Saturday afternoon, WikiLeaks announced on Twitter that new documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act prove that the FBI lost chain of custody on Hillary Clinton’s email server for five weeks.

Chain of custody (CoC), in legal contexts, refers to the chronological documentation or paper trail that records the sequence of custody, control, transfer, analysis, and disposition of physical or electronic evidence.

 

WikiLeaks tweeted, “New FOIA docs show that FBI lost chain of custody for five weeks of Hillary Clinton’s server. Say they lost the chain entirely and created a new one.”

Along with the tweet, WikiLeaks also provided a link to the full FBI document with additional details. The document is a PDF file that may be downloaded HERE.

WikiLeaks included a screenshot of the FBI document, which states, “As documented in the referenced serial, on August 12, 2015 the FBI obtained a Dell Poweredge 2900, Gray Color, S/N G842PC1 from the custody of Platte River Networks and entered it into evidence as item 1B3 of the captioned investigation. The item was directly transported to the FBI Operational Technology Division (OTD) the same day. At 12:02 PM on October 20, 2015, SA [redacted] picked up 1B3 from OTD where he discovered the original chain of custody was missing. SA [redacted] transported 1B3 to the Washington Field Office and placed it into secure storage. This communication documents the loss of the original chain of custody and the creation of a new chain of custody beginning with SA [redacted] on October 20, 2015.”

According to an online legal site, the importance of “Chain of Custody” is described as follows:

“Chain of custody” typically refers to the foundation the prosecution needs to establish for certain types of exhibits to be admitted into evidence.

Proving that an exhibit being offered into evidence is exactly what it purports to be—the actual drugs found on the defendant or the very calculator stolen from the store—requires proof of who had possession of the exhibit at all times between the time officers seized it and the trial. This is the “chain of custody,” and it’s especially important when exhibits have been altered in some way or tested prior to trial.

Because criminal prosecutions typically depend on evidence gathered by police officers, it is prosecutors who generally need to establish a chain of custody. In turn, a typical defense strategy is to attack the sufficiency of the prosecutor’s chain. If the defense succeeds in preventing the prosecutor from offering an exhibit into evidence, the judge might rule that the prosecutor has insufficient evidence to allow a case to continue. (That determination rests on how crucial the piece of evidence is to the case.)