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Hillary Clinton's Latest Scandal: Former SecState Exclusively Used Undocumented, Personal Email Account

While the Hillary Clinton campaign seems unperturbed by recent problematic disclosures by Politico into the Hillary Clinton Foundation, the former first lady and current democrat presidential hopeful will have a field day explaining why, as the NYT reported overnight, Hillary - in her role as Secretary of State - "exclusively used a personal email account to conduct government business" according to State Department officials in violation of "federal requirements that officials’ correspondence be retained as part of the agency’s record."

Mrs. Clinton did not have a government email address during her four-year tenure at the State Department. Her aides took no actions to have her personal emails preserved on department servers at the time, as required by the Federal Records Act.

Why is this a deeply troubling breach of protocol, not to say a substantial threat to national security by America's former top diplomat? For starter, using Hotmail or Aol instead of a protected, encrypted government address leaves little to the hacker's imagination.  But what's worse is that as a result of exclusive reliance on non-government platforms, which have no document retention policy and in fact have a "straight to trash" policy, any and all emails regarding the Benghazi scandal, many of which were FOIAed, could have been and were simply deleted without ever leaving a trace. Or as NSA Nate summarized:

pic.twitter.com/jXycJI5QAd

— NSA Nate (@NSANate)

Even the left-leaning NYT couldn't find the appropriate damage control spin to an action that would lead many to question her common sense sensibilities as a future president:

Her expansive use of the private account was alarming to current and former National Archives and Records Administration officials and government watchdogs, who called it a serious breach.

 

“It is very difficult to conceive of a scenario — short of nuclear winter — where an agency would be justified in allowing its cabinet-level head officer to solely use a private email communications channel for the conduct of government business,” said Jason R. Baron, a lawyer at Drinker Biddle & Reath who is a former director of litigation at the National Archives and Records Administration.

In other words, nothing Clinton did for four years has a paper trail mandated of any and all other civil servants.

Under federal law, however, letters and emails written and received by federal officials, such as the secretary of state, are considered government records and are supposed to be retained so that congressional committees, historians and members of the news media can find them. There are exceptions to the law for certain classified and sensitive materials.

 

“I can recall no instance in my time at the National Archives when a high-ranking official at an executive branch agency solely used a personal email account for the transaction of government business,” said Mr. Baron, who worked at the agency from 2000 to 2013.

That, and the clear security threat:

Mr. Blanton said high-level officials should operate as President Obama does, emailing from a secure government account, with every record preserved for historical purposes. “Personal emails are not secure,” he said. “Senior officials should not be using them.”

But why this "deus ex" could not have come at a better time for the GOP: "Regulations from the National Archives and Records Administration at the time required that any emails sent or received from personal accounts be preserved as part of the agency’s records. As the NYT adds "others who, like Mrs. Clinton, are eyeing a candidacy for the White House are stressing a very different approach. Jeb Bush, who is seeking the Republican nomination for president, released a trove of emails in December from his eight years as governor of Florida."

Things get worse when looking at the initial response by the flailing Clinton camp, who said it was not her responsibility to keep a track of the emails: someone else would - after all for every email there is a sender and recipient:

Mr. Merrill, the spokesman for Mrs. Clinton, declined to detail why she had chosen to conduct State Department business from her personal account. He said that because Mrs. Clinton had been sending emails to other State Department officials at their government accounts, she had “every expectation they would be retained.” He did not address emails that Mrs. Clinton may have sent to foreign leaders, people in the private sector or government officials outside the State Department.

And this: "A spokesman for Mrs. Clinton, Nick Merrill, defended her use of the
personal email account and said she has been complying with the “letter
and spirit of the rules.”"

Well, no. She failed to comply with rules in every possible form.

Finally, how was the deeply damaging discovery made?

The existence of Mrs. Clinton’s personal email account was discovered by a House committee investigating the attack on the American Consulate in Benghazi as it sought correspondence between Mrs. Clinton and her aides about the attack.

 

Two weeks ago, the State Department, after reviewing Mrs. Clinton’s emails, provided the committee with about 300 emails — amounting to roughly 900 pages — about the Benghazi attacks.

So surely she will release all the emails into the public domain now, especially with the Benghazi investigation still ongoing? Well no.

Mrs. Clinton and the committee declined to comment on the contents of the emails or whether they will be made public.

All of which begs the question: when third party citizens demanded FOIA production of Clinton's emails, related to Benghazi or otherwise, such as Muckrock's Jason Smathers here, just what was the Department of Homeland Security's Privacy Office looking at when deciding it would deny said request?

It also explains why the DHS is so desperate for funding: otherwise, how will the massive government agency story through non-existant emails to fabricate a reason why they can't be produced...