WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy used her personal email for official business despite a State Department policy advising employees generally to avoid this, an internal audit released on Tuesday said.
The State Department's Office of Inspector General made the finding in a routine report on the Tokyo embassy as the agency is under scrutiny for Hillary Clinton's use of a private email address and server when she was secretary of state.
"Senior embassy staff, including the ambassador, used personal email accounts to send and receive messages containing official business," the report said, saying it found "instances when emails labeled 'sensitive but unclassified'" were sent and received on private email addresses.
It did not say whether Kennedy, daughter of former President John F. Kennedy, had sent or received such information.
The report cited risks to using personal email accounts, including data loss, hacking, phishing, and spoofing of email accounts, as well as inadequate protections for personally identifiable information.
State Department spokesman John Kirby stressed that using personal email was not barred by the agency's rules. But he said it was discouraged and that employees needed to ensure that emails were eventually preserved within the U.S. government system.
He also said that there was no indication that Kennedy had violated department policies.
The State Department was implementing all the recommendations in the report, Kirby said. There was no separate statement from Kennedy about the matter on the U.S. Embassy in Japan's website.
"Department policy is that employees generally should not use private email accounts (for example, Gmail, AOL, Yahoo, and so forth) for official business," the report said.
"Employees are also expected to use approved, secure methods to transmit sensitive but unclassified information when available and practical."
As is typical of such inspector general reviews, the report was largely critical, although former senior U.S. diplomats said it was by no means the harshest that they had seen and that many of the issues raised were familiar.
However, the report noted that, in a departure from State Department practice, Kennedy's chief of staff attended meetings as a note taker but that there were "gaps" in the record of what was discussed.
State Department emails have become an issue in Clinton's campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination because as secretary of state she used a private "clintonemail.com" email address rather than an official "state.gov" one.
Clinton has said the unusual arrangement broke no rules that
were in force at the time, although the arrangement has caused
long delays in providing federal records to lawmakers and the
public to which they are entitled, critics say.
(Reporting by Arshad Mohammed; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)