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DOJ asked to probe handling of Clinton's emails

Government inspectors concerned about handling of classified information in Clinton's emails, reports New York Times

The U.S. Justice Department is weighing a request by two government inspectors general to open a criminal investigation into the possible mishandling of classified information in Hillary Clinton’s private emails from when she was secretary of state, The New York Times reported on Thursday.

A Justice Department official confirmed the department received a criminal referral but gave no other details. The Times said the department had not decided whether to pursue a criminal inquiry, citing unnamed government officials.

The Times originally reported that Clinton herself was a target of the criminal referral. It altered its report on its website overnight without explanation to suggest she was not the focus of the referral after all.

In a memo early on Friday, inspectors general at the State Department raised concerns about the handling of classified information in the emails and the adequacy of the classified network used to store and distribute the emails from Clinton, sent while she was the nation's most senior diplomat.

The memo does not directly accuse Clinton of mishandling sensitive information. Clinton is the leading Democratic contender for the 2016 presidential election.

Clinton spokesman Nick Merrill said in a statement she "followed appropriate practices in dealing with classified materials."

Clinton has repeatedly said she broke no laws or rules by eschewing a standard government email account for her State Department work in favor of a private account linked to a computer server in her New York home. She has also said she sent no classified information through email.

Attorney General Loretta Lynch would have the final say on whether to pursue the investigation. The call for a probe puts the Obama administration in a bind. Agreeing to investigate could uncover more sensitive information from Clinton's tenure as the president's secretary of state, according to The Guardian. However, declining to investigate could open the White House up to accusations that it quashed the investigation for political reasons.

Clinton’s exclusive use of a private email account first came to public attention in March, opening her to a volley of criticism from political opponents as she began her presidential campaign that she was sidestepping transparency and record-keeping laws.

Clinton says she gave the State Department all of the work-related emails she had, amounting to some 55,000 printed pages covering her four-year tenure beginning in 2009. However, her staff has recently acknowledged gaps in the records she retained.

The State Department is now obliging her request to make as many of the emails public as disclosure laws allow, and is regularly releasing them in batches through next January.

Some of the emails have been retroactively marked as classified or containing some sort of sensitive information, according to the State Department, although the department says this does not mean the information was classified at the time an email was sent.

The inspectors general behind the complaint sent a memorandum to the State Department last week saying that at least one email already made public contains classified information that was apparently not properly redacted, the Times reported. Which email they were referring to is unclear.

Al Jazeera and Reuters

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