Douglas Cox (Credit: Cuny School of Law)
Yahoo News reports that “Senate investigators and a conservative group [Judicial Watch] are zeroing in on newly revealed evidence about the activities of a now retired State Department computer specialist in orchestrating what they charge was a ‘cover-up’ of the former secretary of state’s email practices.” That person is John Bentel, who was director of the department’s Information Resource Management (IRM) office until December 2012.
According to a newly released State Department inspector general’s report, in late 2010, two IRM staffers separately raised issues with Bentel that some of Clinton’s private emails might need to be preserved to comply with the law and regulations. But according to the report, Bentel told one of the staffers that Clinton’s email practices had been “reviewed and approved by Department legal staff”—which was not true—and “that the matter was not to be discussed any further.” Bentel told the other staffer that the mission of the IRM “is to support the Secretary and instructed the staff never to speak of the Secretary’s personal email system again.”
In response to this report, Senator Chuck Grassley (R) says, “If what these two witnesses said is true, it is an outrage, and it raises a lot of serious questions. Good and honest employees just trying to do their job were told to shut up and sit down. Concerns about the secretary’s email system being out of compliance with federal record-keeping laws were swept under the rug.”
Additionally, in June 2015, Bentel told the House Benghazi Committee that he had “no memory or knowledge” of Clinton’s private email server while she was secretary of state.
But in August 2011, Clinton’s deputy chief of staff, Huma Abedin, emailed the idea of giving Clinton a new email address because “her personal email server is down.” Bentel suggested giving Clinton a government email account, but warned, “you should be aware that any email would go through the department’s infrastructure and [be] subject to FOIA [Freedom of Information Act] searches.”
Grassley says he intends to learn more about Bentel’s role in a possible cover-up. And Judicial Watch plans to question former Clinton aides like Abedin and Cheryl Mills about Bentel’s role when they are deposed under oath in the coming weeks.
Law professor Douglas Cox say that Bentel’s role was “the most shocking part of the [inspector general’s] report. It shows there was dissent within the State Department precisely by the people responsible for insuring compliance with record-keeping and cyber-security issues—and they were told something that appears not to be true.” (Yahoo News, 5/27/2016) (The New York Times, 5/26/2016)