In February, Sen. Chuck Grassley wrote to Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter about Carter’s use of personal email for official business. Grassley has been looking into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s use of a non-government server for personal email and official business, including whether the arrangement interfered with Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and federal record-keeping requirements. The Judiciary Committee, which Grassley chairs, oversees FOIA. Grassley takes seriously the public’s right to know. As such, last week, the Finance Committee passed a Grassley co-authored provision requiring the IRS to maintain email records of all principal officers and specified employees for no less than 15 years. Grassley released the Defense Department’s response to his inquiry and made the following comment on it.
“There are now at least three high profile examples of top Obama Administration officials treating electronic security and records retention too casually – at the IRS, the State Department, and the Defense Department. The fulfillment of public information requests is compromised when federal record-keeping is compromised. Cyber-security is compromised when personal devices are used for official business. Government officials need to take care to meet their legal and common sense obligations here.
“The Defense Department is downplaying Secretary Carter’s use of personal devices for official business, but I have concerns. Some emails contain information subject to the trade secrets and commercial or financial information exemption under FOIA, as well as several law enforcement-related redactions. Many emails appear to contain subject matter that extends beyond mere routine administrative work. That means there was at least some sensitive information on his email. These practices have FOIA and government security implications. I’m continuing to look at the Defense Department’s response and considering any next steps.”
The correspondence with the Defense Department is available here and here.