Vox: Clinton Emails Show Government Is Too Transparent

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Rachel Stoltzfoos Staff Reporter
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Following another email dump that makes Hillary Clinton look bad, Vox is arguing federal transparency laws allow the public too much access to government officials’ communication.

Clinton “suffered” last week because journalists “spun a scandal” out of emails that should never have been made public in the first place, Matt Yglesias writes, referring to news that top Clinton Foundation aide Doug Band lobbied her Department of State for a special diplomatic passport.

“If Band had made a phone call instead of sending an email, Hillary Clinton would have been spared the bad — and totally unjustifiably so — news cycle she suffered last week,” he writes. “Which is why prudent staffers want to do basically everything, no matter how innocent, over the phone.”

Forcing public officials to turn over all electronic communications is unfair in an age where so much of the talking is done online, he argues, because it forces them to take the frank conversations they need to have offline or risk unwanted public scrutiny. And that maneuvering unnecessarily makes their job more difficult.

It’s strange to hear a journalist argue “Against transparency,” as the piece is titled, but as someone pointed out on Twitter, this is coming from the same journalist who wrote “Emailgate is a political problem for Hillary Clinton, but it also reveals why she’d be an effective president.”

Although these laws allowed the public access to tens of thousands of Clinton emails that continue to dominate much of the election conversation, Yglesias says they don’t make sense and are not actually in the public interest.

“It’s impossible to write about this issue in today’s environment without thinking of Clinton’s use of a private email account while serving as secretary of state,” he writes. “But while the question of whether she appropriately followed the existing laws is obviously important, so is the question of whether the laws make sense. And the answer is: no. Treating email as public by default rather than private like phone calls does not serve the public interest.”

The executive director of the Sunlight Foundation, a nonpartisan government transparency group, called the piece “unbelievably wrong” in a tweet Monday.

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