Associated Press Hillary Clinton’s response this week to questions about the private email account she used to conduct government business raises more serious questions than reasonable answers.
It took Clinton eight days to respond after news broke that she used a secret email account during her four years as secretary of state. She told reporters on Tuesday that she submitted 30,490 work-related emails to the State Department in December. But Clinton also acknowledged that she deleted nearly 32,000 others that she deemed as personal, dealing with subjects such as her daughter’s wedding, her exercise routine and her mother’s funeral.
The issue here is not Clinton’s personal emails. Even public officials are allowed to have private lives. But Clinton has violated the public trust by acting as if the rules don’t apply to her. In a perfect world, she should have maintained a government email account, with security afforded by government servers, that would have archived her email and made it accessible to the media and others filing public records requests. Or she should have used two separate accounts, one for professional matters and another for private emails, which she could have received on a single smartphone, computer or other mobile device. At the very least, Clinton could have used her private account and voluntarily turned over all of her work-related emails in a timely fashion. Instead, she waited two years after she had left office to turn in emails and then did so only at the State Department’s request. No wonder her motives are once again being questioned.
On Tuesday, Clinton called her actions “unprecedented” and said she had gone “above and beyond what I was requested to do” in providing the department with 55,000 pages of emails. She apparently missed the National Archives and Records Administration’s rule that allows employees to use private email accounts but requires them to preserve the documents with the agency. She also must have forgotten to mention her special arrangement to her boss, because President Barack Obama says he knew nothing about it.
Nearly a week into the disclosure, broader, more serious questions have surfaced about national security issues. The former secretary of state said her email server was safe, as it was set up for former President Bill Clinton in their New York home and guarded by the Secret Service. Sophisticated hackers don’t gain access to sensitive data by sneaking into a homeowner’s back door. Just ask a growing list of companies such as Target, eBay and AOL — and contractors for Florida’s new standardized tests — which all have fallen victim to cyber attacks. Clinton also said she never emailed classified information, another assertion that cannot be accepted based on anything other than trust.
Clinton has been involved in politics in Washington for more than 20 years, too long for her to smugly brush off concerns about secrecy and transparency. Her private email use and her tone-deaf response to the ensuing controversy is deeply disturbing. A House committee has pledged to question Clinton about the emails. She should have better answers and offer more opportunities for independent verification than she did this week.