Some years ago now, on a Monday morning, a huge merger between two titans of entertainment was announced out of the blue. Disney and ABC were joining forces. This came as a gigantic shock to absolutely everyone in business and entertainment. Why? Because no one had caught one whiff of what was happening in the rumor mill or grapevine. The people who negotiated the merger had kept it quiet, basically by not using the airwaves, or cell phones. (Email wasn’t as big a thing then, but it was avoided, too.) Negotiations were done over coffee and the details spelled out on napkins, not Word documents, until it was all over.
That particular business deal should be one of the great lessons learned in modern communication: if you want to keep something secret, talk in person or on landlines, put information on paper, and never, ever, mention the topic on a mobile phone or in email. It’s too easily intercepted. (This is why no one should ever put their Social Security Number or Credit Card Information into a form on the internet without being on a secure server.)
One would think the “smart people” of government would get that. Apparently not.
For the last week, we of the online armies have been wading through an email cache that all went through a single email address, [email protected], and was obtained by Wikileaks. (When dealing with bombshell information, it’s always best not to ask too many questions about how it was acquired.) John Podesta, currently, is Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager. For decades, though, he’s been known as the political “fixer” of the Clinton machine.
Podesta is not at all a dumb man. Not even. He’s ruthless, and takes no prisoners, but in no way is he without wits. Which makes a handful of observations about the messaging confounding.
First off, many of us out here have used the gmail hub option to manage multiple email accounts. This writer at one time had four accounts all hooked into a main gmail address. It’s amazingly convenient, and does assure that one is constantly connected to smart devices. For information shared and needed for CYA purposes, having the date and time stamp on an email or message is invaluable. However, for communications on sensitive stuff – say terminating an employee – that was usually kept off that avenue. Paper was passed around, and discussion via landline was preferred.
There is also a certain advantage in real time communications. This is why email was invented after all – for the battlefield. However, when sensitive information can be tracked, and hacked, it’s time to rethink using that specific method.
And then there’s the matter of gmail, a product of Google, itself. After the Edward Snowden revelations, and knowing just how much information the government can vacuum up thanks to back doors and meta data spying programs, many of us quit using the medium – and all other social media – for controversial or blackmail eligible information. Podesta, it seems, didn’t. Google is just as hackable as any of the other big named systems. Using a gmail account as a hub is almost an open invitation.
In going through the emails available so far, Podesta talks about hooking into Amtrak’s public wifi which seemed to mess up his system. If he’s hooking into an unsecured network like Amtrak’s, why would he not hook into others?
Stolen or not, the judgement – or lack of it – displayed in having all this sensitive information on an email account that does not go through a secure and dedicated server is questionable at best. Did Mr. Podesta think he would not be a target simply because he doesn’t work directly for government? Just being part of the Clinton machine puts scrutiny on a person, justified or not. Maintaining channels of communication with an eye on possibly being intercepted should be top of mind. No one is interested in the fundraising emails, or the test communications that are already approved…it’s approval process that’s of interest. How the people are being manipulated with language and emotion laden words that all of us who took public relations know how to inject in our messaging. That is the sort of thing that is most revealing. Other than the possibility of a Supreme Court Justice being assassinated, of course.
To answer the CNN reporter who said that the Podesta emails were stolen, and it is illegal to be in possession of them…the genie is out of the bottle. There’s no putting it back. Illegal or not, We the People are getting a glimpse into the wider world of the Clinton Machine and one of the people charged with running it. If Podesta had been more careful in his email practices, that may not have happened.
Cover image from Getty Images