Recently, the State Department’s Inspector General issued a report that its employees weren’t following federal guidelines regarding the preservation of emails. It wasn’t deliberate, most employees don’t have a lot of clarity regarding what should be saved for the public record and what should not. Yet, the gap is massive. In 2011, 1 billion State Department emails were sent, but less than 62,000 were saved. How did the Inspector General miss the Hillary email trainwreck? Well, as Bloomberg reported, the State Department didn’t have one when she served as Secretary of State.
Moreover, this incident has government accountability groups somewhat hopeful as it raises the issue concerning Inspector General vacancies in government. Then again, not every Inspector General is of a good character:
For five years, including all of Clinton’s time as secretary, the State Department’s Office of Inspector General never had a confirmed inspector. Instead, it was lead by acting inspector Harold W. Geisel, a former ambassador who was accused of being too cozy to agency leadership by transparency groups like the Project on Government Oversight. Throughout the first half of President Obama’s first term, the absence of a State Department Inspector General while internal scandals and Benghazi rocked the department drew bipartisan criticism.
“For no one to raise concerns, it’s almost impossible to believe,” said Danielle Brian, the executive director for POGO.
For years POGO has been highlighting “the frequency and the longevity of vacancies in Inspectors General offices,” as Brian put it. She added that while it was ironic that the Clinton story broke so close to last week's Sunshine Week—a time for open government advocates to raise awareness of transparency issues—it was also an opportunity to highlight the importance of why open government issues like Inspectors General vacancies.
The Inspector General Act of 1978 established independent watchdog offices for every major federal agency, led by an official nominated either by the president or the agency. There are currently 11 inspector general positions open—either because President Obama or the agency have yet to nominate anyone, or because a presidential nominee has yet to be confirmed by Congress.
Some positions have gone without nominees for years—according to a database maintained by POGO, the Department of Interior hasn’t has a permanent inspector, or presidential nominee, since early 2009; the Agency for International Development’s OIG hasn’t had a leader or presidential nominee since 2011. The National Archives and Records Administration hasn’t had an inspector since September 2012, when Inspector General Paul Brachfield was put on administrative leave while being investigated for racial and sexual comments.
The State Department’s permanent inspectors haven’t been above reproach—in 2007 then-IG Howard J. Krongard resigned over allegations that he’d impeded investigations into Blackwater and corruption in Iraq—but the work of vetted and confirmed officials carry more weight.
Even with an interim IG, as Ed wrote over at Hot Air two years ago, several of the investigations from Geisel’s office were being “influenced, manipulated, or simply called off.” In some cases, members of then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s Diplomatic Security Service detail engaged in soliciting prostitutes while on official trips, according the CBS News. Another incident involved an underground drug ring near the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad that provided members of the security detail there with narcotics.
Obviously, with a proper IG in place, the private email address would’ve come up. Also, the fact that she never submitted several donations for her foundation for review might have been picked up as well. Bill Clinton and President Obama had an agreement that the Clinton Foundation would not accept any new donations from most governments while she was Secretary of State, and that any new, or increased, donations would be subject to State Department review. Of course, that didn't really happen, and Clinton has failed to disclose the foundation's donors since 2010, despite a 2008 promise to do so on an annual basis.
Yet, the Obama White House knew that House Republicans uncovered Clinton’s private email address last August, and admitted to corresponding with her using that address. A nugget that some folks in both camps probably wanted to bury at the time since it only adds to the negative narratives that surround the Clintons. Again, having such vacancies for positions that ensure accountability and transparency for this length of time at State–and theory agencies–isn't indicative of an administration that takes either of these issues seriously.