The State Department’s independent watchdog released a report that was sharply critical of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s decision to use a personal email server, saying that department officials would not and should not have approved her arrangement if they had been consulted.
The report contradicts Mrs. Clinton’s longstanding argument that her exclusive use of a private email server while running the State Department was allowed as a matter of policy. Though the private email wasn’t forbidden by law, the inspector general concluded that it was clear department policy that employees should use government systems for work.
“Department employees must use agency-authorized information systems to conduct normal day-to-day operations because the use of non- Departmental systems creates significant security risks,” the report concludes.
“As this report makes clear, Hillary Clinton’s use of personal email was not unique, and she took steps that went much further than others to appropriately preserve and release her records,” spokesman Brian Fallon said.
Here are five new revelations from the report:
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1. State found another missing email.
Mrs. Clinton turned over about 30,000 emails to the State Department nearly two years after leaving office and certified under oath that those were all the records that she had in her possession. Her attorneys erased another 30,000 that they deemed purely personal. Some records from the beginning of Mrs. Clinton’s term were also missing. (You can search the Clinton email database here.)
But the State Department inspector general uncovered another email exchange between Mrs. Clinton and top aide Huma Abedin where she suggested that the Secretary of State get a government email account to stop her private email account from being shuffled into the department’s spam filters. The email exchange was never turned over to the State Department by Mrs. Clinton but was uncovered elsewhere in the department’s systems.
“Let’s get separate address or device but I don’t want any risk of the personal being accessible,” Mrs. Clinton replies, showing concern for her private email.
The State Department did not say why the email was not released as part of the 55,000 made public — only that it posted all the emails that it received, aside from a handful deemed highly classified. A spokesman for Mrs. Clinton didn’t respond to a request for comment.
“Why we wouldn’t have it from Secretary Clinton in what she turned over, I would have to refer you to her and her team on that,” a department official said.
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2. There were intrusion attempts made against Mrs. Clinton’s server.
In two instances, the inspector general finds that Mrs. Clinton’s staff were concerned about cybersecurity and email security. In one instance, the inspector general found that in 2011, a technical staffer wrote about the home email server that “someone was trying to hack us and while they did not get in i [didn’t] want to let them have the chance to.” The same staffer wrote later that day: “We were attacked again so I shut [the server] down.” In another instance in 2011, two of Mrs. Clinton’s staff wrote that they were concerned someone was “hacking into her email.”
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3. State Department staff raised concerns about her email arrangement.
A number of State Department officials raised concerns that Mrs. Clinton’s private email server was not in line with recordkeeping guidelines. According to the report, two staff members Bureau of Information Resource Management discussed concerns with the director of the bureau about whether Mrs. Clinton’s emails should be archived.
“According to the staff member, the Director stated that the Secretary’s personal system had been reviewed and approved by Department legal staff and that the matter was not to be discussed any further,” the report noted, adding: “the Director stated that the mission of S/ES-IRM is to support the Secretary and instructed the staff never to speak of the Secretary’s personal email system again.”
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4. Clinton and her aides refused to cooperate with the investigation.
Mrs. Clinton and her top staff declined to cooperate with the State Department inspector general report. Those staff members include Cheryl Mills, Jake Sullivan and Huma Abedin, as well as technical staff and other former department employees. A State Department official said that there was no legal obligation for ex-employees to cooperate with an inspector general investigation.
Top aides to Mrs. Clinton are expected to testify in a civil trial against the State Department, and a judge will decide soon if Mrs. Clinton will testify as well. Top aides have also been interviewed by the FBI as part of an investigation into potential mishandling of classified information.
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5. Colin Powell also exclusively used private email.
The State Department inspector general report said while the occasional use of private email by department employees was widespread, it only found three instances of State Department employees exclusively using private email.
The three officials include Mrs. Clinton, former Secretary of State Colin Powell, and former U.S. ambassador to Kenya Jonathan Scott Gration. The inspector general found that “information security policies were very fluid during Secretary Powell’s tenure and that the Department was not aware at the time of the magnitude of the security risks associated with information technology.”
In the case of Mr. Gration, the department “initiated disciplinary proceedings against him” over his continued use of a private email server despite warnings from department officials not to do so.