Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton may have violated federal records laws by using a personal email account for all of her work messages, the New York Times reported on Monday.
The newspaper said the likely Democratic presidential candidate conducted all her official business during her four-year tenure at the State Department on a private email account.
“Her aides took no actions to have her personal emails preserved on department servers at the time, as required by the Federal Records Act,” according to the Times.
It added that Clinton, who stepped down as secretary of state in 2013, recently handed over 55,000 pages of emails to the State Department in response to a department effort to comply with record-keeping practices.
The newspaper report that “Clinton’s personal email account was discovered by a House committee investigating the attack on the American Consulate in Benghazi as it sought correspondence between Mrs. Clinton and her aides.”
Federal law says letters and emails written and received by federal officials are government records that must be retained, according to the paper. Regulations at the time Clinton served as secretary of state called for emails on personal accounts to be preserved as well, the paper said.
The Times said most experts believed private email accounts should only be used for official government business in emergencies, according to the Times.
“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,” said Jason R. Baron, a lawyer at Drinker Biddle & Reath who is a former director of litigation at the National Archives and Records Administration.
Merrill, a spokesman for Clinton told the Times that Clinton was complying with the "letter and spirit of the rules" and had expected her emails would be retained. He declined to detail why she chose to conduct business from her personal account, the Times said.
The State Department did not immediately return a request for comment from Reuters. Clinton's spokesman could also not be immediately reached for comment.
The newspaper reported that it remains unclear if Clinton’s “private email account included encryption or other security measures, given the sensitivity of her diplomatic activity.”
According to the Times, Secretary of State John Kerry uses a government email account but before the current regulations took hold, Secretary of State Colin Powell used personal email.
Clinton is widely considered the front-runner for next year's Democratic presidential nomination if she decides to enter the race.
Al Jazeera with Reuters