From Daily Mail
The U.S. State Department told a watchdog group in 2013 that it didn’t have any information about former secretary Hillary Clinton’s emails, even though ‘dozens of senior officials’ knew she was using a private server for all her electronic communications.
A report released Thursday by the agency’s inspector general – a powerful and impartial internal investigator – described a cavalier culture about transparency inside Clinton’s agency, saying that 177 requests for documents about Clinton are still ‘pending’ nearly three years after she left office.
The Freedom of Information Act requires federal agencies to respond to requests for information within 20 business days.
The botched FOIA request, filed in December 2012 just before Clinton left office, specifically asked whether or not Clinton used an email account other than one hosted at state.gov.
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a liberal group, was reacting to news that former Environmental Protection Agency administrator Lisa Jackson had used an alias – ‘Richard Windsor’ – to send and receive emails in a way that couldn’t be tied to her when FOIA requests came in.
In May 2013 the State Department responded to CREW’s request, saying it had ‘no records’ related to what the group asked for.
By then, Clinton had spent four years emailing department employees from her private home-brew account, but had never turned the messages over to the State Department.
That CREW request was filed in December 2012, just before Mrs. Clinton left office, and specifically asked whether Mrs. Clinton used anon-State.gov email account for government business.
‘At the time the request was received, dozens of senior officials throughout the Department, including members of Secretary Clinton’s immediate staff, exchanged emails with the Secretary using the personal accounts she used to conduct official business,’ the Office of Inspector General concluded.
‘OIG found evidence that the Secretary’s then-Chief of Staff was informed of the request at the time it was received and subsequently tasked staff to follow up. However, OIG found no evidence to indicate that any of these senior officials reviewed the search results or approved the response to CREW.’
The employees responsible for searching the State Department’s records, the report says, never ‘searched any email records, even though the request clearly encompassed emails.’
State has received an unprecedented crush of requests for Clinton-related documents – 240 in all, a number bigger than those related to secretaries Madeline Albright, Colin Powell, Condoleeza Rice and John Kerry combined.
But the inspector general found that the agency cut the number of people processing those FOIA requests as they poured in.
Clinton’s emails sat on her private server for years until the State Department asked her in 2014 to turn them over. She deleted more than half of the messages, calling them ‘personal’ in nature, before complying.
In the meantime, however, her emails were out of reach when federal employees searched for records that might satisfy FOIA requests.
Sen. Charles Grassley, an Iowa Republican, said Thursday in a statement that ‘the FOIA process at the State Department is broken, and has been for several years.’
The agency’s breakdowns in performance, he said, ‘are particularly troubling in light of the report’s revelation that former Secretary Clinton’s exclusive use of a non-government email server was known to senior staff at the department, but unknown to the FOIA office, thus causing the FOIA office to provide false information about the Secretary’s use of email.’
The FOIA law, first enacted in 1966 before the advent of personal computers, ‘neither authorizes nor requires agencies to search for Federal records in personal email accounts maintained on private servers or through commercial providers,’ the inspector general report explained.
State Department employees have ‘no way to independently locate Federal records from such accounts unless employees take steps to preserve official emails in Department recordkeeping systems.’
Current law requires State Department employees to forward work-related personal emails to their official accounts within 20 days of sending or receiving them, so the agency has a record of them.
But Clinton never had a ‘state.gov’ account where her emails could be sent.
A federal judge ultimately ordered the State Department to collect her emails, vet them for classified material, and release them on a monthly schedule.
So far intelligence officials have had to block the release of portions of more than 1,200 emails because they contained classified information.