The State Department’s chief freedom of information officer admitted during testimony at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Wednesday that it is “not acceptable” for employees at the agency to use private email accounts and private servers in the way that former Secretary Hillary Clinton did.
The official, Joyce Barr, also agreed that “in theory” she would be concerned about any official that set up such a system in a “premeditated and deliberate” attempt to avoid complying with laws and regulations.
“What really bothers me is when people plan in a pre-meditated and deliberate sort of way to avoid the Freedom of Information Act and federal government requirements that require them to make public information available to the public,” Texas Sen. John Cornyn told Barr during the hearing.
He asked her whether she was concerned that Clinton’s server was left vulnerable to cyber-attack from foreign governments and other hackers.
“Perhaps,” Barr said, while nodding.
Clinton not only exclusively used a private email account to send and receive personal and private emails during her four years as secretary, but she also operated a private email server that was registered to her Chappaqua, N.Y home. Clinton deleted her emails and reportedly wiped her server clean after she turned records over to the State Department in December.
“Are you concerned … that there would be a premeditated and deliberate attempt by a high-level official in the United States government to set up a personal email system in a way that would circumvent all the laws that Congress has passed to enforce the public’s right to know, including the Freedom of Information laws?” Cornyn asked.
“In theory, yes,” Barr said.
North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis also pressed Barr on the issue.
The Republican presented her with a scenario of a mid-level department employee who was found to have used a private email account and private server in the way Clinton did.
“Would they be subject to any disciplinary action?” Tillis asked.
“I think the message is loud and clear that is not acceptable,” Barr replied.
In his questioning, Cornyn broached a topic that could elucidate just how far Clinton went to hide the existence of her off-the-books email system.
He asked Barr how the State Department’s FOIA office handles the requests it receives.
The agency has responded to various news outlets’ requests for those documents by claiming that they did not exist.
It is unclear whether the FOIA office searches its own systems for such records or if it reaches out to the employee subject to the request to obtain the documents. (RELATED: How Did The State Department Respond To Open Records Requests For Hillary’s Emails?)
If the FOIA office asked Clinton or her staff for such records, the failure to produce them would indicate that they intended to hide them from public view.
Barr evaded Cornyn’s question.
In March, The Daily Caller filed a FOIA request for the FOIA offices’ processing notes.