The Office of Inspector General (OIG) found that while the State Department suffers from “systemic weaknesses…that go well beyond the tenure of any one secretary of state,” Clinton’s office — as well as that of her predecessors — have been recalcitrant in managing cybersecurity risks.
The OIG investigated the cybersecurity practices of five former state secretaries: Madeleine Albright, Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice, Hillary Clinton, and John Kerry. But the agency singled out Clinton for her exclusive use of a private email server.
“Sending emails from a personal account to other employees at their department accounts is not an appropriate method of preserving any such emails that would constitute a federal record,” the report states.
“Secretary Clinton should have preserved any federal records she created and received on her personal account by printing and filing those records with the related files in the Office of the Secretary,” the OIG wrote. “At a minimum, Secretary Clinton should have surrendered all emails dealing with department business before leaving government service and, because she did not do so, she did not comply with the department’s policies that were implemented in accordance with the Federal Records Act.”
The Federal Records Act requires government agencies to keep records regarding policies, procedures, and decision-making, which is essential to maintaining transparency through public records requests via the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). FOIA requests have been the bedrock of ground-breaking political stories, including Flint, Michigan’s contaminated water crisis.
Wednesday’s report also highlights Clinton’s concern over privacy and her office’s reluctance to comply with or enforce the federal transparency laws.
According to the report, Clinton’s deputy chief of staff emailed her suggesting the then-state secretary get a government email address or share the one connected to her private server with agency employees. “We should talk about putting you on state email or releasing your email address to the department so you are not going to spam.” Clinton wrote back, “Let’s get separate address or device but I don’t want any risk of the personal being accessible.”
Clinton also insisted on using one device and one email for all of her communications, according to the report. That insistence coupled with a desire for privacy is exactly what landed the presumed Democratic presidential nominee in trouble.
In 2010, Clinton’s deputy chief of staff declined on her behalf to use two Blackberry devices because it “doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.” There’s no record of Clinton being assigned two devices or a government email address.
The OIG also uncovered an email exchange between Clinton’s camp and the Administration Bureau, which “wondered whether there was an electronic method that could be used to capture the Secretary’s emails because they were ‘not comfortable’ advising the new administration to print and file email records,” per the State Department’s policy. That concern was effectively resolved when the agency permitted electronic record filing at the beginning of Clinton’s tenure in 2009, but Clinton did not turn over electronic copies when she left her post in 2013, according to the OIG report.
Clinton, whose presidential bid has been haunted by the email scandal, wasn’t the only former secretary criticized for poor record keeping practices. Colin Powell, who served under former President George W. Bush, also failed to had over emails sent from his personal account.
While the OIG placed blame squarely on Clinton for failing to be adhere to the government’s transparency standards, the agency also admits that it hasn’t punished any employee for not following the rules.
“Although the department is aware of the failure to print and file, the [manual] contains no explicit penalties for lack of compliance, and the department has never proposed discipline against an employee for failure to comply,” the report states.
Author: Lauren C. Williams