The State Department has fallen behind on its court-ordered schedule for releasing the emails of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. A government attorney was expected to file a motion in federal court on behalf of the State Department Friday, asking for an extra month to review and release the last batch of Clinton’s emails, Vice News reported.
After Vice News filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit, a judge ordered the State Department to release some of Clinton’s emails at the end of each month. The department was supposed to release the last group of emails from Clinton’s private server next week, but it now expects to complete the project by Feb. 29.
Government attorney Robert Prince asked Vice News whether it would agree to the extended deadline, and Vice News said it opposed the request.
The State Department has fallen behind on its releases before due to staffing shortages and other problems. It fell behind in its December email release when it made public fewer emails than expected on New Year’s Eve. The emails released at the end of 2015 also included less user-friendly data than previous releases, which the department said was due to its holiday schedule. At the time, the State Department said it would rectify the situation in early January and still expected to finish releasing Clinton’s emails by the end of this month.
In offering an explanation for the latest delay, Prince said the department needs more time for its “interagency consultation process,” which involves intelligence officials reviewing Clinton’s emails for classified information, Vice News reported. The department also blamed this weekend’s snowstorm in part for its delay.
In the court filing, published by Vice News, Prince explained the State Department discovered last week that some Clinton emails requiring this intelligence review had not been sent to the necessary agencies. Although the processing of those documents has now been completed, the blizzard taking place in the nation’s capital has impeded the delivery of some documents.
“After discovering this oversight, State immediately began processing these documents, which State ultimately determined to number 7,254 pages, so that they could be sent to the appropriate agencies for review. The processing of the documents for sending is finished and delivery to some of the agencies has been completed,” the filing said. “Delivery of the remaining documents has been interrupted by the storm, ... and is anticipated to be completed next week. In addition, State has emphasized to each of these agencies the importance of a timely return of the documents and will continue to coordinate with those agencies regarding the consultations. State anticipates receiving the documents back in time to allow it to consolidate and incorporate interagency recommendations, perform a legal review, resolve any disparate recommendations, and produce final releasable versions of those documents by Feb. 29, 2016.”
The federal government closed its offices around noon on Friday in preparation for the weekend's blizzard, and the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority said metro service would be suspended over the weekend. Because the Clinton email team's work must be completed on site, the filing said, it would not be able to work through the weekend as it had hoped.
While most of the initial emails released by the State Department did not appear to contain classified — or even very important — information, intelligence officials said in a letter to Congress last week they found information they consider a higher level of classification than “top secret,” the New York Times reported.
So far, the State Department has retroactively classified more than 1,200 of Clinton's emails, and it has posted 43,144 of her emails out of a total of 53,988.