Clinton emails former Secretary of State Colin Powell two days after she is sworn in as secretary of state, and asks about his use of a BlackBerry while he was secretary of state from January 2001 to January 2005. A full copy of the email will be released on September 7, 2016.
Clinton writes: “I hope to catch up soon [with] you, but I have one pressing question which only you can answer! What were the restrictions on your use of your BlackBerry? Did you use it in your personal office? I’ve been told that the DSS [Diplomatic Security] personnel knew you had one and used it but no one fesses up to knowing how you used it! President Obama has struck a blow for Berry addicts like us. I just have to figure out how to bring along the State Dept. Any and all advice is welcome.”
Powell replies to Clinton, “I didn’t have a BlackBerry. What I did do was have a personal computer that was hooked up to a private phone line (sounds ancient.) So I could communicate with a wide range of friends directly without it going through the State Department servers. I even used it to do business with some foreign leaders and some of the senior folks in the department on their personal email accounts. I did the same thing on the road in hotels.”
Powell also warns Clinton, “there is a real danger. If it is public that you have a BlackBerry and it is government and you are using it, government or not, to do business, it may beome an official record and subject to the law.” (US Senate, 9/7/2016)
Powell further writes, “Reading about the President’s BB [BlackBerry] rules this morning, it sounds like it won’t be as useful as it used to be.” Powell is referring to a New York Times article published the day before, regarding Obama winning the fight to use a BlackBerry during his presidency. (New York Times, 01/22/09)
Powell further advises Clinton, “Be very careful. I got around it all by not saying much and not using systems that captured the data.”
Clinton emails back the same day, “[I] want to thank you for all the advice about Berries, security, and life on the seventh floor [of State Department headquarters]! I hope we’ll have a chance to visit in person sometime soon.” (US Senate, 9/7/2016)
In a 2016 FBI interview, “Clinton [will indicate] to the FBI that she understood Powell’s comments to mean any work-related communications would be government records, and she stated Powell’s comments did not factor into her decision to use a personal email account.” (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/2/2016)
Clinton’s decision to use a private email account on a private server had already been made before this email exchange.