Washington: The US State Department’s inspector general has sharply criticised Hillary Clinton’s exclusive use of a private email server while she was secretary of state, saying she had not sought permission to use it and would not have received it if she had.
In a report delivered to members of Congress on Wednesday, the inspector general said that Clinton “had an obligation to discuss using her personal email account to conduct official business” with officials responsible for handling records and security but that inspectors “found no evidence” that she had requested or received approval from anyone at the department to conduct her state business on a personal email.
The report, according to the New York Times, also said that department officials “did not – and would not – approve her exclusive reliance on a personal email account to conduct Department business.”
It also added new detail about Clinton’s motivation for using the private server, which she has said was set up for convenience. In November 2010, her deputy chief of staff for operations prodded her about “putting you on state email or releasing your email address to the department so you are not going to spam.”
Clinton, however, replied that she would consider a separate address or device “but I don’t want any risk of the personal being accessible.”
The report, as well as an F.B.I. investigation and other legal challenges seeking information about her use of the server, is certain to keep alive a controversy that has shadowed Clinton’s campaign for the presidency.
The events have all come to a climax just as she was close to defeating Senator Bernie Sanders for the Democratic presidential nomination.
Clinton and her aides have played down the inquiries, saying that she would cooperate with investigators to put the email issue behind her. Even so, through her lawyers, she declined to be interviewed by the State Department’s inspector general as part of his review. So did several of her senior aides.
Clinton’s campaign spokesman, Brian Fallon, issued a statement saying the findings that the problems with record keeping extended beyond Clinton’s tenure.
“Contrary to the false theories advanced for some time now, the report notes that her use of personal email was known to officials within the Department during her tenure, and that there is no evidence of any successful breach of the Secretary’s server,” Fallon said in the statement.
The report also disclosed an attempt to hack into Clinton’s server in January 2011.
It said a “nondepartmental adviser” to Bill Clinton – apparently Bryan Pagliano, who installed the private server – informed the department that he had shut down the system because “someone was trying to hack us and while they did not get in, I didn’t want to let them have a chance.”
The attack continued later that day, prompting another official to write to two of Clinton’s top aides, Cheryl Mills and Jake Sullivan, to warn them not to send Clinton “anything sensitive.” She explained that she would “explain more in person.”
The report also criticized Clinton for not adhering to the department’s rules for handling records under the Federal Records Act once she stepped down in January 2013.
“Secretary Clinton should have surrendered all emails dealing with Department business before leaving government service and, because she did not do so, she did not comply with the Department’s policies that were implemented in accordance with the Federal Records Act,” the report said.
Secretary of State John Kerry also acknowledged to the inspector general that he had used a personal account at times during his transition between leaving the Senate and joining the State Department, but that after becoming secretary and discussing the issue with aides, he “began primarily using his Department email account to conduct official business.”
Kerry said that while he occasionally responded to people who emailed him on his personal account, he would preserve the records.