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New IG Report Reveals The State Dept. Claimed Clinton Did Not Use Personal Email

- January 7, 2016

 

Hillary Clinton's Chief Of Staff, Cheryl Mills, Was Aware Of A FOIA Request For All Of Clinton's Emails Addresses That Ultimately Resulted In Zero Responsive Records, Despite Clinton Exclusively Using A Private Email Account

In 2012, Citizens For Responsibility And Ethics (CREW) Sent A Request For Records Relating To All Of Secretary Clinton's Emails. "In December 2012, the nonprofit organization Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) sent a FOIA request to the Department seeking records 'sufficient to show the number of email accounts of, or associated with, Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton, and the extent to which those email accounts are identifiable as those of or associated with Secretary Clinton.'" ("Evaluation Of The Department Of State's FOIA Process For Requests Involving The Office Of The Secretary," Department Of State, 1/7/15, p. 14)

  • CREW Specifically Noted In Its Request That It Was Seeking To Discover How Widespread Was The Use Of Personal Email Accounts By The Heads Of Federal Agencies. "CREW also noted: '[r]ecently it was reported that [EPA] Administrator Jackson established alias email accounts to conduct official government business, including an account under the name 'Richard Windson' which is not publicly attributable to her. . . Through this FOIA, CREW seeks to learn how widespread this practice is, and to evaluate the extent to which it has led to under-inclusive responses to FOIA, discovery, and congressional requests, and a failure to preserve records in a way that complies with the Federal Records Act.'" ("Evaluation Of The Department Of State's FOIA Process For Requests Involving The Office Of The Secretary," Department Of State, 1/7/15, p. 14)

The Inspector General Found Evidence That Secretary Clinton's Chief Of Staff Was Personally Aware Of The FOIA Request. "At the time the request was received, dozens of senior officials throughout the Department, including members of Secretary Clinton's immediate staff, exchanged emails with the Secretary using the personal accounts she used to conduct official business. OIG found evidence that the Secretary's then-Chief of Staff was informed of the request at the time it was received and subsequently tasked staff to follow up." ("Evaluation Of The Department Of State's FOIA Process For Requests Involving The Office Of The Secretary," Department Of State, 1/7/15, p. 15)

  • Cheryl Mills Was Clinton's Chief Of Staff At The State Department. "Cheryl D. Mills, a longtime confidant and adviser to former President Bill Clinton and Hillary Rodham Clinton, served as chief of staff and counselor to Hillary Clinton while she was secretary of state. She recently sat for an interview on several topics, notably her status as unpaid employee who earned outside income during her first several months at the State Department." (Rosalind Helderman, "A Q&A With Former Clinton Chief Of Staff Cheryl Mills," The Washington Post , 10/12/15)

"On May 10, 2013, [The State Department] Replied To CREW, Stating That 'No Records Responsive To Your Request Were Located.'" ("Evaluation Of The Department Of State's FOIA Process For Requests Involving The Office Of The Secretary," Department Of State, 1/7/15, p. 14)

However In March 2015, The New York Times Reported That Clinton Exclusively Used A Personal Email Account To Conduct Government Business As Secretary Of State. "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." (Michael Schmidt, "Hillary Clinton Used Personal Email Account At State Dept., Possibly Breaking Rules," The New York Times , 3/2/15)

"A Lawyer For Mills Did Not Respond To A Request For Comment." (Carol Leonnig and Rosalind Helderman, "State Department Gave 'Inaccurate' Answer On Clinton Email Use, Review Says," The Washington Post , 1/6/15)

Mills Has Previously Been Accused Of Interfering With FOIA Requests And Withholding Records About The Clintons

According To The Wall Street Journal, Hillary Clinton's Staff, Including Cheryl Mills, Interfered With The FOIA Process And Mills Intentionally Had Documents Withheld From Document Production. "When Hillary Clinton was secretary of state, her staff scrutinized politically sensitive documents requested under public-records law and sometimes blocked their release, according to people with direct knowledge of the activities. In one instance, her chief of staff, Cheryl Mills, told State Department records specialists she wanted to see all documents requested on the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, and later demanded that some be held back. In another case, Ms. Mills's staff negotiated with the records specialists over the release of documents about former President Bill Clinton's speaking engagements-also holding some back." (Laura Meckler, "Hillary Clinton's State Department Staff Kept Tight Rein on Records," The Wall Street Journal, 5/19/15)

The Wall Street Journal Goes On To Report That Mills Had Records Related To Bill Clinton's Paid Speeches Withheld F ro m Production. "Mr. Clinton had agreed, when his wife became secretary of state, to submit proposals for his paid speeches to the department for review. Some document requests related to the reviews. On this matter, too, Ms. Mills's office sometimes objected to the release of records FOIA specialists thought ought to be handed over, this fourth person said." (Laura Meckler, "Hillary Clinton's State Department Staff Kept Tight Rein on Records," The Wall Street Journal, 5/19/15)

THE STATE DEPT CONTINUES TO HIDE THE TRUTH ABOUT SECRETARY CLINTON'S FAILED RECORD

The Office Responsible For Processing Requests About The Office Of The Secretary Often Provides Inaccurate Reponses And Claims No Responsive Records Exist When The Records Actually Do

State Department Inspector General: "The Searches Performed By S/ES Do Not Consistently Meet Statutory And Regulatory Requirements For Completeness And Rarely Meet Requirements For Timeliness." ("Evaluation Of The Department Of State's FOIA Process For Requests Involving The Office Of The Secretary," Department Of State, 1/7/15, p. i)

  • "S/ES [Office Of The Secretary, Executive Secretariat] Is Responsible For Coordinating Searches For FOIA Requests For Records Held By The Office Of The Secretary." ("Evaluation Of The Department Of State's FOIA Process For Requests Involving The Office Of The Secretary," Department Of State, 1/7/15, p. i)

"Officials In IPS And Attorneys For The Department Identified Instances In Which S/ES Reported That Records Did Not Exist, Even Though It Was Later Revealed That Such Records Did Exist." ("Evaluation Of The Department Of State's FOIA Process For Requests Involving The Office Of The Secretary," Department Of State, 1/7/15, p. i)

According To The Inspector General, The State Department's Leadership "Has Not Played A Meaningful Role In Overseeing Or Reviewing The Quality Of FOIA Responses." "OIG's past and current work demonstrates that Department leadership has not played a meaningful role in overseeing or reviewing the quality of FOIA responses." ("Evaluation Of The Department Of State's FOIA Process For Requests Involving The Office Of The Secretary," Department Of State, 1/7/15, p. 11)

One Of The State Department's Own Attorneys Called S/ES FOIA Searches "Frequently Deficient" Unless A Lawsuit Is Filed. "One L [Office of the Legal Adviser]attorney characterized routine S/ES searches as frequently deficient, except in instances when FOIA litigation has commenced." ("Evaluation Of The Department Of State's FOIA Process For Requests Involving The Office Of The Secretary," Department Of State, 1/7/15, p. 13)

Inspector General: "These Procedural Weaknesses, Coupled With The Lack Of Oversight By Leadership And Failure To Routinely Search Emails, Appear To Contribute To Inaccurate And Incomplete Responses." ("Evaluation Of The Department Of State's FOIA Process For Requests Involving The Office Of The Secretary," Department Of State, 1/7/15, p. 13)

State Department Attorneys Noted Evidence That Responsive Records Existed Even Though S/ES Had Said No Responsive Records Exist. "L attorneys and officials in IPS recalled several instances when S/ES searches have yielded inaccurate or incomplete results, though they were unable to determine the magnitude of this problem. The attorneys also noted that FOIA requesters have been able to produce evidence of the existence of records responsive to a FOIA request despite the attestation by S/ES that no responsive records existed." ("Evaluation Of The Department Of State's FOIA Process For Requests Involving The Office Of The Secretary," Department Of State, 1/7/15, p. 13)

S/ES Has Not Taken Any Corrective Actions To Ensure The Accuracy And Completeness Of FOIA Searches. ("Evaluation Of The Department Of State's FOIA Process For Requests Involving The Office Of The Secretary," Department Of State, 1/7/15, p. 13)

S/ES Routinely Does Not Follow Requirements To Search Email

"S/ES Rarely Searched Electronic Email Accounts Prior To 2011 And Still Does Not Consistently Search These Accounts, Even When Relevant Records Are Likely To Be Uncovered Through Such A Search." ("Evaluation Of The Department Of State's FOIA Process For Requests Involving The Office Of The Secretary," Department Of State, 1/7/15, p. 8)

  • "For Example, S/ES Has Not Searched Email Accounts For Requests Seeking All 'Correspondence' Between The Secretary Of State And Another Party." ("Evaluation Of The Department Of State's FOIA Process For Requests Involving The Office Of The Secretary," Department Of State, 1/7/15, p. 8)

The Overseeing Director For S/ES FOIA Requests Could Not Recall Any Emails From Private Accounts Being Provided To Him Since He Started In 2006. "The Deputy Director, who has handled FOIA responsibilities for S/ES since 2006, could not recall any instances of emails from personal accounts being provided to him in response to a search tasked to an S/ES component." ("Evaluation Of The Department Of State's FOIA Process For Requests Involving The Office Of The Secretary," Department Of State, 1/7/15, p. 10)

The State Department's FOIA Office Has Been Chronically Understaffed And Clinton's Use Of Private Email Has Further Hampered The Public's Ability To Access Public Records In A Timely Manner

The State Department "Rarely Meets" The Statutory Deadline To Process Requests "Even For Simple Requests. "FOIA requires agencies to respond to FOIA requests within 20 working days. However, the Department rarely meets this statutory deadline, even for simple requests." ("Evaluation Of The Department Of State's FOIA Process For Requests Involving The Office Of The Secretary," Department Of State, 1/7/15, p. 6)

  • The Average FOIA Processing Time Across The Federal Government Is 20.5 Days For Simple Requests, But The State Department Average Is Four And A Half Times Longer, 91 Days. "In FY 2014, the average processing time for simple requests across the Federal Government was 20.5 days, and the Government-wide average for complex requests was slightly less than 119 days. In contrast, the Department took four and one-half times as long-an average of 91 days to process simple requests and almost 535 days to process complex requests." ("Evaluation Of The Department Of State's FOIA Process For Requests Involving The Office Of The Secretary," Department Of State, 1/7/15, p. 6)

"The Department Has Been Particularly Late In Meeting FOIA's Timelines For Requests Involving The Office Of The Secretary." ("Evaluation Of The Department Of State's FOIA Process For Requests Involving The Office Of The Secretary," Department Of State, 1/7/15, p. 6)

  • Only 14 Of The 417 FOIA Requests Related To The Last Four Secretaries Of State Were Completed Within The Statutory Timeframe. "Table 1, which is based on IPS data provided to OIG, shows the processing time for FOIA requests that were tasked to S/ES and involved the current and past four Secretaries of State. Only 14 of the 417 FOIA requests were completed within the statutory timeframe. Fifty-five of the requests took more than 500 days to process. The majority of the requests, 243 of 417, are still pending; several of these pending requests were received years ago." ("Evaluation Of The Department Of State's FOIA Process For Requests Involving The Office Of The Secretary," Department Of State, 1/7/15, p. 7)

One-Third Of The State Department's FOIA Processing Office's Staff Has Been Forced To Help Process Hillary Clinton's Private Emails, Leaving Other FOIA Work Chronically Understaffed. "In 2012, OIG reported that one of the key reasons for the timeliness problem was that a relatively small number of IPS staff were processing the heavy volume of Department-wide requests. Since then, as shown in Figure 2, FOIA requests have increased, yet the Department has allocated fewer employees to handle them. According to IPS, some of these employees have been assigned hundreds of requests each and face severe challenges in properly managing their caseloads. Furthermore, approximately one-third of IPS staff have been assigned to work on one FOIA case in litigation, Leopold v. Department of State, in which the court ordered a rolling production of the approximately 55,000 pages of former Secretary Clinton's emails that she provided to the Department in December 2014, while other FOIA work is understaffed." ("Evaluation Of The Department Of State's FOIA Process For Requests Involving The Office Of The Secretary," Department Of State, 1/7/15, p. 7-8)

There Is Only One Full Time Employee That Is Responsible For Processing FOIA Requests Related To The Office Of The Secretary. " S/ES employs one FOIA Analyst, who reports to the GS-14 Deputy Director of Correspondence, Records, & Staffing (Deputy Director)." ("Evaluation Of The Department Of State's FOIA Process For Requests Involving The Office Of The Secretary," Department Of State, 1/7/15, p. 5)

  • The FOIA Analyst For S/ES Reported Learning How To Perform A FOIA Search From On-The-Job Training." "Although other Department components, such as the Bureaus of Diplomatic Security and International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, have their own written FOIA guidance or standard operating procedures, S/ES does not. … The FOIA Analyst for S/ES reported learning how to perform a FOIA search from on-the-job training." ("Evaluation Of The Department Of State's FOIA Process For Requests Involving The Office Of The Secretary," Department Of State, 1/7/15, p. 11)

"Little Progress Has Been Made To Date To Resolve The Personnel Shortage." "In late September 2015, the Under Secretary for Management decided to detail staff already within the Department to IPS. However, little progress has been made to date to resolve the personnel shortage." ("Evaluation Of The Department Of State's FOIA Process For Requests Involving The Office Of The Secretary," Department Of State, 1/7/15, p. 8)


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