Washington: Hillary Clinton, at the centre of an email controversy, today broke her silence over using her personal mail account while she was serving as the US Secretary of State and sought the release of emails to public. The controversy over using her personal email account while conducting official businesses escalated, with the White House saying “very specific guidance” were issued for the use of government e-mail accounts to carry out such work. 67-year-old Clinton, who is considered to be the top Democratic party presidential contender in 2016, took to Twitter to break her silence over the row, saying: “I want the public to see my email. I asked State to release them. They said they will review them for release as soon as possible.”
State Department Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf said in a statement in the wee hours of today that “the State Department will review for public release the emails provided by Secretary Clinton to the Department, using a normal process that guides such releases”. “We will undertake this review as quickly as possible; given the sheer volume of the document set, this review will take some time to complete,” she said.
The White House appeared to have indicated that Clinton might not have had strictly adhered to the administration’s email policy when she was the top American diplomat for four years in the first term of the Obama Administration. “She also would have gotten guidance from the White House that was much more specific, I assume, because the guidance that I got when I started at the White House was very specific about the use of official government email when conducting official government business,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters.
“I can’t speak to the guidance that she may have received when she first started at the State Department, but it may have been different than that. Ultimately the responsibility of individuals who have worked in the federal government is to ensure that they’re preserving those federal records properly and in a way that’s consistent with the Federal Records Act. “And based on what we have heard from Secretary Clinton’s team, that’s what they have done,” Earnest said. The Obama Administration is having a tough time in explaining and justifying the use of not only a personal email, but also a private server system kept at her New York residence, by the former Secretary of State.
The Republican party is trying to gain maximum political mileage out of the controversy. The Republican-controlled House panel investigating the deadly 2012 terror attack on a US mission in Benghazi has subpoenaed Clinton’s e-mails related to Libya. Both the White House and State Department news conferences yesterday were dominated by issued related to her emails. “I am deeply troubled that Secretary Clinton used personal email to conduct official State Department business,” said Congressman Ed Royce, Chairman of the powerful House Foreign Relations Committee.
“The Federal Records Act exists to provide to the American people the level of transparency and accountability they deserve from their federal government. Her practice frustrated Congressional oversight. “The allegations that Secretary Clinton sought to sidestep the law merit robust scrutiny,” said Royce, reflecting the viewpoint of Republican leadership. The story was first reported by The New York Times. However, the State Department has said there are “no indications” of Clinton using classified information on her private email. “She had multiple other ways of communicating in a classified manner, including assistants or staff members printing classified documents for her, secure phone calls, or secure videoconferences,” Harf told reporters.
The Washington Post in an editorial said Clinton’s use of private e-mail reflects poor judgment. “Her decision to exclusively use a private e-mail account while secretary suggests she made a deliberate decision to shield her messages from scrutiny. It was a mistake that reflects poor judgment about a public trust,” the daily said.