While Hillary Clinton is being scrutinized for only using her personal email address to conduct government business as secretary of state, her spokesman shot back Tuesday that she was following the protocol permitted under past rules.
The New York Times first reported Monday night that Clinton, who served in the post from 2009 to 2013, had used her personal email and possibly violated requirements that all of her emails be preserved.
"Like secretaries of state before her, she used her own email account when engaging with any department officials," Clinton spokesman Nick Merrill told NBC News on Tuesday morning. "For government business, she emailed them on their department account with every expectation they would be retained. When the department asked former secretaries last year for help ensuring their emails were in fact retained, we immediately said 'yes.'"
A State Department official said the guidance on using personal email has "evolved" since Feb. 1, 2013 — when Clinton ended her post. It wasn't until last October when a department-wide notice was sent clarifying each employee's responsibilities for managing their email records.
Current Secretary of State John Kerry is the first person in the role to rely heavily on his official State Department email. Colin Powell, who served in the position during the George W. Bush administration, used his personal email, the official said in a statement to NBC News.
Chairman of the House Special Committee investigating the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, said Tuesday that Clinton’s use of private email was revealed during their inquiry last summer. South Carolina Republican Rep. Trey Gowdy, said Clinton used multiple personal email accounts for State Department business and it was unclear if the committee had all correspondence regarding Benghazi since only her lawyers – not the government had access to the files.
“Congress has raised bipartisan concerns in the past about the use of personal email to evade official record keeping requirements for many years,” he told NBC News. “It is nothing short of incredible that any official in the current administration would engage in a practice such as that.”
Gowdy said the committee would request that the relevant files be protected under the law and follow-up with officials on record management issues. He said people should “be concerned about national security implications of Secretary Clinton using exclusively personal email accounts for the conducting of U.S. foreign policy.”
However, even if she used her personal email, Clinton was "constantly vigilant" about handling sensitive information, the State Department official said. "In an October 2011 interview with NBC's Savannah Guthrie, Secretary Clinton referenced an awareness of security protocols for her email use," the official said. "She said, 'I have a lot of security restraints on what I can and can't do.'"
Even if she used her personal email, Clinton was "constantly vigilant" about handling sensitive information. "In an October 2011 interview with NBC's Savannah Guthrie, Secretary Clinton referenced an awareness of security protocols for her email use," the official said. "She said, 'I have a lot of security restraints on what I can and can't do.'"
According to The Times report, not only did Clinton not use a State Department email, but her aides also didn't act to preserve her emails on government servers as required by federal law.
Clinton's staff has not answered questions as to why she chose a private account. She has not answered questions about emails she supposedly failed to preserve.
State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said the department last year requested records from Clinton and other former secretaries in an effort to comply with updated guidance from the National Archives and Records Administration.
“In response to our request, Secretary Clinton provided the department with emails spanning her time at the Department,” Harf said, adding that the State Department reviewed those emails and produced about 300 of the correspondences for the Benghazi House committee.
Harf did not confirm that Clinton had used only a personal email account to conduct business as secretary of state nor whether Clinton had provided all of the government business emails that were sent or received on her personal account.
Clinton, meanwhile, is widely expected to run for the Democratic nomination for president in 2016.
Jeb Bush, who has said he is eyeing the Republican nomination for president, used the opportunity to taunt Clinton, calling for her unclassified emails to be released and playing up his publishing of thousands of emails from his eight years as governor of Florida on a website.