With Defense Secretary Ash Carter saying that Russia and China threaten U.S. interests, Carter himself was careless enough to potentially provide both Moscow and Beijing with Washington’s classified secrets.
Carter “occasionally” used his personal email for U.S. government-related matters, the Pentagon acknowledged late Wednesday, according to NBC News and other media reports.
Cater acknowledged on Thursday that he had used his personal email account to do some U.S. government business during the first months of being U.S. Defense Secretary, but added that he had already stopped the activity that directly threatens U.S. national interests.
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During his trip to the Middle East, Carter said in an interview with CBS that it was “a mistake and it’s entirely my own.” Carter admitted he used his iPhone to send “administrative messages.” According to Carter himself, there was no classified information in the emails, but it has not been confirmed by the Pentagon yet.
The news come in light of similar “mistake” of former Secretary of State and now the front-runner for the Democrats at the presidential election in 2016, Hillary Clinton, who received two classified top U.S. secrets emails onto her private server.
“I have to hold myself to absolutely strict standards in terms of cybersecurity and doing things that are appropriate. I didn’t in this case,” Carter told CBS.
Ash Carter’s carelessness could reveal U.S. top secrets to China and Russia
On Wednesday, the New York Times published an article, which said Carter used his personal email to do some U.S. government business during the first months at the Pentagon, which is a serious violation of Defense Department rules.
Even though the Pentagon has not yet addressed any violation of Defense Department rules, Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook emphasized that Carter used his personal email account to correspond “primarily with friends and family,” and that he rarely uses email for U.S. government business.
“Any email related to work received on this personal account, such as an invitation to speak at an event or an administrative issue, is copied or forwarded to his official account so it can be preserved as a federal record as appropriate,” Cook said.
“After reviewing his email practices earlier this year, the Secretary believes that his previous, occasional use of personal email for work-related business, even for routine administrative issues and backed up to his official account, was a mistake.”
However, according to the Pentagon spokesman, Carter never used neither his personal nor governmental email account for U.S. classified top-secret material. “He takes his responsibilities with regard to classified material very seriously,” Cook added.
The New York Times said it had obtained access to 72 U.S. government-related emails Carter sent or received from his personal email account, including emails in which he discussed how to pay for a hotel bill.
Carter became the U.S. Defense Secretary in February this year – a month before the Hilary Clinton email controversy started making headlines.
Ash Carter: China and Russia’s cyberspace activities threaten U.S. interests
The fact that Clinton used her private email account for secretary of state-related matters has significantly smeared her ongoing presidential campaign. Her fellow-Democrat, U.S. President Barack Obama recently tried to smooth it over by calling it a “mistake,” and saying that the issue has been “ginned up” by the campaign season.
Last month, Ash Carter was the one who called Russia and China threats to the international order and U.S. global dominance, as reported by ValueWalk.
Carter himself said Russia and China are conducting “challenging activities” at sea, in the air, in space, and in cyberspace. But if the Defense Secretary himself makes such “mistakes” as using his personal email, which can be easily hacked by both the Russians and the Chinese, for U.S. government-related business, it means that the U.S. is the one who makes its secrets accessible to foreign countries.
Carter also said Russia poses a great threat to the world order with its military invasions in Eastern Europe as well as Russian President Vladimir Putin’s alarming actions with his country’s nuclear weapons. He also noted that China’s expanding influence and increasing military might also pose great challenges to U.S. global dominance.
China and Russia could easily hack into Ash Carter’s emails
ValueWalk reported in August that Russian hackers were suspected to have carried out a ‘sophisticated cyber attack’ into an unclassified Pentagon email system that is commonly used by employees of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, according to U.S. military officials.
The cyber attack came after a number of infiltrations into sensitive U.S. government computer networks, in which Russian and Chinese hackers are suspected to be responsible for.
The cyber attack targeting unclassified Pentagon email system took place on July 25 and affected about 4,000 military and civilian personnel of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, which coordinates and oversees operations of U.S. armed forces.
In late 2014, a similar cyber attack took place, which was traced back to the Russian government. Russian hackers then successfully infiltrated into unclassified email systems at the White House and the State Department, and reportedly read Obama’s unclassified emails,
However, it is believed that the hackers did not steal any classified data. But the mere fact that the Russians are capable to easily infiltrate into the computer network of the Pentagon has triggered concerns at the highest levels of the U.S. government.
Russia knows about U.S. secrets more than U.S. itself
During GOP debates in August, Republican candidate Scott Walker noted sarcastically that “it’s sad to think right now, but probably the Russian and Chinese government[s] know more about Hillary Clinton’s email server than do the members of the United States Congress.”
China has repeatedly denied any involvement in cyber attacks against the U.S., including the data hack that affected about 22 million Americans both inside and outside the government.
The hack on the Office of Personnel Management compromised the personal information of some 22 million current and former federal employees. U.S. officials suspected that China was behind the hack, but never said so on the record, nor provided any evidence.
In late November, ValueWalk reported that U.S. counterintelligence officials were skeptical that Beijing has complied with its promises to stop spying on the U.S. Beijing gave such promises in the anti-hacking deal signed between the U.S. and China in September during Chinese President Xi Jinping’s official state visit to Washington.