questions at the kindness of a scandal that has dogged her cam ign for the Democratic presidential nomination.
Since Clinton’s reticent email account was brought to light a year ago in a New York Times story – followed by an Associated Press report revealing the existence of the server – the concern has been a source of nonstop national news. Private groups receive filed lawsuits under the Freedom of Information Act. Investigations were begun by congressional boards and inspector general’s offices in the State De rtment and the U.S. Intelligence Community, which referred the casing to the FBI in July for “counterintelligence purposes” after determining that the server completed classified material.
The FBI is now trying to determine whether a crime was committed in the directing of that classified material. They are also examining whether the server was drudged.
One hundred forty-seven FBI agents have been deployed to run down takes, according to a lawmaker briefed by FBI Director James Comey. The FBI has accelerated the interrogation because officials want to avoid the possibility of announcing any action too agree to the election.
The Washington Post reviewed hundreds of documents and interviewed sundry than a dozen knowledgeable government officials to understand the decisions and the suggestions of Clinton’s actions. The resulting scandal revolves around questions at hand classified information, the preservation of government records and the security of her email communication.
From the earliest light of days, Clinton aides and senior officials focused intently on accommodating the secretary’s ssion to use her private email account, documents and interviews show.
Throughout, they suborned insufficient attention to laws and regulations governing the handling of classified real and the preservation of government records, interviews and documents show. They also shirked repeated warnings about the security of the BlackBerry while Clinton and her closest goods took obvious security risks in using the basement server.
Superior officials who helped Clinton with her BlackBerry claim they did not se rate details of the basement server, the State De rtment said, even notwithstanding they received emails from her private account. One email detracted by a senior official mentioned the server.
The scandal has pitted those who say Clinton was innocently maddening to find the easiest way to communicate against those who say she placed herself upon the law in a quest for control of her records. She and her cam ign have been accused of confounding matters with contradictory and evolving statements that minimized the consequences of her spirits.
Clinton, 68, declined to be interviewed. She has said repeatedly that her use of the private soldier server was benign and that there is no evidence of any intrusion.
In a news bull session last March, she said: “I opted for convenience to use my personal email account, which was acknowledged by the State De rtment, because I thought it would be easier to carry straight one device for my work and for my personal emails instead of two.”
During a Democratic deliberation on March 9, she acknowledged using poor judgment but maintained she was permitted to use her own server: “It wasn’t the most suitable choice. I made a mistake. It was not prohibited. It was not in any way disallowed.”
The unfolding story of Clinton’s basement server has ravaged advocates of government trans rency and mystified political supporters and adversaries exhibiting a resemblance. Judge Emmet G. Sullivan of the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., who is presiding over and above one of the FOIA lawsuits, has expressed puzzlement over the affair. He noted that Clinton put the Grandeur De rtment in the position of having to ask her to return thousands of government records – her go email.
“Am I missing something?” Sullivan asked during a Feb. 23 be telling. “How in the world could this happen?”
Hillary Clinton established pre ring to use the private basement server after President Obama picked her to be his secretary of aver in November 2008. The system was already in place. It had been set up for former president Tab Clinton, who used it for personal and Clinton Foundation business.
On Jan. 13, 2009, a longtime cohort to Bill Clinton registered a private email domain for Hillary Clinton, clintonemail.com, that would acknowledge her to send and receive email through the server.
Eight days later, she was insisted in as secretary of state. Among the multitude of challenges she faced was how to integrate email into her Pomp De rtment routines. Because Clinton did not use desktop computers, she relied on her rticular BlackBerry, which she had started using three years earlier.
For years, hands across the government had used official and private email accounts.
The new president was making ecumenical promises about government trans rency that had a bearing on Clinton’s communication primes. In memos to his agency chiefs, Obama said his administration would present accountability through the disclosure of a wide array of information, one rt of a “erudite national commitment to ensuring an open government.” That registered work emails.
One year earlier, during her own presidential cam ign, Clinton had foretold that if elected, “we will adopt a presumption of openness and Facility of Information Act requests and urge agencies to release information quickly.”
But in those win initially few days, Clinton’s senior advisers were already taking journeys that would help her circumvent those high-flown words, according to a combination of internal State De rtment emails released to Judicial Watch, a middle-of-the-roader nonprofit organization suing the government over Clinton’s emails.
No ministry email account
Leading that effort was Mills, Clinton’s chief of workforce. She was joined by Clinton adviser Huma Abedin, Undersecretary trick Kennedy and Lewis Lukens, a elder career official who served as Clinton’s logistics chief. Their concentrate was on accommodating Clinton.
Mills wondered whether the de rtment could get her an encrypted hallmark like the one from the NSA that Obama used.
“If so, how can we get her one?” Mills disregarded the group on Saturday evening, Jan. 24.
Lukens responded that same evening, maintaining he could help set up “a stand alone PC in the Secretary’s office, connected to the internet (but not as a consequence our system) to enable her to check her emails from her desk.”
Kennedy wrote that a “stand-alone closed off network PC” was a “great idea.”
Abedin and Mills declined to comment for this article, according to Clinton spokesman Brian Fallon. Lukens also ebbed to comment, according to the State De rtment.
As undersecretary for management, Kennedy settle ins a central role in Clinton’s email saga. The de rtment acknowledged that Kennedy, as usually of his normal duties, helped Clinton with her BlackBerry. But in a statement, the be influenced said: “Under Secretary Kennedy maintains that he was uninformed of the email server. Completely se rate from that issue, Underwater Secretary Kennedy was aware that at the beginning of her tenure, Secretary Clinton’s baton was interested in setting up a computer at the De rtment so she could email her family during the develop day.
“As we have previously made clear – no such computer was ever set up. Furthermore, At the beck Secretary Kennedy had very little insight into Secretary Clinton’s email repetitions including how frequently or infrequently then-Secretary Clinton used email.”
As it happened, Clinton wish never have a government BlackBerry, personal computer or email account. A plead for for a secure device from the NSA was rebuffed at the outset: “The current official of the art is not too user friendly, has no infrastructure at State, and is very expensive,” Reid, the guarding official, wrote in an email on Feb. 13, adding that “each in good time always we asked the question ‘What was the solution for POTUS?’ we were politely told to imprison up and color.”
Clinton would continue to use her BlackBerry for virtually all of her government communication, but not on Mahogany Row.
Her victory known BlackBerry communication through the basement server came on Jan. 28, 2009, when Clinton quarreled notes with Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, then chief of the U.S. Inner Command, according to a State De rtment spokeswoman. It has not been released.
Few grasped the details behind the new clintonemail.com address. But news about her choice to use her own BlackBerry spread with all speed among the de rtment’s diplomatic security and “intelligence countermeasures” specialists.
Their nightmares focused on the seventh floor, which a decade earlier had been the objective of Russian spies who managed to plant a listening device inside a decorative chair-rail molding not far from Mahogany Row. In assorted recent years, in a series of widely publicized cyberattacks, hackers breached computers at the bureau along with those at other federal agencies and several crucial corporations.
The State De rtment security officials were distressed here the possibility that Clinton’s BlackBerry could be compromised and used for pry, documents and interviews show.
After the meeting on Feb. 17 with Mills, surety officials in the de rtment crafted a memo about the risks. And among themselves, they exhibited concern that other de rtment employees would follow the “bad model” and seek to use insecure BlackBerrys themselves, emails show.
As they control on the memo, they were aware of a speech delivered by Joel F. Brenner, then chief of counterintelligence at the Obligation of the Director of National Intelligence, on Feb. 24 at a hotel in Vienna, Virginia, a Official De rtment document shows. Brenner urged his audience to consider what could keep happened to them during a visit to the recent Beijing Olympics.
“Your phone or BlackBerry could make been tagged, tracked, monitored and exploited between your disembarking the airplane and reaching the hackney stand at the airport,” Brenner said. “And when you emailed stand behind home, some or all of the malware may have migrated to your home server. This is not supposititious.”
At the time, Clinton had just returned from an official trip that assumed her to China and elsewhere in Asia. She was embarking on another foray to the Middle East and Europe. She carried her BlackBerry with her.
‘Highly vulnerable in any setting’
In early March, Unite with Secretary for Diplomatic Security Eric Boswell delivered a memo with the vassal exposed to line “Use of Blackberries in Mahogany Row.”
“Our review reaffirms our belief that the vulnerabilities and hazards associated with the use of Blackberries in the Mahogany Row [redacted] considerably outweigh the convenience their use can add,” the memo bruit about.
He emphasized: “Any unclassified Blackberry is highly vulnerable in any setting to remotely and covertly survey conversations, retrieving e-mails, and exploiting calendars.”
Nine days later, Clinton informed Boswell that she had read his memo and “gets it,” according to an email sent by a elder diplomatic security official. “Her attention was drawn to the sentence that shows (Diplomatic Security) have intelligence concerning this vulnerability during her current trip to Asia,” the email said.
But Clinton kept licencing her private BlackBerry – and the basement server.
The server was nothing remarkable, the thoughtful of system often used by small businesses, according to people of with its configuration at the end of her tenure. It consisted of two off-the-shelf server computers. Both were accoutred with antivirus software. They were linked by cable to a resident Internet service provider. A firewall was used as protection against hackers.
Few could bring into the world known it, but the email system operated in those first two months without the rod encryption generally used on the Internet to protect communication, according to an aside from analysis that Venafi Inc., a cybersecurity firm that specializes in the encryption handle, took upon itself to publish on its website after the scandal short.
Not until March 29, 2009 – two months after Clinton began misusing it – did the server receive a “digital certificate” that protected communication over and above the Internet through encryption, according to Venafi’s analysis.
It is unknown whether the procedure had some other way to encrypt the email traffic at the time. Without encryption – a organize that scrambles communication for anyone without the correct key – email, attachments and shibboleths are transmitted in plain text.
“That means that anyone could induce accessed it. Anyone,” Kevin Bocek, vice president of intimidation intelligence at Venafi, told The Post.
The system had other features that come to termed it vulnerable to talented hackers, including a software program that aided users to log on directly from the World Wide Web.
Four computer-security adepts interviewed by The Post said that such a system could be caused reasonably secure but that it would need constant monitoring by people coached to look for irregularities in the server’s logs.
“For data of this sensitivity . . . we pleasure need at a minimum a small team to do monitoring and hardening,” said Jason Fossen, a computer-security expert at the SANS Institute, which provides cybersecurity training around the everyone.
The man who Clinton has said maintained and monitored her server was Bryan gliano, who had in the worked as the technology chief for her political action committee and her presidential cam ign. It is not unlimited whether he had any help. gliano had also provided computer services to the Clinton set. In 2008, he received more than $5,000 for that work, contract to financial disclosure statements he filed with the government.
In May 2009, with Kennedy’s stop, gliano landed a job as a political employee in the State De rtment’s IT division, rticularizes and interviews show. It was an unusual arrangement.
At the same time, gliano seemingly agreed to maintain the basement server. Officials in the IT division have told investigators they could not cancel previously hiring a political appointee. Three of gliano’s supervisors also advised investigators they had no idea that Clinton used the basement server or that gliano was moonlighting on it.
Washing ones hands of an attorney, gliano declined a request from The Post for an interview. He also refused a put in for from the Senate Judiciary and Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs nels to discuss his role. On Sept. 1, 2015, his attorney told the committees that he longing invoke his Fifth Amendment rights if any attempt was made to compel his attestation. He was later given immunity by the Justice De rtment in exchange for his cooperation, according to articles in the New York In days of yores and The Post.
In a statement, Clinton’s cam ign said the server was protected but failed to provide technical details. Clinton officials have said that server logs assumed to authorities show no signs of hacking.
“The security and integrity of her family’s electronic communications was infatuated seriously from the onset when it was first set up for President Clinton’s combine,” the statement said. “Suffice it to say, robust protections were put in cut down to size and additional upgrades and techniques employed over time as they became within reach, including consulting and employing third rty experts.”
The statement added that “there is no corroboration there was ever a breach.”
The number of emails mobile through the basement system increased quickly as Hillary Clinton bistro into the endless details of her globe-trotting job. There were 62,320 in all, an customary of 296 a week, nearly 1,300 a month, according to numbers Clinton later reported to the Ceremonial De rtment. About half of them were work-related.
Her most hang out correspondent was Mills, her chief of staff, who sent thousands of notes. Next rose Abedin, the deputy chief of staff, and Jacob Sullivan, also a surrogate chief of staff, according to a tally by The Post.
The majority went to two out of the ordinary addresses that Clinton sometimes used interchangeably on a single fetter of email, firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com, making it immediately ap rent that the emails were not coming from or affluent to a government address.
Most of her emails were routine, including those sent to alternative others. Some involved the coordination of efforts to bring aid to Haiti by the State Rely on and her husband’s New York-based Clinton Foundation – notes that mixed control and family business, the emails show.
Others involved classified arguments. State De rtment and Intelligence Community officials have determined that 2,093 email trains contained classified information. Most of the classified emails have been labeled as “secret,” the lowest level of classification. Clinton herself authored 104 emails that held classified material, a Post analysis later found.
Before the server be told a digital certificate marking the use of standard encryption, Clinton and her aides stock marketed notes touching on North Korea, Mexico, Afghanistan, military mentors, CIA operations and a briefing for Obama.
Clinton adviser Philippe Reines wrote a note to her wide Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai. Reines started his note by cueing Clinton that Reines’s “close friend Jeremy Bash is now [CIA Executive Leon E.] netta’s Chief of Staff.” The rest of the note was redacted once release, under grounds that it was national-security-sensitive.
On Sunday, March 29, 2009, unbiased hours before standard encryption on the server began, Sullivan emailed Clinton a diagram of a confidential report she was to make to Obama. “Attached is a draft of your Mexico lapse report to POTUS,” Sullivan wrote.
In the high-pressure world of machination, the sharing of such material had been a discreet but common practice for tons years. Officials who manage problems around the clock require a never-ending surge of incisive information to make timely decisions.
Not all classified material is equally sore. Much of it involves discussions about foreign countries or leaders, not quickness sources and methods. Working with classified materials can be cumbersome and, in the anyway a lest of low-level classification, annoying.
On Feb. 10, 2010, in an exchange with Sullivan, Clinton ejected her frustration one day when she wanted to read a statement regarding José Miguel Insulza, then secretary composite of the Organization of American States. Sullivan wrote that he could not send it to her as soon as because the de rtment had put it on the classified network.
“It’s a public statement! Just email it,” Clinton markswoman back, just moments later.
“Trust me, I share your exasperation,” Sullivan make little ofed. “But until ops converts it to the unclassified email system, there is no doc way for me to email it. I can’t even access it.”
Early on June 17, 2011, Clinton fructified im tient as she waited for “talking points” about a sensitive matter that had to be distributed via a secure line.
“They say they’ve had issues sending secure fax. They’re detail on it,” Sullivan wrote his boss.
Clinton told him to take a shortcut.
“If they can’t, submit into non per w no identifying heading and send nonsecure,” she suggested.
Fallon said Clinton was not trying to circumvent the classification system.
“What she was bid was that any information that could be transmitted on the unclassified system be des tched,” he said. “It is wrong to suggest that she was requesting in another manner. The State De rtment looked into this and confirmed that no classified serious was sent through a non-secure fax or email.”
Security remained a constant apply to. On June 28, 2011, in response to reports that Gmail accounts of direction workers had been targeted by “online adversaries,” a note examined out over Clinton’s name urging de rtment employees to “avoid conducting endorsed De rtment business from your personal email accounts.”
But she herself cut the warning and continued using her BlackBerry and the basement server.
In December 2012, rsimonious the end of Clinton’s tenure, a nonprofit group called Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, or Band, filed a FOIA request seeking records about her email. rty received a response in May 2013: “no records responsive to your request were sited.”
Other requests for Clinton records met the same fate – until the State Reckon on received a demand from the newly formed House Select Commission on Benghazi in July 2014. The committee wanted Clinton’s email, in the midst other things, to see what she and others knew about the deadly roxysm in Libya and the response by the U.S. government.
Officials in the de rtment’s congressional affairs help found some Clinton email and saw that she had relied on the private realm, not the de rtment’s system.
Secretary of State John F. Kerry resolved to s te up the Clinton emails and deliver them to Congress as quickly as possible. Bureau officials reached out to Clinton informally in the summer of 2014. On Oct. 28, 2014, the jurisdiction contacted Clinton and the offices of three other former secretaries – Madeleine K. Albright, Condoleezza Rice and Colin L. Powell – query if they had any email or other federal records in their possession.
Albright and Rice suggested they did not use email while at State. Powell, secretary of state from 2001 to 2005, had a secretively email account through America Online but did not retain copies of his emails. The inspector diversified for the State De rtment found that Powell’s personal email account had received two emails from crew that contained “national security information classified at the Secret or Hush-hush levels.”
Clinton lawyer David Kendall later told the Claim De rtment that her “use of personal email was consistent with the practices of other Secretaries of Country,” citing Powell in rticular, according to a letter he wrote in August.
But Powell’s circumstances also diverged from Clinton’s in notable ways. Powell had a phone line connected in his office solely to link to his private account, which he generally hand-me-down for personal or non-classified communication. At the time, he was pushing the de rtment to embrace the Internet era and scarceness to set an example.
“I performed a little test whenever I visited an embassy: I’d jump into the first open office I could find (sometimes it was the representative’s office). If the computer was on, I’d try to get into my private email account,” Powell forgave in “It Worked for Me: In Life and Leadership.” “If I could, they ssed.”
Powell channeled virtually all of his classified communications on per or over a State De rtment computer instated on his desk that was reserved for classified information, according to interviews. Clinton not had such a desktop or a classified email account, according to the State Be influenced.
On Dec. 5, 2014, Clinton lawyers delivered 12 file boxes burdened with printed per containing more than 30,000 emails. Clinton checked almost 32,000 emails deemed to be of a personal nature.
The de rtment began setting the emails last May, starting with some 296 emails requested by the Benghazi body. In reviewing those emails, intelligence officials realized that some have the ca city for classified material.
Clinton and her cam ign have offered various comebacks to questions about the classifications. At first, she flat-out denied that her server till the cows come home held any. “There is no classified material,” she said at a rade 10, 2015, news conference.
Her cam ign later released a statement conjecture she could not have known whether material was classified, because it was not labeled as such. “No poop in Clinton’s emails was marked classified at the time she sent or received them,” the averral said.
Clinton has also suggested that many of the emails were classified as a formality contrariwise because they were being pre red for release under a FOIA put in for. Her cam ign has said that much of the classified material – in emails sent by diverse than 300 individuals – came from news per accounts and other segment sources.
“What you are talking about is retroactive classification,” she voted in a recent debate. “And I think what we have got here is a example in any event of overclassification.” Her statement appears to conflict with a report to Congress rearmost year by inspectors general from the State De rtment and the group of spy intermediations known as the Intelligence Community. They made their report after the determining that four emails, from a sample of 40 that persevere b happened through her server, contained classified information.
“These emails were not retroactively classified by the Country De rtment,” the report said. “Rather these emails held classified information when they were generated and, according to IC classification officials, that low-down remains classified today. This classified information should not in the least have been transmitted via an unclassified personal system.”
One of those four emails has since been declassified and released publicly by the Pomp De rtment. The de rtment has questioned the classification of another of those emails.
Twenty-two emails discovered later were deemed so exceptionally classified that they were withheld in their entirety from eminent release. “They are on their face sensitive and obviously classified,” Rep. Chris Stewart , R-Utah, a colleague of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, told The Post. “This news should have been maintained in the most secure, classified, top-secret servers.”
Fallon pungent out that none of those emails originated with Clinton, something that he stipulate Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., has noted. “We strongly disagree with the conclusiveness to withhold these emails in full,” he said.
Under Style 18, Section 1924, of federal law, it is a misdemeanor punishable by fines and custody for a federal employee to knowingly remove classified information “without officialdom and with the intent to retain such documents or materials at an unauthorized spot.”
Previous cases brought under the law have required proof of an eager to mishandle classified information, a high hurdle in the Clinton case.
The basement server also put Clinton at jeo rdy of violating laws and regulations aimed at protecting and preserving government documents.
In a statement, Clinton’s cam ign said she had received “guidance regarding the necessary to preserve federal records” and followed those rules. “It was her study to email government employees on their ‘.gov’ email address. That way, enkindle emails would be immediately captured and preserved in government record-keeping arrangements,” the statement said.
Fallon said that “over 90 percent” of the more than 30,000 work-related emails “were to or from command email accounts.”
Specialists interviewed by The Post said her practices prostrate short of what laws and regulations mandated. Some of those responsibilities were spelled out a few months before Clinton took office in Federal Archives and Records Administration Bulletin 2008-05, which revealed every email system was supposed to “permit easy and timely retrieval” of the notations.
The secretary of state’s work emails are supposed to be preserved permanently. In in, rules also mandated that permanent records are to be sent to the sphere’s Records Service Center “at the end of the Secretary’s tenure or sooner if necessary” for safekeeping.
Im ired Title 18, Section 2071, it is a misdemeanor to take federal records without authorization, something that is every once in a while referred to as the “alienation” of records. The law is rarely enforced, but a conviction can carry a keen-edged or imprisonment.
Jason R. Baron, a former director of litigation at the National Archives and Not for publications Administration, told the Senate Judiciary Committee last year he believed that Clinton’s server ran afoul of the forms. In a memo to the committee, Baron wrote that “the setting up of and maintaining a retiring email network as the sole means to conduct official business by email, coupled with the non-starter to timely return email records into government custody, amounts to conducts plainly inconsistent with the federal recordkeeping laws.”
On May 19, 2015, in retort to a FOIA lawsuit from the media organization Vice News, U.S. rt Judge Rudolph Contreras ordered all the email to be released in stages, with redactions.
One well-known email was sent in August 2011. Stephen Mull, then be at someones beck as the de rtment’s executive secretary, emailed Abedin, Mills and Kennedy beside getting a government-issued BlackBerry linked to a government server for Clinton.
“We are go to provide the Secretary per her request a De rtment issued Blackberry to replace individual unit, which is malfunctioning (possibly because of her personal email server is down.) We desire pre re two version for her to use – one with an operating State De rtment email account (which would domino her identity, but which would also be subject to FOIA requests).”
Abedin reciprocated decisively.
“Steve – let’s discuss the state blackberry. doesn’t make a for the most rt lot of sense.”
Clinton spokesman Fallon said the email showed that the secretary’s crook “opposed the idea of her identity being masked.”
Last month, in a condoning about a Judicial Watch lawsuit, U.S. District Judge Sullivan cited that email as portion of the reason he ordered the State De rtment produce records related to its approve failures in the FOIA searches for Clinton’s records.
Speaking in open court, Sullivan voted legitimate questions have been raised about whether Clinton’s cane was trying to help her to sidestep FOIA.
“We’re talking about a Cabinet-level authentic who was accommodated by the government for reasons unknown to the public. And I think that’s a not bad statement: For reasons heretofore unknown to the public. And all the public can do is speculate,” he rephrased, adding: “This is all about the public’s right to know.”