Nikki Haley lost her password, so she sent confidential info over unclassified system

A serious woman listens intently to an earpiece.
Enlarge / Ambassador Nikki Haley listens at the United Nations.

Former US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley sent confidential material over a network reserved only for unclassified material because she forgot her password for classified communications, The Daily Beast reported.

The event happened on July 4 and July 5, 2017, after North Korea had tested an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of hitting Alaska. As she and her staff scrambled to draft a statement responding to the test, Haley reportedly used her BlackBerry 10 to trade comments over the OpenNet, a State Department network for communicating sensitive, but not classified, information.

“Can’t find my password,” she wrote on July 5. Other messages instructed staff to make changes to the preliminary statement versions they had drafted.

The revelation was disclosed in emails watchdog organization American Oversight obtained under the Freedom of Information Act. The incident comes after Haley’s boss, President Donald Trump, castigated his campaign rival Hillary Clinton for sending classified material over her private email server. His chant to “lock her up” became a constant refrain for him and his supporters.

It’s arguable that the OpenNet is more secure than a private email address. Still, there’s a reason the State Department system isn’t suitable for transmitting classified material. Last year, Politico reported that the State Department’s unclassified email system suffered a breach that exposed the personal information of a small number of employees.

Watchdog groups have repeatedly criticized the State Department for what they say is insufficient network security. By the time the 2018 breach came to light, a bipartisan group of senators had already asked Secretary of State Mike Pompeo what the department was doing to improve things.

Given the growing determination and skill of hackers sponsored by the governments of North Korea, Iran, Russia, and China, unclassified systems are increasingly vulnerable to espionage. Staff members for Haley, who resigned her ambassador post in October of last year, didn’t provide a comment to Politico.

Post updated on 11/20/2019, 6:49 PM to change “sensitive” to “confidential” per original article.

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