The State Department has removed from its unclassified electronic archives a dozen sensitive emails sent to the personal accounts of former secretary of state Colin L. Powell and the staff of his successor, Condoleezza Rice, according to a memo released Friday by the agency’s watchdog.
Two emails sent to Powell and 10 emails sent to aides who worked for Rice have been placed in secure storage, Patrick F. Kennedy, the department’s undersecretary for management, wrote in a memo to the department’s inspector general, Steve Linick. The action was taken in response to a recommendation by Linick last month as part of his review of records preservation by five secretaries and their staffs since email became a common means of communication.
None of the messages was marked as classified or secret at the time it was sent, but Linick wrote the emails may have contained “potentially sensitive material” because of the subject matter.
Powell has said he has reviewed the messages and disagrees with a State Department decision to retroactively classify them. “I do not see what makes them classified,” he said.
His remarks buttress the contention of former secretary of state Hillary Clinton that some of her emails have been retroactively subjected to “over-classification.”
The intelligence community has concluded that “top secret” information was included in 22 emails that went through Clinton’s private server while she was in office.
The State Department has been analyzing the contents of Clinton’s correspondence as it has been preparing 52,000 pages of Clinton’s emails for public release. The State Department has said 2,093 of Clinton’s released emails were redacted in all or part because they contained classified material, the vast majority of it rated “confidential,” the lowest level of sensitivity in the classification system.
The dozen emails sent to Powell and to Rice’s aides were among 19 the inspector general submitted for intelligence review. Late last year, the State Department said it determined that 12 of the 19 contained national security information considered secret or confidential.
Some paper records that Linick questioned are already stored in a records center that is certified to hold documents classified up to the secret level, and there is no need to move them, Kennedy wrote Linick. The rest have been moved to a classified system, Kennedy said.
“The Department accepts the principle that all classified material must be safeguarded pursuant to national security standards,” he wrote.
Linick said that he considers his recommendation handled satisfactorily, but he urged the State Department to review all its paper and electronic archives to determine whether more documents need to be removed for safeguarding.