In 2003, then-Sen. Hillary Clinton complained about the Bush administration’s lack of transparency and cautioned that its refusal to turn over documents related to 9/11 raised suspicion that it had something to hide.
But the same can be said — indeed, has been said — about Clinton’s shady handling of the private email account and private server she used as secretary of state.
Clinton’s records and emails were subpoenaed by a House committee nine days after the Sept. 11, 2012, attack at Benghazi. The State Department made some Clinton records available, but not her emails. By maintaining a private account, Clinton also avoided making her emails available to public records requests.
After news broke this month of Clinton’s private email and server use, House Select Committee on Benghazi chairman Trey Gowdy subpoenaed Clinton’s emails related to Libya as well as her server.
While Clinton has claimed that she has turned over all of her official government emails in December, she has also indicated that she will not allow a third-party to double-check to make sure she has not withheld official records. It has also been revealed that at some point Clinton’s team deleted emails they claimed were her private communications, and also wiped her server clean.
That level of secrecy is ironic given Clinton’s comments about the Bush administration at an Oct. 29, 2003, conference at the New American Strategies Conference.
“In taking their action to evade or avoid providing information, the administration unnecessarily raises the suspicion that it has something to hide, that it might use the claim of national security to hide mistakes that are literally questions of life and death for Americans,” Clinton said.
She was criticizing the Bush administration for dragging its feet in turning over documents to the 9/11 Commission, led by former New Jersey Gov. Thomas Kean.
“Over this weekend, we learned that the 9/11 Commission, an independent commission, charged with the important task of investigating how 9/11 happened, complains that it is not getting access to all the documents it needs,” Clinton said, adding that the information was not only important for the Commission “but for these larger questions about access to information and how this government maintains the trust of the American people.”
“The lack of transparency on the part of the Bush administration has forced Governor Kean, former Republican Governor of New Jersey, to threaten subpoenas,” Clinton said. “This should not be happening.”
Clinton also offered philosophical musings on the value of transparency in government.
“If we are to lead this world, commensurate with the power we possess, the ideals we proclaim, into a free and hopefully democratic future, we must first be consistent in the principles we champion and pursue.
“Nowhere is this more important than in the transparency of government decisions. Without such transparency, how can leaders be accountable? How can people be informed?
“We must always be vigilant against letting our desire to keep information confidential to be used as a pretext for classifying information that is more about political embarrassment than national security.
“It is a propensity of power that must be guarded against.”
There are many theories now about why Clinton has refused to be completely open about her private email and private server. She and her small group of handlers have said she has taken unprecedented steps in turning over 55,000 emails to help the State Department maintain its records. She has also said that many of the emails sent from that account are private and that she, like anyone else, should not have to make personal communiques open to public scrutiny.
Other Clinton insiders have said that the quest for her emails is a witch-hunt because they are probably mundane and not damning.
But other recent reports — such as from Gawker and ProPublica — have offered competing and much more troubling theories. Both of those outlets collaborated on an investigation which revealed that Clinton was receiving what amounted to intelligence reports from Sidney Blumenthal, a longtime Clinton insider who was vetoed by the White House to work in the State Department.
The reports compiled by Blumenthal and sent to Clinton included detailed information about geopolitical happenings in Libya, Algeria, Egypt, Europe and elsewhere. Gawker also reported on Monday that Blumenthal essentially lobbied Clinton on behalf of a political party in Georgia allied with Russian president Vladimir Putin.
Lobbying in that manner may have violated the Foreign Agents Registration Act, which requires individuals and firms who lobby on behalf of foreign interests to register.