this May 24, 2016 file photo, Democratic
presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks in
Commerce, Calif. A State Department audit has
faulted Hillary Clinton and previous top U.S.
diplomats for poorly managing information and slowly
responding to new cybersecurity risks.
WASHINGTON — Hillary
Clinton and her team ignored clear guidance from the State
Department that her email setup broke federal standards
and could leave sensitive material vulnerable to hackers,
a department audit has found. Her aides twice brushed
aside concerns, in one case telling technical staff
"the matter was not to be discussed further."
general's review on Wednesday also revealed that
hacking attempts forced then-Secretary of State Clinton
off email at one point in 2011, though she insists the
personal server she used was never breached. Clinton and
several of her senior staff declined to be interviewed for
Earlier this month, Clinton
declared that she was happy to "talk to anybody,
anytime" about the matter and would encourage her
staff to do the same.
Opponents of her Democratic
presidential campaign pointed to the audit as proof that
Clinton has not been truthful about her private email use,
citing it as fresh evidence she is not trustworthy or
qualified to be commander in chief.
Campaigning in California,
presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump
noted solemnly that Clinton had received "a little
bad news" and then railed against her "horribly
Clinton, also campaigning
in California, didn't mention the controversy and ignored
reporters' shouted questions. A spokesman for Clinton, who
served as the nation's top diplomat from 2009 to 2013,
declared the audit showed her email use was consistent
with what others at the department have done.
The 78-page analysis, a
copy of which was obtained by The Associated Press, says
Clinton ignored clear directives. She never sought
approval to conduct government business over private
email, and never demonstrated the server or the Blackberry
she used while in office "met minimum information
Twice in 2010, information
management staff at the State Department raised concerns
that Clinton's email practices failed to meet federal
records-keeping requirements. The staff's director
responded that Clinton's personal email system had been
reviewed and approved by legal staff, "and that the
matter was not to be discussed any further."
The audit found no evidence
of a legal staff review or approval. It said any such
request would have been denied by senior information
officers because of security risks.
The inspector general's
inquiry was prompted by revelations of Clinton's email
use, a subject that has dogged her presidential campaign.
The review encompassed the
email and information practices of the past five
secretaries of state, finding them "slow to recognize
and to manage effectively the legal requirements and
cybersecurity risks associated with electronic data
communications, particularly as those risks pertain to its
most senior leadership."
Clinton campaign spokesman
Brian Fallon underscored that point Wednesday.
"The inspector general
documents just how consistent her email practices were
with those of other secretaries and senior officials at
the State Department who also used personal email,"
The audit did note that
former Secretary of State Colin Powell had also
exclusively used a private email account, though it did
not name any other prior secretaries who had done so. But
the failings of Clinton were singled out in the audit as
being more serious than her predecessor.
Clinton's tenure, the department's guidance was
considerably more detailed and more sophisticated,"
the report concluded. "Secretary Clinton's
cybersecurity practices accordingly must be evaluated in
light of these more comprehensive directives."
Republicans said Wednesday
the audit showed Clinton was in clear violation of the
Federal Records Act and endangered national security.
The State Department has
released more than 52,000 pages of Clinton's work-related
emails, including some that have since been classified.
Clinton has withheld thousands of additional emails,
saying they were personal.
Critics have questioned
whether her server might have made a tempting target for
hackers, especially those working with or for foreign
Separately from the State
Department audit, the FBI has been investigating whether
Clinton's use of the private email server imperiled
government secrets. It has recently interviewed Clinton's
top aides, including former chief of staff Cheryl Mills
and deputy chief of staff Huma Abedin. Clinton is expected
to be interviewed.
Clinton has acknowledged in
the campaign that the homebrew email setup in her New York
home was a mistake. She said she never sent or received
anything marked classified at the time, and says hackers
never breached the server.
The audit said a Clinton
aide had to shut down the server on Jan. 9, 2011, because
he believed "someone was trying to hack us."
Later that day, he said: "We were attacked again so I
shut (the server) down for a few min."
The next day, a senior
official told two of Clinton's top aides not to email
their boss "anything sensitive," saying she
could "explain more in person."
On CBS' "Face the
Nation" this month, Clinton said, "I've made it
clear that I'm more than ready to talk to anybody,
anytime. And I've encouraged all of (my staff) to be very
The audit said four of her
closest State Department aides — Mills, Abedin, policy
chief Jake Sullivan and strategy aide Philippe Reines —
all declined interview requests.