Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s successor, John Kerry, says his department will work to review for release the tens of thousands of emails it first received from Clinton’s private cache just recently, but that it will take time – months, in fact.
Of course, the Obama administration only has the emails Clinton chose to provide. As BuzzFeed News noted, “an undisclosed number of pages from the email account that Clinton used exclusively during her four-year tenure as secretary will remain private. The State Department does not have access to the full archive of messages from Clinton’s personal account, which she used in lieu of government email.”
The State Department recently provided the House Select Committee on Benghazi with some of the emails it received from Clinton, but as Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-SC) said in an interview on CNN yesterday, “I have no way of knowing whether that represents 10 percent or 50 percent or 100 percent” of the relevant documents. Last night, the committee issued subpoenas for all of Clinton’s communications related to Libya.
Secretary Kerry’s pledge is certainly welcome, but the Obama administration will have to prove it is truly interested in accountability and in cooperating with the Select Committee’s inquiries. After all, this administration has a long history of slow-walking investigations and failing the transparency test, especially when it comes to email:
- In response to a congressional subpoena, in May 2013 the White House released some documents and emails related to the administration’s development of talking points that then-United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice used in a round of Benghazi-focused television interviews on September 16, 2012. But additional emails relevant to that subpoena were only revealed in May 2014 after a court ordered their release. Then-White House Press Secretary Jay Carney received heavy criticism for insisting that a Benghazi-related email sent by White House aide Ben Rhodes was not in fact related to Benghazi.
- IRS Commissioner John Koskinen claimed in June 2014 “all emails are not official records,” contradicting the IRS’s own official manual. At issue was former IRS official Lois Lerner’s discrimination against conservatives and her mysteriously missing or destroyed emails and hard drive, some of which may have recently been recovered.
- Just this week, a U.S. District Court judge blasted the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for destroying emails requested in 2012 under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Separately, former EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson infamously used a fake email address and the alias “Richard Windsor.”
- Emails and hard drives at other federal agencies have also been destroyed or lost at extremely convenient times.
- In the aftermath of the failed 2013 launch of the ObamaCare website, Healthcare.gov, then-Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Marilyn Tavenner sent an email to a subordinate asking her to “please delete this email.”
- Just under three years ago, the Associated Press reported that “Some of President Barack Obama's political appointees are using secret government email accounts to conduct official business … a practice that complicates agencies' legal responsibilities to find and turn over emails under public records requests and congressional inquiries. … The practice is separate from officials who use personal, nongovernment email accounts for work, which generally is discouraged due to laws requiring that most federal records be preserved.”
The Obama administration may obfuscate and provide excuse after excuse for its latest transparency failure, but it will not stop the Select Committee on Benghazi from doing its job, pursuing the truth, and providing justice for the families who lost loved ones in the September 11, 2012, attack in Libya.