By Jonathan Allen and Megan Cassella
NEW YORK/WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A hacking attack on Google's Gmail service in 2011 prompted Hillary Clinton and her aides to worry about the security of private email accounts widely used by government officials who found their "antiquated" government-issued laptops inefficient.
Clinton's use of a private email account while she led the
State Department now hangs over her campaign to become the Democratic nominee for the November 2016 presidential election.
The seemingly prophetic concern is revealed in the latest batch of Clinton's emails released by the State Department, the fifth dump in a monthly series set to last until January 2016.
A federal judge ordered the State Department in May to release all of Clinton's 30,000 work emails from a private email account connected to a server in her New York home while she was U.S. secretary of state.
After Google Inc revealed in June 2011 that suspected Chinese hackers tried to steal the passwords of hundreds of Gmail accounts held by senior U.S. government officials, Clinton and three top aides discussed the issue.
"NO ONE uses a State-issued laptop and even high officials routinely end up using their home email accounts to be able to get their work done quickly and effectively," Anne-Marie Slaughter, who had recently left her job as director of policy planning at the State Department, wrote in an email to Clinton.
Slaughter suggested that someone outside of government write an op-ed about the State Department's "antiquated" technology, blaming it on budget cuts.
Clinton replied saying she thought the idea made "good sense" and asked how the department should follow up with Slaughter's idea.
Her chief of staff, Cheryl Mills, was less sure, writing that both she and policy aide Jake Sullivan had concerns.
Mills, who said hackers had attempted to infiltrate her email, wrote, "I am not sure we want to telegraph how much folks do or don't do off state mail (because) it may encourage others who are out there," Mills wrote.
The Republican National Committee picked up on the thread, saying it undercut Clinton's assertion that her server was more secure than government email.
Clinton has apologized for her email arrangement but also has complained that the "drip, drip, drip" of incremental revelations and unflattering headlines from the emails were out of her control.
Opinion polls show voters have lingering questions about her use of the private server, and her lead over top rival Bernie Sanders, a U.S. senator from Vermont, has dwindled amid the controversy.
MORE CLASSIFIED EMAILS
Among the 3,800 emails released on Wednesday were 215 that contain classified information that was redacted to protect national security, according to State Department spokesman John Kirby.
Three of them are now marked "secret," the second-highest level of classification. This brings the total number of classified emails in all the batches released so far to 403.
The government forbids transmitting classified information outside secure, government-controlled channels.
The State Department and other government agencies are currently arguing over how much of the information, if any at all, was classified at the time it was sent.
The State Department says the information is being "upgraded" to classified, but has also said it does not know whether the information was classified when it was sent, although no emails were marked that way.
Reince Priebus, the Republican National Committee's chairman, said in statement the latest email release shows that Clinton "put our national security in more jeopardy than previously known."
The Federal Bureau of Investigation is examining the server to see whether government information was mishandled.
As with previous batches, the emails released on Wednesday include amusing glimpses into the quotidian business of an office job.
Clinton asked an aide how to turn her phone's ringer on, how to find local NPR radio stations and at one point complained about "fighting" with a White House telephone operator while trying to place a call.
(Writing by Roberta Rampton, additional reporting by John Whitesides, Amanda Becker, Alana Wise and Emily Stephenson; Editing by Christian Plumb and Cynthia Osterman)