Hillary Clinton’s State Department Email: What We Know About Her Use of a … – ABC News

Posted: Tuesday, March 03, 2015
PHOTO: U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton checks her PDA upon departure in a military C-17 plane from Malta bound for Tripoli, Oct. 18, 2011.

What happened?

Hillary Clinton used a private email account to communicate while serving as secretary of state, The New York Times revealed.

Clinton’s team has confirmed that she used a personal email account for government business but maintained that it works within “both the letter and the spirit” of State Department rules.

Did she have a government email account that she just didn’t use?

The Times reported that she did not have a government email account, which would have ended with a federal government domain — in this case, state.gov.

Such emails are automatically stored on government servers and kept as federal records.

What email account did she use instead?

While some guessed that she might be using a personalized email account at AOL or Hotmail, that apparently was not the case. (So long, ScrunchieGal@aol.com.)

Instead, The Washington Post reported, the domain “clintonemail.com” was registered the week before she was sworn in as secretary of state in 2009. Clinton’s team has not confirmed that she used an email at that address.

PHOTO: Hillary Rodham Clinton smiles during a keynote address at the Watermark Silicon Valley Conference for Women, Feb. 24, 2015, in Santa Clara, Calif.

Is that legal?

There hasn’t been enough information released yet to determine exactly what rules were broken, if any, but there are clear disclosure and security concerns.

Government email accounts have their messages automatically stored as part of the Federal Records Act, and while it’s clear that Clinton’s personal account would not have fallen under that umbrella, her team noted that much of her correspondence still was covered, as a result.

“For government business, she emailed them on their department accounts, with every expectation they would be retained,” Clinton’s spokesman Nick Merrill said in a statement.

However, as The Times noted, emails to accounts outside the U.S. government would not be covered by the same rules.

How did the State Department respond?

Spokeswoman Jen Psaki said that the State Department “has long had access to a wide array” of Clinton’s records, including emails to people using state.gov accounts as well as diplomatic cables, but she did not explicitly address emails that Clinton sent that involves non-governmental accounts.

Without naming names, a senior state department official reiterated Merrill’s claims that Clinton’s predecessors practiced a similar private email policy.

“It is our understanding that secretaries prior to Secretary Kerry didn’t regularly use an official State Department account,” the senior state department official told ABC News.

“Like everyone working at the State Department, Secretary Clinton would have to constantly remain vigilant of proper handling of sensitive information regardless of whether she used her own email account,” the official said.

Could that account have been hacked?

We don’t know the extent of the security measures taken with her external account and whether they matched the measures taken by her colleagues who used government email accounts. Government accounts have their messages encrypted, for instance.

Is she the first high-ranking government official to have done this?

According to her spokesman, no. He said that “secretaries of state before her” also used their own email accounts while “engaging with department officials.” That response, however, does not say whether those secretaries of state used both government and private email accounts or just private email accounts like Clinton did, and it doesn’t specify whether those secretaries of state were operating under earlier sets of rules governing government employees’ email conduct.

How was this discovered?

The New York Times reported that Clinton’s use of a personal account was first discovered during a House committee’s investigation into the 2012 attack on the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya. However, the State Department apparently just handed over a selection of about 300 emails to the committee two weeks ago.

Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the ranking Democrat on the Benghazi Select Committee, issued a statement this morning saying that it has been known “for several years that Secretary Clinton used her personal email account, apparently following the pattern of previous secretaries of state.”

On top of that, anyone who received an email from her after she took over the State Department in 2009 would have recognized at the time that they were receiving an email from a non-state.gov address.

Will this be an issue in the 2016 race?

To quote another famous female politician, you betcha. Though Clinton has not yet announced her candidacy, her likely opponent, Jeb Bush, has already slammed her secretive move, saying that it lacked transparency.


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