Hillary Clinton Used Her Personal Email Account While Working at the State Department, Possibly Breaking the Rules

Her actions violate federal requirements that correspondence be retained as part of the agency's record

By Francesca Bacardi Mar 03, 2015 2:46 PMTags
Hillary ClintonMike Coppola/Getty Images for RFK Ripple Of Hope

Social media isn't the only thing that will come back to bite you if used improperly! Apparently, personal email can haunt you, too! At least that's what Hillary Clinton is learning.

The former Secretary of State used her personal email address instead of a government-given email for the entire time she was working at the State Department, a move that could be seen as possibly breaking the rules, according to a report by the New York Times. State Department officials told the newspaper that her actions may have violated federal requirements that officials' correspondence be retained as part of the agency's record.

None of her aides took any actions to have her correspondence preserved on the department's servers either, which is a requirement of the Federal Records Act.

"It is very difficult to conceive of a scenario—short of nuclear winter—where an agency would be justified in allowing its cabinet-level head officer to solely use a private email communications channel for the conduct of government business," said Jason R. Baron, a former director of litigation at the National Archives and Records Administration.

Only two months ago, Clinton's aides reviewed thousands of her emails and handed over approximately 55,000 pages worth of digital communication to the State Department.

"Like Secretaries of State before her, she used her own email account when engaging with any Department officials. For government business, she emailed them on their Department accounts, with every expectation they would be retained. When the Department asked former Secretaries last year for help ensuring their emails were in fact retained, we immediately said yes," Nick Merrill, Clinton's spokesperson, told NBC News in a statement. "Both the letter and spirit of the rules permitted State Department officials to use non-government email, as long as appropriate records were preserved. As a result of State's request for our help to make sure they in fact were, that is what happened here. As the Department stated, it is in the process of updating its record preservation policies to bring them in line with its retention responsibilities."

Although she isn't the first government official to have used her personal email, she is one of the few to use it exclusively, which appeared odd to Baron.

"I can recall no instance in my time at the National Archives when a high-ranking official at an executive branch agency solely used a personal email account for the transaction of government business," he said.

It's unclear whether or not Clinton will be punished, as the National Archives has few enforcement abilities.

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