The State Department’s internal watchdog has concluded that Hillary Clinton clearly broke its rules when using a private email server as secretary of State, saying the practice created a security risk and violated transparency and disclosure policies.
The highly critical report, sent to Capitol Hill on Wednesday, is certain to create more political problems for Clinton by feeding into the narrative Republican opponents have long worked to build: that Clinton does not follow the same rules as everyone else and that she has not been open with the American public.
The department’s inspector general found she engaged in emailing practices that exposed sensitive information to breach, disregarded department policies that discouraged such methods of communicating and failed to promptly turn over all relevant correspondence to the department.
The 79-page report does not criticize only Clinton. It also found a Republican predecessor, Colin Powell, to have committed similar violations. The finding may help inoculate Clinton against the partisan attack the report is certain to generate.
The report actually finds that over 90 other State Department officials also used private e-mail addresses to send information back and forth, and that the State Department itself was careless in enforcing the guidelines.
However there was also this:
The audit did note that former Secretary of State Colin Powell had also exclusively used a private email account, though it did not name any other prior secretaries who had done so. But the failings of Clinton were singled out in the audit as being more serious than her predecessor.
"By Secretary Clinton's tenure, the department's guidance was considerably more detailed and more sophisticated," the report concluded. "Secretary Clinton's cybersecurity practices accordingly must be evaluated in light of these more comprehensive directives."
Brian Fallon, Hillary's spokesman, had this to say:
"The inspector general documents just how consistent her email practices were with those of other secretaries and senior officials at the State Department who also used personal email," Fallon said, noting that the report says "her use of personal email was known to officials within the department during her tenure, and that there is no evidence of any successful breach of the secretary's server."
And according to Politifact Hillary seems to not have technically broken any laws:
In Clinton’s defense, it was only after she left the State Department that the National Archives issued an official recommendation that government employees should avoid conducting official business on personal emails (though they noted there might be extenuating circumstances such as an emergency that require it). Additionally, in 2014, President Barack Obama signed changes to the Federal Records Act that explicitly said federal officials can only use personal email addresses if they also copy or send the emails to their official account.
Because these rules weren’t in effect when Clinton was in office, "she was in compliance with the laws and regulations at the time," said Gary Bass, founder and former director of OMB Watch, a government accountability organization.
So no Hillary did not break the law by using a private e-mail server, but she definitely bent the rules.
I would also be derelict in my duty if I did not point that a number of Republican politicians have ALSO gone overboard to keep their e-mails out of the hands of the media, including Dick Cheney, George W. Bush, Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Marco Rubio, Scott Walker, Rick Perry, and Bobby Jindal, who all used private email servers.
Now obviously just because those folks did something similar does not make what Hillary did any more defensible, but one has to wonder where the outcry is over THOSE missing e-mails.
It should also be pointed out once again, that the State Department e-mail system was hacked, whereas, at least so far, there is no actual evidence that Hillary's private server was compromised.
So yes there is still a pending FBI investigation. But if I was a betting man I would bet that it will not find anything prosecutable either.
Update: To get a better handle on the archaic system utilized by the State Department for complying with its policy on retaining e-mails you should watch Rachel Maddow's segment from this evening.
It provides a little perspective.