On Sunday, 10 days after upending the 2016 presidential race by informing Congress that the FBI found new emails potentially "pertinent" to the Hillary Clinton email investigation, FBI Director James Comey said never mind, telling Congress that after reviewing "all the communications that were to or from Hillary Clinton while she was secretary of state," the FBI has "not changed our conclusions that we expressed in July," when Comey had said no reasonable prosecutor would indict Clinton. Donald Trump, who has been saying on the campaign trail that the new emails would certainly lead to criminal charges, took a new tack after Comey's announcement.
Clinton is "being protected by a rigged system," Trump said at a rally in Michigan. "You can't review 650,000 new emails in eight days. You can't do it, folks."
— ABC News (@ABC) November 7, 2016
Trump doesn't use a computer, so maybe he gets a pass. But Trump wasn't the only one touting the idea that computers at America's top domestic law enforcement agency can't check text at a rate of more than 1 email per second. Bernard Kerik, a former New York City police commissioner, and retired Gen. Michael Flynn, a top Trump adviser and former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, had remarkably similar responses:
There R 691,200 seconds in 8 days. DIR Comey has thoroughly reviewed 650,000 emails in 8 days? An email / second? IMPOSSIBLE RT
— General Flynn (@GenFlynn) November 6, 2016
So, how long should it take? Your laptop could analyze those emails in minutes or hours, according to former NSA contractor Edward Snowden:
@jeffjarvis Drop non-responsive To:/CC:/BCC:, hash both sets, then subtract those that match. Old laptops could do it in minutes-to-hours.
— Edward Snowden (@Snowden) November 7, 2016
The idea that it's not particularly time-consuming to check 650,000 searchable electronic documents shouldn't have been much of a surprise to anyone who has searched through their own email inbox, or used Google.
We've reached the point where the former head of the DIA just got schooled - rightly - by millennials on how computers work.
— Tom Nichols (@RadioFreeTom) November 7, 2016
Every time politics intersects with tech details, I am infuriated anew that so many elected officials revel in their technical illiteracy.
— Anil Dash (@anildash) November 7, 2016
As it turns out, a "senior law enforcement official" told NBC News, nearly all of the pertinent emails on the laptop shared by Anthony Weiner and Clinton aide Huma Abedin were duplicates of those already seen by the FBI, and the handful that were new were unrelated to government business. Peter Weber