National Press Club

Clinton's use of personal email violated public record rules, panel says

April 9, 2015 | By Jennifer Ejim | akunnaya25@yahoo.com

A panel discussed policy implications of Secr. of State Hillary Clinton’s use of private servers in the digital age. Tejinder Singh, NPC event host (center) introduced the panel. They are: Thomas S. Blanton (far left), Director, National Security Archive, GW University; Jason R. Baron, Co-Chair, Information Governance Initiative; Patricia McDermott, Executive Director, Open the Govt. Org; and Liz Icenogle, (far right) Director of Govt. Affairs, ARMA International.

A panel discussed policy implications of Secr. of State Hillary Clinton’s use of private servers in the digital age. Tejinder Singh, NPC event host (center) introduced the panel. They are: Thomas S. Blanton (far left), Director, National Security Archive, GW University; Jason R. Baron, Co-Chair, Information Governance Initiative; Patricia McDermott, Executive Director, Open the Govt. Org; and Liz Icenogle, (far right) Director of Govt. Affairs, ARMA International.

Photo/Image: Marshall H. Cohen

The use of a personal email account by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, while “stunning,” is just one example of high-level public officials violating public record rules, Patrice McDermott, director of OpenTheGovernment.org said Thursday at National Press Club Newsmaker.

McDermott, one of four panelists who discussed issues arising from Clinton's use of a private server for email communications during her tenure as Secretary of State, said such practices extended to every post-Internet administration and encompassed electronic records as well as email.

Clinton's use of the private server to conduct official government business was inconsist with longstanding policies set forth by the Federal Records Act, Jason Baron, co-chair of the Information Governance Initiative, said. The law requires agencies to have adequate recordkeeping controls to ensure “appropriate documentation of the activities of the agency," Baron said.

Most high-level government officials use approved government networks in daily communications and to conduct official business, with an implicit understanding that these rules exist, Baron said.

The 2009 National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) Regulations were in place for most of Clinton’s tenure in office, Baron noted, with limited exceptions under which agency employees could use alternative methods to send and receive official electronic messages.

Agencies that allow employees to use other methods for electronic mail messaging must ensure that Federal records sent or received on such systems are preserved in the appropriate Federal recordkeeping system, he said.

“Up until March 2015, I would have imagined that two aspects of this regulation were clearly understood by every records officer in government. First, that the regulation applied in the exceptional case where emails might occasionally be sent using a commercial network,” Baron said.

Second, agencies must take steps to ensure emails sent or received on a private system are preserved by forwarding them into the official system no later than the day on which the employee or official exits government, Baron said.

He said it was wrong to think that the policies in place during the first term of the Obama administration allowed for any cabinet official to privately maintain “tens of thousands of government records in his or her possession for months or years after exiting government.”