The U.S. State Department will conduct an internal audit of recordkeeping methods related to email archives and Freedom of Information Act inquiries, officials said Friday. Secretary of State John Kerry personally requested the audit, which will unfold weeks after former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton drew criticism for her use of personal email accounts to conduct department business during her time in the position.
The audit was not ordered specifically in relation to questions about Clinton's email practices, State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke said Friday, the Associated Press reported. The review was necessary to "preserve a full and complete record of American foreign policy" and to provide transparency for U.S. citizens, Kerry wrote in a letter to State Department Inspector-General Steve Linick.
The letter did not mention Clinton by name. However, Kerry said State Department officials were "facing challenges regarding our integration of recordkeeping technologies and the use of nongovernment systems by some department personnel to conduct official business," the AP reported.
Kerry called for a review on how best to maintain State Department records from a technological standpoint and asked Linick to determine possible methods to streamline the recordkeeping process across U.S. diplomatic stations around the world. Increased Freedom of Information Act requests and congressional inquiries have made it harder for State Department officials to focus on foreign affairs, he added. The volume of requests has also made it difficult for the department to fulfill them in a timely manner.
Clinton served as secretary of state from 2009 to 2013 and is presumed to be a presidential candidate in 2016. She admitted earlier this month to using private email accounts during her years at the State Department, but said no classified information was included in her correspondence.
"I opted for convenience to use my personal email accounts, which was allowed because I thought it would be easier to carry just one device for my private email and my work email. ... Looking back, it would have been easier if I used two," Clinton said at a March 2 news conference.
The State Department plans to make the Clinton emails public after they have been reviewed. Emails related to the 2012 terror attacks on U.S diplomatic buildings in Benghazi, Libya, are expected to be released before others.
U.S. Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., head of the House’s probe into the Benghazi attacks, said Friday that Clinton deleted her emails and would not allow a third party to analyze her server, Fox News reported. Clinton attorney David Kendall said the State Department, not Clinton, now possesses the relevant emails.
"While it is not clear precisely when Secretary Clinton decided to permanently delete all emails from her server, it appears she made the decision after Oct. 28, 2014, when the Department of State for the first time asked the secretary to return her public record to the department," Gowdy said in a statement.