This week, the State Department disclosed that a record-keeping official in Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s office asked questions about the secretary’s email habits after seeing the viral “Texts from Hillary” meme photo in 2011, Politico reports.
The official, Clarence Finney, who oversaw an office responsible for Freedom of Information Act searches, had been told at the beginning of Clinton’s tenure that “like her predecessor, [Clinton] would not use an official account,” State Director of Executive Secretariat Staff Karin Lang testified in a deposition this week.
“When Mrs. Clinton’s photo appeared in the media with her using—appearing to use some sort of a mobile device, Clarence Finney checked with [information management staff] to confirm...whether the answer was still that she did not have a State.gov e-mail account,” Lang said. (That was indeed still the answer.)
Lang testified by court order in a FOIA lawsuit filed by Judicial Watch, a conservative group seeking records about top Clinton aide Huma Abedin. Lang was State’s appointed witness; Judicial Watch posted a transcription of her deposition on its website. From Politico:
Under questioning from Judicial Watch lawyer Michael Bekesha, Lang said the personnel in charge of searching for records in Clinton’s office were not aware during her tenure and for at least a year after she left that she used a private email account for work-related communications, even though dozens of senior officials corresponded with her at the private address.
“No one engaged in this FOIA search had awareness of that source of potentially responsive documents during the time period of this FOIA search,” Lang said. “They were not aware of the existence of e-mails from the former Secretary that could be potentially responsive to this request.”
“The email addresses that may be involved in those...potentially responsive documents would not necessarily be an item of attention of the reviewer, unless that was the specific topic,” Lang continued.
In May, the State Department’s Office of Inspector General released a report stating that the Office of the Secretary has avoided searching emails in response to FOIA requests, despite emails having been designated as federal records for the last twenty years.
The infamous photo of Secretary Clinton was taken on a military transport plane headed to Libya on October 18, 2011, just days after Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s fall. According to Representative Trey Gowdy, Benghazi Republican from South Carolina, Clinton has not disclosed any emails from that trip.
“There are huge gaps,” he told the New York Daily News last year. “It strains credibility to believe that if you’re on your way to Libya to discuss Libyan policy, that there’s not a single document that’s been turned over to Congress.”