Remember all of those news stories about how Sarah Palin used private e-mail accounts in order to conduct personal business? Sure you do. You probably also remember the concern and outrage over the possibility that private e-mails were used in order to circumvent transparency and disclosure rules; e-mails from Palin’s official account would be subject to disclosure laws, but e-mails from a private account would not.
Hillary Rodham Clinton exclusively used a personal email account to conduct government business as secretary of state, State Department officials said, and may have violated federal requirements that officials’ correspondence be retained as part of the agency’s record.
Mrs. Clinton did not have a government email address during her four-year tenure at the State Department. Her aides took no actions to have her personal emails preserved on department servers at the time, as required by the Federal Records Act.
It was only two months ago, in response to a new State Department effort to comply with federal record-keeping practices, that Mrs. Clinton’s advisers reviewed tens of thousands of pages of her personal emails and decided which ones to turn over to the State Department. All told, 55,000 pages of emails were given to the department. Mrs. Clinton stepped down from the secretary’s post in early 2013.
Her expansive use of the private account was alarming to current and former National Archives and Records Administration officials and government watchdogs, who called it a serious breach.
“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 lawyer at Drinker Biddle & Reath who is a former director of litigation at the National Archives and Records Administration.
This is a scandal, and should be treated as one. In addition to concerns that personal e-mail accounts were being used in order to circumvent disclosure requirements, there is the additional worry that personal e-mails are not secure, and that Clinton used them in order to transmit sensitive and confidential information.
So the key questions for the burgeoning Clinton campaign–one that the media should ask incessantly until satisfactory and complete answers are given–are as follows:
- What was/is Hillary Clinton trying to hide by using personal e-mail accounts?
- How can we trust a potential president of the United States who apparently used personal e-mail accounts to avoid disclosure and transparency requirements?
- How can we trust a potential president of the United States who doesn’t understand that the use of personal e-mail accounts–which are not secure–to transmit sensitive and confidential information could very well fatally undermine the ability to keep that information confidential and secret?
All good questions, I think. And unless Hillary Clinton is able to answer them, she has no business being president of the United States.