News & Politics

Devastating State Dept. Audit Faults Hillary Clinton for Violating Email Rules

(AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

In a detailed internal audit released Wednesday, the State Department watchdog found that Hillary Clinton disregarded federal records rules and cybersecurity guidelines by using a private email account and server.

State’s inspector general found that Clinton compromised national security by flouting these rules, resulting in at least two attacks on her unsecured server.

The audit also found that the exclusive use of a personal email server for all State Department business was not approved by agency officials. Also, at least twice, her staff brushed aside specific concerns that she wasn’t following federal rules.

Clinton has long maintained that her use of a private server “was allowed.”

Via the AP:

The inspector general’s review also revealed that hacking attempts forced then-Secretary of State Clinton off email at one point in 2011, though she insists the personal server she used was never breached. Clinton and several of her senior staff declined to be interviewed for the State Department investigation.

Earlier this month, Clinton, the likely Democratic presidential nominee, stressed that she was happy to “talk to anybody, anytime” about the matter and would encourage her staff to do the same.

The 78-page analysis, a copy of which was obtained by The Associated Press, says Clinton ignored clear directives. She never sought approval to conduct government business over private email, and never demonstrated the server or the Blackberry she used while in office “met minimum information security requirements.”

Twice in 2010, information management staff at the State Department raised concerns that Clinton’s email practices failed to meet federal records-keeping requirements. The staff’s director responded that Clinton’s personal email system had been reviewed and approved by legal staff, “and that the matter was not to be discussed any further.”

The audit found no evidence of a legal staff review or approval. It said any such request would have been denied by senior information officers because of security risks.

The inspector general’s inquiry was prompted by revelations of Clinton’s email use, a subject that has dogged her presidential campaign.

The review encompassed the email and information practices of the past five secretaries of state, finding them “slow to recognize and to manage effectively the legal requirements and cybersecurity risks associated with electronic data communications, particularly as those risks pertain to its most senior leadership.”

But the failings of Clinton, who was secretary of state from 2009 to 2013, were singled out as more serious.

“By Secretary Clinton’s tenure, the department’s guidance was considerably more detailed and more sophisticated,” the report concluded. “Secretary Clinton’s cybersecurity practices accordingly must be evaluated in light of these more comprehensive directives.”

The IG interviewed past secretaries of State Colin Powell and Madeline Albright, and current Secretary of State John Kerry. Only Clinton refused to be interviewed for the probe.

Of Clinton’s 26 aides, only five answered the IG’s questionnaire. Three of Clinton’s closest State Department aides — Cheryl Mills, Huma Abedin, and policy chief Jake Sullivan — refused to be interviewed.

The State Department has released more than 52,000 pages of Clinton’s work-related emails, including over 2,000 that have been deemed classified — over 100 of which were written by Clinton herself. Dozens of her emails have been classified as secret, top secret and even “above” top secret, and thus too sensitive to ever be released.

Clinton withheld 30,000 additional emails before anyone had a chance to review them, claiming they were personal.

The State Department findings are separate from the FBI investigation, which is ongoing. The FBI recently interviewed several of Clinton’s top aides, including former chief of staff Cheryl Mills and deputy chief of staff Huma Abedin. Clinton is expected to be interviewed soon.

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus released a statement:

[A]lthough Clinton has long claimed her practices were like those of other Secretaries of State and allowed, the report states she was in clear violation of the Federal Records Act.

Clinton campaign spokesman Brian Fallon fired back in a written statement that her political opponents “are sure to misrepresent this report for their own partisan purposes.” He maintained the report shows:

… how consistent her email practices were with those of other Secretaries and senior officials at the State Department who also used personal email.

Chairman of the House Oversight Committee Jason Chaffetz, on Fox News “Outnumbered” this morning, found it particularly damning that Clinton is the only past secretary of State who refused to be interviewed.