Hillary Clinton used her personal email account to conduct government business as the U.S. Secretary of State -- a possible violation of federal laws -- The New York Times reported, citing officials from the State Department. During her four-year term, she reportedly did not have a government email address and did not retain her personal emails on department servers, as required under the Federal Records Act.

Clinton, who is expected to announce her candidacy for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination in April, reportedly submitted 55,000 pages of her emails to the department after the agency launched a new effort to comply with federal record-keeping practices.  

Government watchdogs and officials from current and former National Archives and Records Administration termed Clinton's actions a serious breach of federal regulations. 

“It is very difficult to conceive of a scenario -- short of nuclear winter -- where an agency would be justified in allowing its cabinet-level head officer to solely use a private email communications channel for the conduct of government business,” Jason R. Baron, a lawyer at Drinker Biddle & Reath, who is a former director of litigation at the National Archives and Records Administration, said, according to the Times. “I can recall no instance in my time at the National Archives when a high-ranking official at an executive branch agency solely used a personal email account for the transaction of government business.”

The National Archives and Records Administration regulations at the time dictated that emails sent or received from personal accounts be preserved. However, Clinton's aides did not do so, making it unclear how many emails were actually retained and how many of them were handed over to the State Department. Clinton and her aides refused to comment on the contents of the mails or if they will be made accessible to the public, the Times reported. 

“It’s a shame it didn’t take place automatically when she was secretary of state as it should have,” Thomas S. Blanton, the director of the National Security Archive, a group based at George Washington University that advocates government transparency, said, according to the Times, adding: “Someone in the State Department deserves credit for taking the initiative to ask for the records back. Most of the time it takes the threat of litigation and embarrassment.”

The existence and use of Clinton’s personal email id was revealed two weeks ago during a House committee investigation of the 2012 attack on the U.S. embassy in Benghazi.  

Jen Psaki, the U.S. State Department spokeswoman reportedly said that the government “has been proactively and consistently engaged in responding to the committee’s many requests in a timely manner, providing more than 40,000 pages of documents, scheduling more than 20 transcribed interviews and participating in several briefings and each of the committee’s hearings.”