Powell, Rice use of private email highlights government-wide security problem

An OIG letter to a State Department official confirmed that private email use extends beyond Clinton and transcends party affiliation.
An OIG letter to a State Department official confirmed that private email use extends beyond Clinton and transcends party affiliation.

Hillary Clinton wasn't the first Secretary of State to use private emails, nor was she the last as the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) confirmed that Colin Powell and Condeleeza Rice both used private email for classified information and a heavily redacted email from John Kerry showed that he likewise used a private email account.

In a letter to Undersecretary of State for Management Patrick F. Kennedy obtained by the New York Times, IG Steve A. Linick said that “potentially sensitive material may have been transmitted via personal email accounts or other unclassified means” to Powell or Rice.

The 2011 email from Kerry, obtained by The Hill, contained information about India, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The revelations highlight the difficulty the security professionals in both the public and private sectors face in imposing and enforcing tight security and privacy policies—especially on those in top management.  

“The truth couldn't be plainer: The private-email problem is not a Hillary Clinton problem,” Rep. Eliot L. Engel (D-N.Y.), a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, said in a statement. “It's a government-wide problem that's existed since the advent of email itself.”

According to Engel and others critics, such as Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), the revelations also cast doubt on the intentions of the House Oversight Committee and Government Reform Committee, which has dogged Clinton over the use of a private email server to conduct agency business.

Engel called the committee's efforts a “multimillion-dollar political sideshow aimed at derailing Secretary Clinton's presidential campaign” while Cummings echoed much the same sentiment in a statement. "Based on this new revelation, it is clear that the Republican investigations are nothing more than a transparent political attempt to use taxpayer funds to target the Democratic candidate for President," he said, expressing concern that inaccurate information about the presidential contender has been leaked and the actions of Republican Secretaries of State have been disregarded. Cummings is the ranking member of the Oversight Committee.

According to a report in Politico, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) met privately with Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) to dissuade him from launching a probe into Clinton's email use.

The email issues raise a larger specter of the quality of information governance and recordkeeping within the federal government, which more than one participant at the LegalTech show in New York this week referred to as “a mess,” which could leave sensitive data open to cyberattack. 

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