The 2016 presidential election mercifully comes to an end on Tuesday, and over the past year technology has been a major focus of the campaign season. No, not cybersecurity policy (although there has been a little of that in the greater conversation), but Hillary Clinton’s emails. Turns out, emails are really confusing to lots of people in politics, but Edward Snowden schooled some Trump surrogates who thought there was no way the FBI could’ve checked out all Clinton’s emails as fast as they did.
FBI Director James Comey reignited the email controversy in late October when he sent a vague letter to congress explaining that the bureau might’ve found new emails that had been hosted on Clinton’s private server during an unrelated investigation into disgraced former congressman Anthony Weiner. Clinton’s poll numbers took a hit, but Comey announced on Sunday that the FBI had checked all 650,000 emails and found nothing new or incriminating.
Of course, “smart machines” — or “computers,” as most people call them — could do this, because the vast majority of those emails were presumably bunk. All the FBI had to do was drop irrelevant incoming email that Clinton never responded to, and compare the remaining emails to what they already had to see if there were any bombshells that the bureau didn’t previously know about (there weren’t).
Media pundit Jeff Jarvis went on Twitter to ask Snowden how long it would have taken the NSA to scan 650,000 emails for new, relevant information. Snowden said “old laptops could do it in minutes-to-hours.”
For what it’s worth, nobody in the higher levels of politics really seems to understand how emails work, on both sides. A recent story on This American Life revealed that one of the reasons why Clinton got herself into this whole private server mess in the first place is that she doesn’t know how to use a desktop computer, largely because she never dealt with the burgeoning technology during her time in the White House. Trump’s ignorance of how to use basic technology is reportedly just as bad, if not worse.