Records Management

State IG: Colin Powell, aides to Condoleezza Rice handled classified info in personal email

Shutterstock image. Copyright: Randy Miramontez

Colin Powell disagreed with reports that he had received messages containing classified information via his personal email account while serving as secretary of State.

The State Department's inspector general has concluded that former Secretary of State Colin Powell and aides to former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice received classified information via their personal email accounts while in office, according to Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.).

In a Feb. 4 letter to Secretary of State John Kerry, Cummings said an IG review found that from 2003 to 2008, two email messages containing classified information were sent to Powell's personal account and 10 were sent to the personal accounts of Rice's immediate staff. None of the messages were marked classified at the time, according to Cummings.

He asked Kerry to provide copies of the 12 messages said to contain classified information by Feb. 18.

Cummings said the IG is reviewing the records management practices of five previous secretaries of State and their immediate staff. IG spokesman Doug Welty would not comment other than to say that the IG is conducting a review "to determine the proper scope and methodology for a review of the department's ability to preserve information and respond to information requests, among other things."

Rice is currently on the faculty at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. "My understanding is that the [IG] report is in reference to emails sent to her assistant reporting diplomatic conversations and they contained no intelligence information," said Georgia Godfrey, Rice's chief of staff, in a statement to FCW.

Powell could not be reached for comment. However, he told NBC News he strongly disagreed that the information in the messages sent to him was classified.

"I wish they would release them," Powell said, "so that a normal, air-breathing mammal would look at them and say, 'What's the issue?'"

Rice's successor as secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, exclusively used a personal email account that ran on a private server during her tenure. More than 1,200 of the messages that passed through Clinton's server at the time have since been deemed classified. A federal investigation into her email practices is ongoing.

In a statement, Cummings argued that the revelation of irresponsible email practices involving former Republican secretaries of State showed that Republican investigations into Clinton's email activities "are nothing more than a transparent political attempt to use taxpayer funds to target the Democratic candidate for president."

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, is carrying out a probe of federal recordkeeping practices, which could lead to Clinton.

Cummings is not the only lawmaker to ask an agency leader about official email use this week. Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, sent a letter dated Feb. 1 to Defense Secretary Ash Carter asking if the Pentagon had determined whether classified information was involved in Carter's use of a personal email account last year.

Carter has called his now-discontinued use of personal email for some official business a mistake but has said no classified information was involved.

About the Author

Sean Lyngaas is an FCW staff writer covering defense, cybersecurity and intelligence issues. Prior to joining FCW, he was a reporter and editor at Smart Grid Today, where he covered everything from cyber vulnerabilities in the U.S. electric grid to the national energy policies of Britain and Mexico. His reporting on a range of global issues has appeared in publications such as The Atlantic, The Economist, The Washington Diplomat and The Washington Post.

Lyngaas is an active member of the National Press Club, where he served as chairman of the Young Members Committee. He earned his M.A. in international affairs from The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, and his B.A. in public policy from Duke University.

Click here for previous articles by Lyngaas, or connect with him on Twitter: @snlyngaas.


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