Oversight Orders Reddit to Preserve Deleted Posts in Clinton Investigation
The House Oversight Committee is looking into claims from Redditors that Paul Combetta, the IT technician, tampered with evidence requested by the Benghazi Committee in 2015.
The Hill reports:
The House Oversight Committee has ordered Reddit to preserve deleted posts believed to be written by an IT technician the committee suspects may have deleted Hillary Clinton emails that were under subpoena.
Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) confirmed that the committee has issued a preservation order and that Reddit is “cooperating.”
The order “has the weight of law, you can’t destroy things and hope things magically get erased,” he told The Hill Wednesday.
At issue is whether an employee of the Denver, Colo.-based tech firm that managed Clinton’s server sought advice on how to digitally alter the address lines of emails thought to be from the former secretary of State — the day after the State Department had agreed to provide certain Clinton emails to the Benghazi Committee.
The allegations “fit the pattern of what we think was happening,” Chaffetz said.
The committee is looking into claims from some Reddit users who say they have uncovered a two-year-old post from an account believed to belong to Paul Combetta, an engineer with the firm, Platte River Networks.
The message has been deleted, but can be read in archives of the page saved by other users.
The evidence linking the Reddit account behind the post to Combetta is circumstantial, but Reddit users insist it is compelling — and committee members appear to agree.
“I’m very confident that the amount of circumstantial evidence certainly points in one direction,” Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), chairman of the panel’s Government Operations subcommittee, told The Hill. “We’re just trying to make doubly sure that we can authenticate that in a real way, because if not it will be challenged on a number of fronts.”
“We have to verify the authenticity but we are pursuing it with vigor,” Chaffetz said. “On the surface it may be accurate, but we’ve got to make sure [the Reddit posts] are preserved and we have to dive deeper into the authenticity.”
It’s unclear what, exactly, the committee will be able to learn from the information Reddit preserves. According to the company’s public policy for handling official requests, it maintains basic subscriber information, like IP logs, which identify the computer used to access a site.
According to the policy, Reddit can maintain deleted records — like a user’s account — for 90 days if it receives an official preservation order. Otherwise, the information will be subject to Reddit’s “normal retention or destruction schedules.”
The Hill reached out to Reddit for comment but did not receive a response.
According to the post archived by Reddit users, an account under the alias “stonetear” messaged that he “may be facing a very interesting situation where I need to strip out a VIP’s (VERY VIP) email address from a bunch of archived email.”
“Basically, they don’t want the VIP’s email address exposed to anyone, and want to be able to either strip out or replace the email address in the to/from fields in all of the emails we want to send out,” reads the post.
“Does anyone have experience with something like this, and/or suggestions on how this might be accomplished?”
According to those archives, the post was sent on July 24, 2014. On July 23, the Benghazi Committee had reached an agreement with the State Department on the production of related records, according to the FBI’s investigation into Clinton’s use of the server.
After reports about the message emerged Monday, the user stonetear appeared to delete his posts on the site.
An attorney for Platte River Networks, Kenneth Eichner, is declining to comment on the matter.
Photo credit: Gage Skidmore/Flickr.