April 15, 2008: Clinton promises transparency.

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Clinton closes a cell phone before handing it back to her aide Huma Abedin in 2008. (Credit: Politico)

During Clinton’s unsuccessful presidential campaign, Clinton says that if she is elected, “we will adopt a presumption of openness and [fulfilling] Freedom of Information Act [FOIA] requests and urge agencies to release information quickly.” (The Federation of American Scientists, 4/15/2008)

But the Washington Post will later report that within days of Clinton becoming the secretary of state in early 2009, “Clinton’s senior advisers were already taking steps that would help her circumvent those high-flown words.” (The Washington Post, 3/27/2016)

July 12, 2011: Clinton’s public comments on transparency contradict her personal practices.

Clinton speaks to the Open Government Partnership on July 12, 2011. (Credit: Open Government Partnership}

Clinton speaks to the Open Government Partnership on July 12, 2011. (Credit: Open Government Partnership}

Clinton gives a speech to inaugurate the Open Government Partnership, an international initiative to promote government transparency. “When a government hides its work from public view, hands out jobs and money to political cronies, administers unequal justice, looks away as corrupt bureaucrats and businessmen enrich themselves at the people’s expense, that government is failing its citizens. And most importantly, that government is failing to earn and hold the trust of its people. And that lack of trust, in a world of instantaneous communication, means that the very fabric of society begins to fray and the foundation of governmental legitimacy begins to crumble.”

In 2015, Danielle Brian, the executive director of the nonpartisan Project On Government Oversight (POGO), will say that Clinton’s comments “demonstrate extraordinary hypocrisy given that while Clinton was giving this speech she had created essentially a second set of books where her communications were not being captured for the National Archives [and Records Administration (NARA)].” Furthermore, keeping all of her emails out of reach “undermines the whole point of the Open Government Partnership.” (US Department of State, 7/12/2011) (Bloomberg News, 3/5/2015)

September 20, 2011: Clinton’s State Department pledges to improve processing FOIA requests while Clinton keeps her emails out of reach of all such requests.

Abedin (standing) and Clinton (on cell phone) attend a meeting with leaders of the Open Government Partnership in New York on September 20, 2011. (Credit: Politico)

Abedin (standing) and Clinton (on cell phone) attend a meeting with leaders of the Open Government Partnership in New York on September 20, 2011. (Credit: Politico)

The US is one of the founding members of the Open Government Partnership, an international initiative joined by over 60 countries to promote government transparency. The US State Department makes several commitments as part of a transparency action plan. One is to overhaul how the US government stores and manages its records, to create “a reformed, digital-era, government-wide records management framework that promotes accountability and performance.” It also pledges to reform how it processes requests under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), making government information more searchable and available to the public.

In 2015, Ryan Shapiro, a FOIA expert at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, will point out that Clinton made this commitment even while she attempted to keep all of her emails from future public scrutiny. “Secretary Clinton’s hypocritical and self-serving stance on transparency should be deeply troubling to everyone who cares about open government and accountability. It’s ironic that Secretary Clinton championed an open government partnership for other countries while simultaneously working diligently to subvert transparency at home.” (Bloomberg News, 3/5/2015) (Opengovpartnership.org, 1/13/2016)