The State Department says it has more than 81,000 state.gov emails from a top Clinton aide at the State Department despite the agency’s past claims that it did not have such records.
The discrepancy, which has led to accusations that the State Department is either “lying” or “incompetent,” is laid out in the agency’s Aug. 13 response in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by Gawker.
In Sept. 2012, the website filed a FOIA request for emails Clinton aide Philippe Reines sent to reporters at various news agencies. The State Department responded in July 2013, saying that it found no responsive records.
Gawker followed up with an appeal saying it is “difficult to believe” that Reines sent no emails on his state.gov account given that some of his emails had already been published at the time.
Gawker is only now receiving a response because it filed a lawsuit in light of the revelation that Clinton used a personal email account and maintained a private server during her stint at State.
In the filing, the State Department said that it has found “approximately 5.5 gigabytes of data containing 81,159 emails of varying length” from Reines’ account.
Of those, “22% of the 81,159 emails may be responsive” to Gawker’s specific request, the State Department stated.
“Therefore, the Department believes that it will need to conduct a line- by-line review of an estimated 17,855 emails for applicable FOIA exemptions. Moreover, some of the responsive records may need to be referred to other agencies for consultation or processing.”
State’s discrepancy raises significant questions about how the agency handles and responds to FOIA requests.
Do workers in the FOIA department conduct an independent search for the records under request? Or does the FOIA department contact the individuals whose records are being requested? Figuring out how that process works would shed light on who is responsible for failing to comply with federal law governing FOIA.
The Daily Caller has repeatedly inquired with the State Department about how the agency handles FOIA requests. Gawker is not the only outlet to have been falsely told by the State Department that it does not have records responsive to its inquiries.
TheDC has filed a FOIA request to determine how the State Department processed several other FOIA requests for Clinton’s emails. The agency has not responded to questions about whether staffers at the FOIA office ever contacted Clinton or her staff when trying to fulfill the several FOIA requests for her emails that were submitted while she was in office.
A spokesman for the State Department told The Daily Caller Monday that the agency does not comment on pending litigation.
Gawker’s J.K. Trotter, who is covering his outlet’s lawsuit, asserted that State’s initial denial is evidence of either “willful incompetence” or “the result of someone else’s conscious effort, to stonewall news outlets.”
Likewise, Huffington Post editor Nick Baumann tweeted that the State Department is either “incompetent” or “lying.
“There are no other possibilities,” he wrote.
State’s attorneys said that the agency will likely produce the first batch of Reines’ emails by Sept. 30. The aide has also provided the State Department with 20 boxes of emails from his personal email account.