State Department Official Testifies: Clinton's Personal Email Use "Not Acceptable"

Posted: May 07, 2015 8:20 AM

Testifying on Capitol Hill yesterday, State Department official Joyce Barr blasted former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and said her use of personal email to conduct official government business was "unacceptable." 

Barr testified in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee for a hearing about Obama administration and government transparency with a focus on the lack of response to Freedom of Information Act requests. 

"President Obama gave me high hopes for a change in the status quo. He pledged a “new era of open government”—one where transparency is the rule and not the exception. On his first full day in office, the President called for agencies to administer FOIA “with a clear presumption: In the face of doubt, openness prevails.” Unfortunately, over six years later we continue to see this Administration operating under a “do as I say, not as I do” approach to transparency," Chairman Chuck Grassley said in his opening statement. "Recently, the Office of Information Policy Director Melanie Pustay and a senior White House official wrote in USA Today that the Administration “continues to demonstrate its commitment to improving open government and transparency.” But the very next day—ironically, the first day of Sunshine Week—the White House announced it was removing regulations that for thirty-years had subjected its Office of Administration to FOIA requests. According to the White House, this decision is consistent with court decisions holding that the office isn’t subject to FOIA. But as one open government advocate put it, “You have a president who comes in and says, I’m committed to transparency and agencies should make discretionary disclosures whenever possible, but he’s not applying that to his own White House.”

"The Center for Effective Government recently released its annual Access to Information Scorecard, which grades federal agencies’ FOIA performance. While there were some glimmers of hope, the overall results indicate there’s much room for improvement," Grassley continued. "I’m particularly concerned with the State Department’s FOIA operation. According to the Scorecard, the State Department processed only 17% of the FOIA requests it received in 2013. For the second year in a row, the State Department was the lowest scoring agency by far, with performance that was “completely out of line” with that of other agencies."

Earlier this week an attorney for Clinton said the former Secretary is willing to testify in front of the special select committee on Benghazi. If the committee accepts her offer and if she keeps her work, Clinton will certainly be asked about her email use as well.

Hillary Clinton's lawyer says that the 2016 presidential candidate will appear before the House committee investigating the Benghazi attacks, but only once -- not twice, as its GOP chair requested.

In a letter to the committee released by the top Democrat on the panel, Rep. Elijah Cummings, Clinton's attorney says she is still "ready and willing" to testify publicly as soon as the week of May 18.

"She will stay as long as necessary to answer the Committee's questions, but will not prolong the Committee's efforts further by appearing on two separate occasions when one will suffice," he added.

Gowdy communications director Jamal Ware said that the committee "will take his response into consideration" and determine a path forward.