The email scandal surrounding Hillary Clinton's time at the State Department is only getting worse, with new revelations she set up a "home brew" email server at her house and went around federal records laws by conducting all of her official State Department business through a personal email account.
In light of Clinton's latest scandal, the White House is attempting to justify the use of a personal email account while distancing itself from the practice.
"That I can tell you is that very specific guidance has been given to agencies all across the government, which is specifically that employees of the Obama administration should use their official email accounts when they’re conducting official government business. However, when there are situations where personal email accounts are used, it is important for those records to be preserved consistent with the Federal Records Act," White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said yesterday at the daily briefing. "the policy, as a general matter, allows individuals to use their personal email address as long as those emails are maintained and sent to the State Department -- which, if you ask Secretary Clinton’s team, that’s what they completed in the last month or two."
But a look at the history of Obama's "most transparent administration in history" reveals the use of private email accounts to evade federal records laws is and has been standard practice. The Obama administration is notorious for using personal e-mail accounts, and even fake alias accounts, to conduct official government business as a way to avoid Freedom of Information Act laws and congressional investigations.
Former head of tax exempt groups at the IRS Lois Lerner, who was a key player in targeting conservatives between 2010 and 2012, used a personal email account to conduct official government business.
"Through the course of the investigation, we have learned that you sent documents related to your official dendrites from your official IRS e-mail account to an msn.com e-mail account labeled 'Lois Home.' This raises some serious questions concerning your use of a non-official e-mail account to conduct official business. Accordingly, we write to request documents related to your official duties that are housed in non-official e-mail accounts," former Chairman of the House Oversight Committee Darrell Issa and former Subcommittee Chairman Jim Jordan sent in a letter to Lerner last year. "The use of non-official e-mail accounts to conduct official business implicates federal records requirements. Use of a non-official e-mail account to conduct government business raises the prospect that records -- as defined by the Federal Records Act -- are not captured by official government e-mail archiving systems. It also creates difficulties in fulfilling the IRS' obligations under the Freedom of Information Act and other litigation requests. You use of non-official e-mail account also frustrates congressional oversight obligations."
Are we really surprised she plead the fifth?
Department of Justice:
During Operation Fast and Furious, former Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer got caught forwarding and editing official information about the scandal to his personal email account. Former DOJ Civil Rights attorney and current Labor Secretary Tom Perez used his personal email account during his time at DOJ for official business. From 2013:
Today, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa sent a letter to Department of Labor nominee Thomas Perez reminding him that has he not met his legal obligations to produce documents related to official business in his personal e-mail account pursuant to a subpoena issued by the committee. Documents viewed by the committee and an admission from the Justice Department show that Perez used his private e-mail account to leak non-public information about official business outside of compliance with the Federal Records Act.
“You have a personal responsibility to comply with the Committee’s subpoena,” wrote Chairman Issa in today’s letter. “To date, you have not personally complied with the Committee’s request or the terms of the subpoena. In addition, you have not personally certified the veracity of the statements made by the Department in this matter and you have not certified that the Department’s assertion about the volume of responsive communications is accurate and complete. The Department has an unfortunate history of misleading Congress, and you have a personal record of providing incomplete testimony to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights… Given this previous experience, the Committee requires the production of all responsive records to ascertain the true degree of your compliance with the Federal Records Act.”
Environmental Protection Agency:
Former EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson engaged in the practice of conducting official government business through a personal email account under a made up name thousands of times. From National Review's Chris Horner:
Not one but two former fairly senior EPA officials have contacted me to provide the alias used by Obama’s EPA administrator, Lisa Jackson, to keep her mail secret. I was told it was “one of the alternate email addresses she used.”
Ms. Jackson is the “eco-warrior”, “most progressive EPA chief in history” — pushing Obama’s backdoor march (other ways “of skinning the cat”) toward cap-and-trade. Or, as you may come to know her, “Richard Windsor.”
This morning, we proceeded with a request under the Freedom of Information Act (in-boxes don’t close on federal holidays) in order to find out what she was saying in private about her radical plan to avoid public scrutiny. “Richard Windsor.” That is the name — sorry, one of the alias names — used by Obama’s radical EPA chief to keep her email from those who ask for it.
Most recently, a federal judge ruled the EPA has deliberately delayed or deliberately failed to comply with information requests made by conservatives.
A federal judge warned the EPA on Monday not to discriminate against conservative groups in how it responds to open-records requests, issuing a legal spanking to the agency that he said may have lied to the court and showed “apathy and carelessness” in carrying out the law.
Judge Royce C. Lamberth said he couldn’t prove that officials intentionally destroyed documents, but he described as “absurdity” the way the Environmental Protection Agency handled a Freedom of Information Act request from the Landmark Legal Foundation and then the court case stemming from it — including late last week admitting that it misled the court about how it went about searching for documents.
In a scorching 25-page opinion, the judge accused the agency of insulting him by first claiming it had conducted a full search for records, then years later retracted that claim in a footnote to another document without giving any explanation for how it erred.
“The recurrent instances of disregard that EPA employees display for FOIA obligations should not be tolerated by the agency,” the judge said. “This court would implore the executive branch to take greater responsibility in ensuring that all EPA FOIA requests — regardless of the political affiliation of the requester — are treated with equal respect and conscientiousness.”
Department of Homeland Security:
In 2013, former Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano claimed she doesn't do email or have an email address because "it's a time suck." She made this claim right in the middle of the Fast and Furious gunrunning scandal, when Congressional investigators were looking for answers, and shortly after the Department was directly tied into the tactics of the fatal operation.
On how she thinks about email:
"I think email just sucks up time ... in a job like mine [it's] inefficient."
On how she gets information without it:
"I have a variety of ways. Uh, uh, I'm constantly getting reports and emails throughout the day that come in through my headquarter staff that get to me. ... I do a lot of my own work by phone."
On the last time she used email:
"I stopped using email when I was the Attorney General of Arizona. Because I was just getting, I was starting to get hundreds and hundreds of things all the time and I was like: 'Why I am spending the time scrolling through this and responding to stuff that doesn't really need to be responded to?' "
On how email can come back to bite you:
"I also don't like the process where people could send you an email and then say: 'See, you were told, or you know this.' And then it comes back two years later to say: 'Hey you got this email among the thousands you got every day.' "
In other words, Napolitano didn't want to be held responsible for her statements or what she was told. Whether she really didn't have an email account is still up for question and there's no proof at this point she was using private email, but I don't buy it. After all, Hillary Clinton once said she doesn't do email, too.
The New York Times reported earlier this week former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton went around federal records laws by conducting all, not some, all, of her government business through a personal email account.
Hillary Rodham Clinton exclusively used a personal email account to conduct government business as secretary of state, State Department officials said, and may have violated 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.
It was only two months ago, in response to a new State Department effort to comply with federal record-keeping practices, that Mrs. Clinton’s advisers reviewed tens of thousands of pages of her personal emails and decided which ones to turn over to the State Department. All told, 55,000 pages of emails were given to the department. Mrs. Clinton stepped down from the secretary’s post in early 2013.
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.
To make matters worse, Clinton went out of her way to make sure the server she used for that account was one she could control from home.
The computer server that transmitted and received Hillary Rodham Clinton's emails — on a private account she used exclusively for official business when she was secretary of state — traced back to an Internet service registered to her family's home in Chappaqua, New York, according to Internet records reviewed by The Associated Press.
The highly unusual practice of a Cabinet-level official physically running her own email would have given Clinton, the presumptive Democratic presidential candidate, impressive control over limiting access to her message archives.
These are just some of many examples and surely there are many more instances of public officials evading federal records laws that we just don't know about yet. A culture of non-transparency and corruption doesn't stop with Hillary Clinton, but in fact can be found in nearly every major federal government agency the Obama administration has turned into a political tool to unilaterally change policy over the past six years.The questions now are 1) Will anyone be held accountable for breaking federal records laws? 2) Will the culture change?
Sadly, the answer to both is probably no.