In an effort to highlight transparency and willingness to comply with government regulations, Hillary Clinton has been touting the fact that she turned over “55,000 pages of emails” to the State Department.
It turns out that instead of handing over a digital download of the emails from her private servers, Clinton directed her staff to physically print out every single page as a hardcopy.
The New York Times revealed the fact last Friday:
“In December, dozens of boxes filled with 50,000 pages of printed emails from Mrs. Clinton’s personal account were delivered to the State Department. Those documents were then examined by department lawyers, who found roughly 900 pages pertaining to the Benghazi attacks.”
Most Americans living in the digital age naturally assumed that the email release was handled via electronic transfer. It’s the standard method of delivery when emails are subpoenaed or handed over in any other context.
James Taranto at the Wall Street Journal lays out exactly how the delivery method of these emails could be an attempt to further hide her activities as Secretary of State and skirt the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA):
Why did Mrs. Clinton have her staff go through the trouble of printing out, boxing and shipping 50,000 or 55,000 pages instead of just sending a copy of the electronic record? One can only speculate, but there is an obvious advantage: Printed files are less informative and far harder to search than the electronic originals.
Because State has only printouts of emails, department personnel responding to a Freedom of Information Act request have to go through the whole haystack rather than type “needle” into a search engine. At best, that would mean long delays in FOIA compliance.
Likewise, printouts are not subject to electronic discovery in the event of investigation or lawsuit. The Times reports that department lawyers responding to a request from the House Select Committee on Benghazi took two months to find “roughly 900 pages pertaining to the Benghazi attacks.” And printouts do not include electronic “metadata,” which can provide crucial forensic evidence.
The federal government has slowly made progress towards incorporating digital communication into official record. The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press notes that President Barack Obama’s administration, in particular, has added new protections for electronic records.
The latest wrinkle regarding Clinton’s email adds to speculation that she is attempting to retain complete control of her correspondence as Secretary of State by pre-screening which emails would be made available.
This could make it difficult for any researcher, reporter, lawyer or congressman to find specific information. If Clinton had delivered her documents via electronic transfer, then her correspondence would be easily searchable for an individual topic or keyword.
Democrats have mostly kept quiet about the emails, but The Hill says some in the party are worried by the latest scandal. Not to mention, Clinton’s use of hardcopy printouts, rather than digital transfer, may put her at odds with those who worry about sacrifice of so many trees.