The release this week of the report by the Office of the Inspector General for the State Department regarding Email Records Management at the Office of the Secretary debunks for anyone who did not have enough background to know better the various arguments that Secretary Clinton’s use of a private email system from a server in her home in New York was remotely plausibly compliant with public records requirements applicable to all public business in the State Department.
As a State Department public records requestor for the material involving my work in Kenya, it is certainly dispiriting to see how these obligations have been addressed.
Kudos to the Office of the Inspector General of the State Department for solid and challenging work in vindicating the public interest by investigating and reporting to the rest of our government and the public regarding failures of senior leadership at the State Department to adhere to applicable standards for public records. Thanks to private litigants, the courts and the OIG, we can say that in some senses “the system worked” and we are getting much of the information that we are entitled to as Americans about the work being done in our name.
For years the crucial State OIG sat vacant, and when I submitted my “hotline” complaint to the controversial Acting OIG early in the Obama Administration about issues related to interference with democracy assistance agreements to support the failed Kenyan election, the complaint was shunted to the State Department’s Africa Bureau itself without any protection for me as a reporting source or any apparent investigation. So this new investigation and report shows progress.
Now, however, there needs to be some serious soul searching within the State Department as to why so many people ducked out, took a pass or actively facilitated an “opt out” by “the corner office” of clear requirements regarding the records of how the public’s business was being conducted.
And why it has taken so long, so much public expense, and so much outside legal intervention to get to the public basic facts of how the State Department operated throughout the last administration.
The State Department has been America’s most prestigious employer. This is embarassing and needs to be fixed.
It is all made worse, not better, by the fact that many people like me expect to have no competitive morally acceptable alternative choice in the next American presidential race than the very same politician who put us all through all of this as Secretary of State.
Secretary Clinton, what is the problem, here? Are your friends, advisors, subordinates afraid for some reason to help you understand and navigate your basic legal responsibilities in conducting public business? If so, why? Is that not something you can fix if you make it a priority? Is it not something that is dangerous not to fix if you are to be president?
It astounds me that you seem to have thought somehow that this whole alternative record keeping system would remain secret. That was surely magical thinking. Aside from the law and compliance issues, how could the brilliant, accomplished and loyal people around you fail to burst that bubble?
Your country, and our democratic friends, need you to “straighten up and fly right.”