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Kerry Orders Review of Recordkeeping   03/28 10:18

   The State Department has ordered an internal audit of its recordkeeping, 
part of a top-to-bottom look at the agency's practices in the aftermath of 
revelations that former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton used a 
private email account and server during her tenure.

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- The State Department has ordered an internal audit of its 
recordkeeping, part of a top-to-bottom look at the agency's practices in the 
aftermath of revelations that former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton 
used a private email account and server during her tenure.

   The State Department released a letter Friday that Secretary of State John 
Kerry sent to the department's inspector general earlier this week, asking for 
the review and calling it critical to "preserve a full and complete record of 
American foreign policy" and for the U.S. public to have access to that 
information. Among the questions he outlined were how best to retain records in 
light of changing technology, the agency's global presence and increasing 
demands from Congress.

   State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke told reporters Friday the review 
would include the archiving of emails as well as Freedom of Information Act and 
congressional inquiries. He said it was not specific to Clinton, a likely 
presidential candidate who has been dogged by questions since it became clear 
she didn't use a government email account while in office and only provided the 
State Department with copies of work-related emails late last year.

   The full trove of Clinton emails will be published on a website after they 
are reviewed. She says they contain no classified information. The State 
Department says emails pertaining to a congressional panel's examination of the 
deadly 2012 attack on a U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya, will be 
released in advance of the others.

   In the letter, Kerry said his department has undertaken significant efforts 
to promote preservation and transparency, including through better technology 
and training of staff. But he said the burden was significant, with more than 
18,000 FOIA requests arriving each year that put a "significant strain" on 
diplomats whose main job is the advancement of U.S. foreign policy. In 
addition, he said, congressional investigations and requests have "greatly 
increased."

   Kerry also didn't mention Clinton specifically, but noted that officials 
were "facing challenges regarding our integration of recordkeeping technologies 
and the use of nongovernment systems by some department personnel to conduct 
official business."

   He asked Inspector General Steve Linick to make several recommendations. 
They range from how to make improvements across more than 280 diplomatic posts 
worldwide to ways to streamline efforts to preserve appropriate documents. 
Kerry questioned whether the agency has even the resources and tools necessary 
to meet its obligations.

   The State Department has particularly struggled with the backlog of public 
records requests. Some have languished for years without being met.

   Earlier this month, The Associated Press sued to gain access to Clinton's 
correspondence after repeated FOIA requests to the department went unfulfilled. 
They included one request made five years ago.

   An inspector general's report in 2012 criticized the State Department's 
practices as "inefficient and ineffective," citing a heavy workload, small 
staff and interagency problems.

   Kerry asked if outside expertise might be advisable on how best to manage, 
preserve and make transparent its documents. He asked the inspector general to 
conduct "an expedited review of these issues."


(KA)


 
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