State Department misses deadline to manage email records electronically

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The State Department, which was criticized for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server, said on Wednesday it failed to meet an end-of-2016 deadline to manage all its email records electronically.

FILE PHOTO: A woman leaves the U.S. State Department building in Washington June 5, 2009. REUTERS/Jim Young

The department, and other U.S. government agencies, had more than four years to meet the deadline under an Aug. 24, 2012, directive that aimed to eliminate the use of paper records as much as possible in favor of electronic record-keeping.

That directive was part of an Obama administration effort to update government record-keeping for the digital age and promote accountability for official decisions by ensuring they are properly documented and preserved for future generations.

In a report posted by the National Archives on Wednesday, the State Department checked the “No” box in response to a question on whether it had met the goal of managing all its email records in an electronic format by Dec. 31, 2016.

In the report, the State Department said it had met the goal on its main, centralized email systems accounting for the “overwhelming majority” of its emails.

“However, the Department does have additional email systems that require further evaluation before we will certify that all email records are managed in an electronic format,” it said, saying it was working hard to “fully meet” the goal.

The State Department had no immediate comment on the matter.

The department’s record-keeping and email archiving practices attracted scrutiny during the 2016 presidential campaign when the New York Times reported that Clinton had used a private email server as secretary of state.

The Democrat’s use of the server to conduct official business throughout her 2009-2013 State Department tenure was criticized by Republican Donald Trump, who defeated her for the presidency in last November’s election.

An internal government watchdog issued a report last year that found Clinton broke government rules by using the private email server for her work as America’s top diplomat without approval.

The State Department’s Office of the Inspector General said it found no evidence Clinton sought permission to use a server at her Chappaqua, New York, home to handle her work emails and it quoted officials as saying they would have rejected her doing so if they had been asked.

The report also found problems in department record-keeping practices before Clinton’s tenure, and it documented how slowly the department had moved to bring record-keeping into the age of electronic communications.

Reporting by Arshad Mohammed; Editing by Peter Cooney