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Hillary Clinton’s [non] FOIA Defense

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (2nd R) checks her Blackberry phone alongside Korean Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan (R) as she attends the Fourth High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in Busan, Korea, November 30, 2011. AFP PHOTO / POOL / Saul LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

Hillary Clinton’s compliance with the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) is 100% reliant on the following premise: Clinton had a practice of emailing those within the State Department and in doing so it was caught on the State system and was thus compliant.

Clinton responding to FOIA Judicial Watch questionnaire. Oct 12, 2016 [http://www.judicialwatch.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/HRC-Responses-01363.pdf]
Clinton responding to FOIA Judicial Watch questionnaire. Oct 12, 2016 [http://www.judicialwatch.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/HRC-Responses-01363.pdf]
As I discuss Clinton’s FOIA defense, I’d like you to keep in mind that she took office on January 21st, 2009.

Yesterday, the US State Department released another batch of emails from Hillary Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State.  Within this dump there contained a thread about Hillary’s emails not making it to their intended recipient.  Specifically, person’s working within the State Department were not receiving emails from Secretary Clinton. Instead, they were going to recipients SPAM folder. This email is dated 23 months into Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State.

Email From Huma Abedin to Hillary Clinton 11/20/2010 [https://foia.state.gov/]
Email From Huma Abedin to Hillary Clinton 11/20/2010 [https://foia.state.gov/]
This insight is interesting because this is direct evidence that Hillary Clinton did not make her email address public to anyone, even those working within the same department. Instead, recipients would have to fish out her emails from the SPAM folder and mark her address as not SPAM.

To remedy the issue, Huma asks if they should make Hillary’s email available to those within the State Department so that the emails are not directly diverted to the SPAM folder. Huma exclaims in a separate email that “this system is not great.”

huma-reccomendation
Huma’s Recommendation on 11/13/2010 to release Hillary’s email address to State Department. [https://foia.state.gov/]
This would have been a simple and easy fix, albeit 23 months after Clinton took office.  If Clinton’s email was published on the department’s outlook server, it would have been a known and searchable address and would have alleviated the issue of her emails going to SPAM.

The State Department decided to do something else entirely.  Within the next month, instead of publishing Clinton’s email, the IT department was instructed to fiddle with and ultimately disable specific security filters.

Turning off of security/spam filters to fix Clinton's email going to SPAM [http://www.judicialwatch.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/JW-v-State-13-cv-1363-Documents-referenced-in-OIG-Report-pg-9-25.pdf]
Turning off of security/spam filters to fix Clinton’s email going to SPAM December 22nd, 2010 [http://www.judicialwatch.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/JW-v-State-13-cv-1363-Documents-referenced-in-OIG-Report-pg-9-25.pdf]
Forgetting the fact that the State Department lessened their security to accommodate Hillary’s email and taking her FOIA defense on its face, it wouldn’t be a true premise until December 22nd, 2010.  In other words, Hillary Clinton was non-compliant with FOIA for the first 23 months of her tenure given her own reasoning and defense in using a private email. Furthermore, it is reasonable to assume that Clinton would conduct official business outside of the state department which would result in further shielding from FOIA.

So if Hillary Clinton’s email address was private and not published, how did she begin correspondence with those she needed to do business with?  Let us take a look at an email obtained by an FOIA request [Judical Watch October 20th, 2016.]  Reminder, this email was withheld by Clinton/State Department of the 55k release of “all her work-related email.”

Hillary says use this private email [Feb 10, 2009] [http://www.judicialwatch.org/document-archive/jw-v-state-clinton-petraeus-emails-00689/]
Hillary says, use this private email [Feb 10, 2009] [http://www.judicialwatch.org/document-archive/jw-v-state-clinton-petraeus-emails-00689/]
So now you may be wondering who didn’t have access to Hillary Clinton’s email that should have.  How about the FOIA individuals/department at the State Department?  Yes, the very people at the State Department in charge of conducting and fulfilling FOIA requests had no idea that Hillary Clinton even had an email.

Lastly, when it came time for Clinton’s office to make her records available to the public, the individuals put in place to decide which emails pertained to FOIA had no experience before being hired for this specific task.  Instead, Clinton hired her own lawyers to do the task, creating yet another suspicious barrier between her emails and FOIA.  If anyone believes in a transparent governments utility in allowing its citizens to do oversight and hold our officials responsible, then these transgressions should not be looked at lightly.

Written by Andre Roberge

Father, Husband. Went to school for philosophy (university of WA) and now I work for a train company -- Interests include Labor Law, TILA, Unions, Paid Family Leave, Healthcare, Philosophy of Science, Fantasy Football and Open Government-- Fanboy of The Take Down with Nick Nowlin and The Way with Anoa. Follow Andre on Twitter @SubvertingPower.

Andre Roberge is a Researcher and Writer for Progressive Army.

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