An independent watchdog responsible for overseeing the State Department issued a new report Thursday that says there are significant problems in how the department handles requests for information from the public
The report says that some information held on private servers or in private accounts are being missed
An independent watchdog responsible for overseeing the State Department issued a new report Thursday that says there are significant problems in how the department handles requests for information from the public, and that some information held on private servers or in private accounts are being missed.
The office of the inspector general conducted a review of the department’s freedom of information act response process after it was revealed that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton used a private email server for official communications and that her emails were not archived until she turned them in at the State Department’s request in December of 2014 – nearly two years after she left office.
Secretary of State John Kerry asked the inspector general to conduct the review in March after Clinton’s email practices became public, and in September appointed a “transparency coordinator,” Janice Jacobs, to improve document preservation efforts going forward.
Jacobs’ appointment was “born out of frustration” on Kerry’s part that the State Department has come under fire by federal judges and members of Congress for not being responsive to requests by the public and Congress for documents, a senior official told CNN at the time.
While the State Department says Clinton’s use of a private email server did not break any rules as they were written at that time, officials have readily acknowledged the strain these requests put on the department – a strain that has caused some of the issues outlined in Thursday’s report.
“OIG’s past and current work demonstrates that department leadership has not played a meaningful role in overseeing or reviewing the quality of FOIA responses,” the report states, adding that searches “do not consistently meet statutory and regulatory requirements for completeness and rarely meet requirements for timeliness.”
Timeliness has been a recurring issue, the report concludes, noting that “although FOIA requires agencies to respond to requests within 20 working days, some requests involving the office of the secretary have taken more than 500 days to process.”
The report ultimately issued four recommendations to the State Department, including staffing increases and better oversight from leadership.
State Department spokesman John Kirby said in a statement that the State Department is implementing the OIG’s recommendations.
“We remain committed not only to transparency but to making our efforts in that regard as efficient as possible,” Kirby said.
Conservative group Judicial Watch, which is suing the State Department over failure to provide records related to the employment of top Clinton aide Huma Abedin, said in a statement Thursday that the email controversy is “worsening.”
“The State Department OIG report is half-baked but nonetheless devastating in laying out the violations of law and regulations by Hillary Clinton and her then-Chief of Staff Cheryl Mills,” the group said in a statement. “Judicial Watch plans to share this report with several federal courts considering our requests for discovery about the Clinton email issue.”
The report’s release comes as the State Department’s FOIA office is in the process of reviewing 55,000 pages of Clinton’s emails for release. The department has published about three quarters of those emails so far, in some cases with redactions, and will be releasing approximately 2,900 more later Thursday.
CNN’s Elise Labott contributed to this report.