The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Thirteen (or so) questions for Hillary Clinton

FILE – In this Jan. 23, 2013 file photo, then-Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, on the deadly September attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans. Congressional aides say the special House committee investigating the 2012 attacks on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya, will issue subpoenas for Clinton’s personal emails. The aides say that possible as early as Wednesday, the committee will seek the additional material from the potential 2016 Democratic presidential candidate. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)

It’s great that Hillary Clinton has asked the State Department to release her official e-mails. Still, belated disclosure isn’t going to make the story go away; it doesn’t deal with questions about why Clinton decided to proceed in this seemingly secretive direction despite government regulations that at the very least required she take steps to ensure the emails were duly transferred to official logs.

Following is a list of questions that I think are reasonable to ask Clinton to address:

  1. Why did you make the decision to use a personal email account rather than government email upon becoming secretary of state?
  2. Why did you believe this approach was necessary and/or preferable to using an official e-mail account?
  3. Did others working for you at the State Department use personal e-mail for government business? If so, please identify them and explain whether their correspondence has been transferred to the State Department.
  4. Would it have been appropriate for others working for you at the State Department to use personal e-mail for official purposes? If not, why does a different standard apply to the secretary?
  5. What steps did you or others working on your behalf take before making this decision to determine whether it complied with applicable laws and regulations, and whether your communications would be adequately secured?
  6. Specifically, did you consult with officials at the State Department, the White House, or other government agencies to determine whether this approach was permissible?
  7. If not, why not, given the obvious questions about compliance with federal disclosure laws and concerns about cybersecurity?
  8. If you did consult with officials, what were you advised? Please provide copies of any e-mail or other correspondence/documentation reflecting these consultations.
  9. If you were advised that applicable laws and regulations did not permit and/or counseled against the use of private e-mail, why did you decide to proceed with that plan?
  10. Please explain how the decision to rely on personal email and not to provide the records until after your departure and after being requested complies with, as your spokesman has said, “the letter and spirit of the rules.”
  11. Specifically, C.F.R. 1236.22, which dates from 2009, provides that “agencies that allow employees to send and receive official electronic mail messages using a system not operated by the agency must ensure that Federal records sent or received on such systems are preserved in the appropriate agency recordkeeping system.” What steps did you take to comply with this requirement?
  12. When e-mails were turned over to the State Department last year, who in your office determined what e-mails constituted official business and what standards did they use to make that determination? Did anyone from the State Department oversee or vet this process to ensure that all relevant e-mails were supplied?
  13. In 2007, criticizing the George W. Bush White House during the controversy over fired U.S. attorneys, you decried the use of “secret White House e-mail accounts” to conduct government business. Please explain how your use of personal e-mail differed.