State Dept: 75 years to review Hillary e-mails "not an outlandish estimation"

The Most Transparent Administration Evah™ wants us all to know that it will be happy to comply with Freedom of Information Act requests from the RNC regarding Hillary Clinton’s e-mails. And if the RNC has 75 years to spare, they can reap the benefits of transparency. Earlier this week, the State Department told a court that it would take that long to review e-mails from Hillary and her team to properly release them, making a mockery of both its promises of transparency and the FOIA process.

When challenged on this by an extremely skeptical reporter, State Department spokesman Mark Toner insisted that 75 years is “not an outlandish estimate” (via Leah Barkoukis):

QUESTION: And the other one, the RNC FOIA request that you guys say it’s going to take 75 years to complete?

MR TONER: And I actually did a little digging on this. And I mean, I’ll – I mean, that is an incredible number. But – so I can’t comment specifically because it’s a matter of ongoing litigation, but I would ask you guys to look at the court filings that do provide the details on why we arrived at that figure. I mean, it’s an enormous amount of emails, or rather – sorry – it’s an enormous amount of FOIA requests and very broad and very complex.

QUESTION: Well, yeah. But this stuff would be released sooner than 75 years just under the regular records, wouldn’t it?

MR TONER: Again —

QUESTION: I mean, Foreign Relations of the United States, the volume – I mean, that’s longer than most classifications last until.

MR TONER: Well —

QUESTION: I mean, a lot of the stuff that’s classified is for only 20 years. Seventy-five years seems —

MR TONER: Again, I’d refer you to the court filing. It’s a very broad range involving a number of people over a period of, I think, four years. And it’s not an outlandish estimation, believe it or not.


QUESTION: It’s not outlandish? (Laughter.) I mean, it just – I mean, if something —

MR TONER: I’ll refer you to the – I refer you to the court filing. It gives the rationale behind this estimate.

State’s lawyers filed the argument with the court last week, CNN reported, calculating the man-hours needed to provide a full review of the documents:

State Department lawyers argue in a filing made last Wednesday that gathering 450,000 pages of records requested for former Clinton aides Cheryl Mills and Jacob Sullivan and top State Department official Patrick Kennedy would take three quarters of a century.

“Given the Department’s current FOIA workload and the complexity of these documents, it can process about 500 pages a month, meaning it would take approximately 16-and-2/3 years to complete the review of the Mills documents, 33-and-1/3 years to finish the review of the Sullivan documents, and 25 years to wrap up the review of the Kennedy documents — or 75 years in total,” the State Department argued in the filing.

A full time employee will work 2,080 hours a year. Subtracting 96 hours for holidays, 80 hours for paid vacation, and another 40 for paid sick time, that works out to 1,864 hours a year. Divided by twelve, that comes to just over 155 man-hours a month. The State Department is arguing that it can only clear three pages for release in one man-hour, an absurd calculation, especially given that much of these will be non-sensitive materials. In fact, according to Hillary Clinton and the White House, they expect that all of it will be non-sensitive – so what’s the hold-up?

This is nothing but a stall tactic, and one so absurdly obvious that Toner couldn’t pass it off without reporters laughing out loud at it. Even classified material gets released after 25 years; information at the highest classification levels are scheduled for declassification after 50 years. The argument is ludicrous, and so self-serving as to make a mockery out of accountability. The point of the FOIA process is to hold the current government accountable, not previous administrations. If State had its way, reporters would have to wait another six months to  be allowed to dig into the diplomatic communications that preceded … Pearl Harbor.

It seems pretty clear that the Obama administration has something to hide in these e-mails. Whether that’s for their own protection or to shield Hillary Clinton is anyone’s guess, but it may well be both.