Ever wonder why multiple investigations of the Benghazi attack failed to turn up much from Hillary Clinton’s e-mails? So did the House Select Committee investigating the attack on the facility and the failures that led to it. To their surprise, the Secretary of State had conducted all of her e-mail on a private account rather than an official State Department account — and her aides had carefully culled only the e-mails they wanted investigators to see. The New York Times’ Michael Schmidt dropped that bombshell earlier this evening:
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. …
The existence of Mrs. Clinton’s personal email account was discovered as a House committee investigating the attack on the American Consulate in Benghazi sought correspondence between Mrs. Clinton and her aides about the attack.
Two weeks ago, Mrs. Clinton provided the committee with about 300 emails — amounting to roughly 900 pages — about the Benghazi attacks that Mrs. Clinton’s aides had found among her personal emails.
Federal law requires government officials to conduct business communications on official media, for lots of good reasons. First, it allows for archival without the officials in question having an opportunity to “sanitize” the record. Second — and this is pretty important for the diplomatic corps — it allows the government to protect against intrusion from other nations and entities. Hillary’s practice of doing business through private servers bypassed both of those key protections.
Zeke Miller wonders just how many people in the White House had to know about this:
So were Obama admin officials just okay with emailing Clinton's private address? did that really never raise flags? http://t.co/fdxONQGRuX
— Zeke Miller (@ZekeJMiller) March 3, 2015
Presumably they had to have received continuous Hillary Clinton communications from an e-mail address that didn’t have “state.gov” or something similar as the domain name. It would be absolutely unbelievable that no one would have asked about this issue during her four years at the helm of the State Department. Nor would it have escaped their attention as to the implications of this practice.
The Huffington Post’s Sam Stein is wondering what difference this will make for Hillary backers with a track record on this issue:
CREW, now run by Hillary backing David Brock, was quite critical of the Bush adm for private email use http://t.co/4gNZMKtXsG
— Sam Stein (@samsteinhp) March 3, 2015
In those cases, though, they conducted most of their business through their official e-mail accounts. According to the New York Times, Hillary Clinton never used the official e-mail system at all. When the time came to produce e-mails for the Benghazi probe, her aides “found” 300 or so that they chose to reveal years after the event — with no guarantee that these represent the entire record, or even a significant portion of it.
Clearly, Hillary had contempt for the mechanisms that provide transparency and accountability for government operations and officials. If any of her communications involved sensitive or classified material, Hillary may have broken more laws than just those dealing with archival of official records. This could very well be huge, and not just in relation to the 2016 election. Just what may have been gleaned by hostile intelligence services? What else may Hillary have been doing while at State? Congress needs to get to the bottom of this ASAP — and the Benghazi select committee should put Hillary Clinton under oath to demand answers about this.
Update: Jackie Kucinich, senior politics editor at The Daily Beast, nails this:
This NYT -Hillary story is a testament how @TGowdySC is running the Benghazi committee -it's been a serious endeavor, credit where it's due
— Jackie Kucinich (@JFKucinich) March 3, 2015
Remember when some in the media laughed at the idea of a Benghazi select committee? They’re not laughing now. Neither is Hillary or the White House.
I wonder how many other Obama administration officials are using private e-mails? How many private e-mail addresses received Hillary’s communications?
Update: Just to be clear, I’ve changed the above to “some in the media laughed…” Not everyone in the media was laughing at the Benghazi probe — for instance, Jackie herself.
Update: Chances of this being an oversight are nil:
— Chris Cillizza (@TheFix) March 3, 2015
The day of her Senate confirmation hearing? Give her this much credit: her strategy to avoid oversight and transparency may be the most coherent and well-executed strategy from State in the entire Obama era.