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Hillary Clinton: 'I want the public to see my email'
02:05 - Source: CNN

Story highlights

Fmr. ambassador forced to resign in 2012 amidst criticism over personal email use at the State Department.

Claims accusations against him unwarranted. He took issue with State Dept. security protocol because they used the same firewall as Gmail.

Although his experience was somewhat different than Hillary Clinton's, he was "was very surprised to learn of the double standard."

Washington CNN  — 

The U.S. ambassador who resigned his post in 2012 amidst official criticism that he used a private email account for official business told CNN Friday that he was “very surprised” to learn that his boss at the time, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, had been doing essentially the same thing at the same time.

“I was very surprised to learn of the double standard,” former Ambassador to Kenya and Air Force General Scott Gration told CNN.

Gration noted that Cheryl Mills, the then-State Department Chief of Staff “obviously knew Secretary Clinton was using commercial email, yet she stated my use of Gmail was one of the reasons I had to move on.”

The retired Air Force Major General, who flew 274 combat missions over Iraq as a fighter pilot and served as President Obama’s Special Envoy to Sudan, recalled he had been “prohibited from sending a Gmail message to a State Department computer except in an emergency.” Considering that “Department of Defense dot mil accounts, USAID accounts, and every Kenyan account used the same routers and security firewalls as a Gmail account,” he took issue with State Department protocols. “It didn’t make sense to me that the State Department would ban my ‘Gmail.com’ while letting all other commercial and foreign accounts through its computer firewall,” he told CNN.

A spokesman for Hillary Clinton declined comment.

Spokespeople at the State Department repeatedly declined to address whether any sort of double standard had been applied and instead continually noted that in the State Department Inspector General report about the U.S. embassy being run by Gration there were “several concerns with management and leadership” discussed, not just about his use of private email.

The Inspector General report charged that Gration “lost the respect and confidence of the staff to lead the mission” and “damaged the cohesion of Embassy Nairobi’s country team.”

Gration said he makes “no apology for ‘rocking the boat’ in the State Department to improve physical security, to enhance cyber policy, and to conduct several other initiatives that the State Department Inspector General misrepresented to build the case that Secretary Clinton’s Chief of Staff used to terminate my tenure as the U.S. ambassador in 2012.”

The State Department’s continued referencing of the other allegations against Gration came amidst fruitless attempts by CNN to ask the department spokespeople to explain why it was acceptable for Secretary Clinton to use private email to conduct official business given that the 2012 Inspector General’s report against Gration repeatedly hammered him for the use of “commercial email for official government business” which was considered to be “flouting of direct instructions to adhere to Department policy.”

As CNN reported Thursday, the report stated clearly that It “is the Department’s general policy that normal day-to-day operations be conducted on an authorized information system, which has the proper level of security controls,” the report stated. “The use of unauthorized information systems increases the risk for data loss, phishing, and spoofing of email accounts, as well as inadequate protections for personally identifiable information. The use of unauthorized information systems can also result in the loss of official public records as these systems do not have approved record preservation or backup functions. Conducting official business on non- Department automated information systems must be limited to only maintaining communications during emergencies.”

Asked if he was subsequently surprised to see this controversy erupt about his then-boss doing essentially the same thing, Gration told CNN “I’m not surprised when any political issue becomes a controversy. I learned long ago to do your best, do what was right, and to have a thick skin. I still wake up each day without regrets because I still have my integrity. That said, illegal, immoral, or unethical activities should be investigated properly, not just for political gain, but because we demand this of our public leaders. That’s the only way we can preserve trust in our system of governance. Punish crimes and forgive mistakes.”

Gration said that his “experience was somewhat different than Secretary Clinton’s use of her commercial account, yet I was ‘fired’ for the use of Gmail in the U.S. Embassy, my insistence on improving our physical security posture, and other twisted and false allegations. I’ve chosen to move on and to be better, not bitter.”

He said that “the State Department Inspector General investigators and Diplomatic Security cyber investigators conducted a full and formal investigation into my use of Gmail and the State Department computers” and “they dismissed the allegations against me.”

The former ambassador and his wife currently live in Kenya, where he is executive chairman of a company that works to bring international investment and innovation to Kenya and East Africa. He is no longer involved in US politics and diplomacy.