Memo: Since 2009, The State Department Required Outgoing Officials To Turn Over Emails

Chuck Ross Investigative Reporter
Font Size:

A memo sent to State Department officials last year indicates that the agency had a policy in place as early as 2009 requiring out-going officials to turn over email records when they leave office.

Hillary Clinton flouted that policy when she left her position as secretary of state in February 2013. Clinton exclusively used a personal email account hosted on a private server during her time at the agency and only turned those records over a few months ago.

“As a supplement to existing policy, and consistent with the policy in place since 2009, it is important to capture electronically the e-mail accounts of the senior officials…as they depart their positions,” reads an Aug. 28, 2014, memo entitled “Senior Officials’ Records Management Responsibilities” sent by Patrick Kennedy, undersecretary of management.

Clinton held on to her emails until Dec. 2014, nearly two years after leaving her position. When she did finally turn the records over, she did so only at the State Department’s request and as a House committee investigating Benghazi sought them.

Cause of Action, a nonprofit government watchdog group, pointed out the Kennedy memo, which was included in a list of documents it received in response to a March 17 letter calling on the State Department to investigate whether Clinton turned over all official government emails sent to and from her personal account.

“The State Department should have had possession of Secretary Clinton’s email records when Mrs. Clinton left office,” Cause of Action executive director Dan Epstein said in a statement. “The fact that they did not have possession of her emails raises still pressing questions.”

Kennedy’s memo summarized policies following an overhaul undertaken in 2013 to improve the agency’s email archiving system and to review its “electronic records life cycle management.”

By delaying turning over her emails, Clinton ensured that the records could not be made available to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests and other inquiries, such as those from the various committees investigating Benghazi.

Dan Metcalfe, who served from 1981 to 2007 as director of the Justice Department’s Office of Information and Privacy, where he oversaw FOIA implementation throughout the executive branch, says that Clinton flouted “distinct rules” in place since 2009.

“She had an obligation at the time of her departure in 2013 to own up to the fact that she had this enormous corpus of official records that were not within the four walls of the State Department, so to speak,” Metcalfe told The Daily Caller. “How she managed to avoid that obligation, atop the others, is a haunting mystery as well.”

“The ball was certainly dropped when she started out. But it also was dropped when she walked out the door,” said Metcalfe, who now teaches law at American University’s Washington College of Law.

The State Department did not respond to a request for comment.

Follow Chuck on Twitter