Thursday, May 26, 2016

State Department Reports on Clinton E-Mails

The State Department's Inspector General released its report yesterday on the use of a private e-mail server for Government business by former Secretary Clinton. The 80-odd page report looks at the practices of the past several Secretaries of State and notes the varying methods they used of handling e-mail, notably Colin Powell, who also used a private server for State Department business. Some of the salient conclusions of the report, which is available here, are:
That the Department's records management weaknesses, "have contributed to the loss or removal of email records, particularly records created by the Office of the Secretary. These weaknesses include a limited ability to retrieve email records, inaccessibility of electronic files, failure to comply with requirements for departing employees, and a general lack of oversight." (report summary)

That 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. 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." (page 23)

That when Clinton has problems sending e-mails to DOS employees, "the Deputy Chief of Staff emailed the Secretary that 'we should talk about putting you on state email or releasing your email address to the department so you are not going to spam.' In response, the Secretary wrote, 'Let’s get separate address or device but I don’t want any risk of the personal being accessible.'” (page 38)

That the former director of the Department's Information Resources Management office claimed that "the Secretary’s personal system had been reviewed and approved by Department legal staff and that the matter was not to be discussed any further. As previously noted, OIG found no evidence that staff in the Office of the Legal Adviser reviewed or approved Secretary Clinton’s personal system." (page 40)
This was mostly a self-inflicted wound born of justifiable worries on the Secretary's behalf that her private e-mails would be accessed, some very bad staff work in not researching and informing her of the pitfalls and then pointing fingers after the fact, and a clearly antiquated electronic record keeping and e-mail system at State that caused Clinton and previous Secretaries to improvise. It doesn't rise to the level of a "gate" suffix, much less endless, breathless chatter on cable TV.  Nevertheless, this report will be played up by the Rethugs and their friends in the media who see this as something more than it is. As Talking Points Memo's Josh Marshall says,
"The criticism is there. It definitely wasn't a good arrangement. But to see this as a damaging report after the hyperbolic and frequently insane coverage of this issue is crazy. This was never more than some poor judgment overlayed by a big bureaucratic pissing match all slathered over by a thick layer of partisan game playing and media derp." (emphasis added)

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