State Department Hits Hillary Over Email Scandal

On Wednesday, a big shoe finally dropped in the Hillary Clinton email server scandal, and if you're politically engaged, you'll definitely want to check it out — here's how to read the State Department's Hillary Clinton email audit, which specifically faults the former Secretary of State for her use of a private email server for handling official business.

Credit to The New York Times, which posted the full audit from the State Department's Inspector General on its website for the public to see. It doesn't place complete and unilateral blame on her, to be clear — it also cites "longstanding" and "systemic" flaws in the department's communications policies, as the AP highlighted, although it did single her out as a particularly striking example. Here's how the Office of Inspector General (OIG) summarized some of more general weaknesses in the audit's introduction.

As is the case throughout the federal government, management weaknesses at the Department have contributed to the loss or removal of email records, particularly records created by the Office of the Secretary. These weaknesses include a limited ability to retrieve email records, inaccessibility of electronic files, failure to comply with requirements for departing employees, and a general lack of oversight.

According to the audit, the OIG found no evidence that Clinton ever requested to use a private server for her emails, and it was a course of action that defied the Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM)'s instructions that emails relating to official State business should only be sent from authorized Automated Information Systems (AIS). While the audit does cede that general weaknesses leave the department open to these sorts of situations, it also specifically points out that "by Secretary Clinton's tenure, the Department's guidance was considerably more detailed and more sophisticated."

If you've got the time and the inclination, it's definitely worth it to you to read the whole thing. All in all, it isn't the most condemning outcome Clinton could've feared, but it does provide some ammunition to her political rivals, who now have an official OIG audit that states clearly that she wasn't being on-the-level with State Department guidelines, and may have set up her server without any making any official request or getting any "guidance or approval" on it.

The audit's conclusion, however, lets her down somewhat more easily — it doesn't exclusively single her out, instead focusing on those broader, persistent issues relating to communications management and security of classified materials that have existed across the tenures of different Secretaries of State.

Longstanding, systemic weaknesses related to electronic records and communications have existed within the Office of the Secretary that go well beyond the tenure of any one Secretary of State. OIG recognizes that technology and Department policy have evolved considerably since Secretary Albright's tenure began in 1997. Nevertheless, the Department generally and the Office of the Secretary in particular have been slow to recognize and to manage effectively the legal requirements and cybersecurity risks associated with electronic data communications, particularly as those risks pertain to its most senior leadership. OIG expects that its recommendations will move the Department steps closer to meaningfully addressing these risks.
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If you'd like the check out the full document, you can read it or download it here. The audit's release still leaves one major question still unanswered for the Clinton camp, though, and maybe the most major one — will Clinton face questioning from the FBI over her private email server, and what will the outcome of its investigation be? Needless to say, in the thick of a presidential race, any more news on this front could be big.