April 1, 2005: Sandy Berger pleads guilty to the unlawful removal and retention of national security information.

National Security Advisor Sandy Berger (Credit: Washington Life Magazine)

National Security Advisor Sandy Berger (Credit: Washington Life Magazine)

Former National Security Advisor Berger was caught trying to smuggle classified documents out of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). (The Los Angeles Times, 3/27/2016Berger took five copies of a memorandum called the “Millennium Alert After Action Report” and later destroyed three of them. (Real Clear Politics, 1/15/2007(The Washington Post, 4/1/2005)

October 2, 2009: New regulations require that all government emails must be preserved.

The US Code of federal regulations on handling electronic records is updated: “Agencies that allow employees to send and receive official electronic mail messages using a system not operated by the agency must ensure that Federal records sent or received on such systems are preserved in the appropriate agency recordkeeping system.” (The Washington Post, 3/10/2015)

In 2015, Jason Baron, former director of litigation at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), will comment that the rules get stricter in 2013. But even prior to that, “the use of a private [email] account was to be rare and occasional, and not to be the norm.” Using a private account “without using an official account is inconsistent with the Federal Records Act.” He adds, “To solely use a personal e-mail for four years [as Clinton did] is something that is highly unusual.” (Bloomberg News, 3/3/2015)

December 22, 2010: Clinton is told a new rule that all work emails must be preserved.

The National Archives building in Washington, DC. (Credit: public domain)

The National Archives building in Washington, DC. (Credit: public domain)

The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) issues guidelines to the heads of all federal agencies, including Secretary of State Clinton, stating that all emails and email attachments relating to government business are considered records to be preserved under the Federal Records Act. (The Wall Street Journal, 9/30/2015)

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)

Early June 2013: State Department officials discover Clinton’s personal email address and then fail in their legal obligation to share her emails with others.

Heather Higginbottom (Credit: public domain)

Heather Higginbottom (Credit: public domain)

State Department staff reviewing material to possibly give to Congressional committees examining the September 2012 Benghazi terrorist attack discover emails sent by former Clinton aide Jake Sullivan to a personal email address belonging to Clinton.

In ensuing weeks, senior department officials discuss if the Federal Records Act (FRA) requires the department to turn over emails from such personal accounts. In fact, the act does require emails to be turned over if they are work-related. However, an internal investigation will later determine that the department does not notify the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) of a potential loss of records at any point in time. Furthermore, none of Clinton’s emails are given to any Congressional committee in 2013, nor are they provided in response to any Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests that year.

According to department official Heather Higginbottom, Secretary of State John Kerry is not a part of these discussions or decisions. (US Department of State, 5/25/2016) 

Around this debate period, on August 7, 2013, department officials find 17 FOIA requests relating to Clinton in their records, with some of them specifically requesting Clinton emails. But none of the requesters are told about any of Clinton’s emails  apparently due to the result of this debate.

Clinton’s personal email address will be rediscovered in May 2014 after a document request from the new House Benghazi Committee.

August 14, 2015: The head of the US government’s National Archives says Clinton should have recognized classified information and shouldn’t have used a private server.

John Fitzpatrick (Credit: Mike Morones / The Federal Times)

John Fitzpatrick (Credit: Mike Morones / The Federal Times)

John Fitzpatrick, who heads the Information Security Oversight Office in the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), says that government agencies train officials with security clearances to spot sensitive material and then to look up the proper classifications, such as “confidential,” “secret” or “top secret.”

“If you write an email, you are expected to distinguish the classified from the unclassified. If you say ‘the CIA reports’ something—writing that sentence should set off alarm bells.” However, Fitzpatrick says that issue is somewhat academic given that Clinton had all her emails on a private server. “The rules require conducting any official business on an official system. There are many reasons for that—including assuring the security of the information, regardless of its classification. There is no argument to have those conversations in a private email.” (The Washington Post, 8/14/2015)

August 21, 2015: In many cases, information in Clinton’s emails were “born classified.”

That means they were classified from their creation. A Reuters analysis concludes, “In the small fraction of emails made public so far, Reuters has found at least 30 email threads from 2009, representing scores of individual emails, that include what the State Department’s own ‘classified’ stamps now identify as so-called ‘foreign government information.’ The US government defines this as any information, written or spoken, provided in confidence to US officials by their foreign counterparts.” Although unmarked, Reuters’ analysis suggests that these emails “were classified from the start.”

J. William Leonard, a former director of the NARA Information Security Oversight Office, said that such information is “born classified” and that “If a foreign minister just told the secretary of state something in confidence, by US rules that is classified at the moment it’s in US channels and US possession.” According to Reuters, the standard US government nondisclosure agreement “warns people authorized to handle classified information that it may not be marked that way and that it may come in oral form.”

The State Department disputes Reuters’ analysis but does not elaborate or explain why. (Reuters, 8/21/2015)

May 25, 2016: Clinton didn’t consult with anybody about exclusively using a personal email address or private server for work matters.

Cheryl Mills speaks to reporters in Washington, DC, on September 3, 2015. (Credit: Fox News)

Cheryl Mills speaks to reporters in Washington, DC, on September 3, 2015. (Credit: Fox News)

When former Clinton chief of staff Cheryl Mills testified to the House Benghazi Committee in a private session on September 3, 2015, her comments remained secret.

However, on this day, a State Department inspector general’s report makes one portion of her testimony public. Mills was asked by the committee, “Was anyone consulted about Secretary Clinton exclusively using a personal email address for her work?”

Mills replied, “I don’t recall that. If it did happen, I wasn’t part of that process. But I don’t believe there was a consultation around it, or at least there’s not one that I’m aware of…”

Mills then was asked if Clinton consulted with “private counsel,” or “the general counsel for the State Department,” or “anybody from the National Archives [and Records Administation (NARA)],” or “anyone from the White House.”

Mills replied she wasn’t aware of any consultation from any of those people either.

The inspector general’s report also included comments from many other senior department officials about this, and “These officials all stated that they were not asked to approve or otherwise review the use of Secretary Clinton’s server and that they had no knowledge of approval or review by other Department staff. These officials also stated that they were unaware of the scope or extent of Secretary Clinton’s use of a personal email account, though many of them sent emails to [her] on this account.” (US Department of State, 5/25/2016)