While the attention nationally has been on the server of Hillary Clinton and the ongoing investigation, there is a new development in the effort to acquire another set of emails that should cause public outcry. Two years ago, the State Department officially stated that there were no emails responsive to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request about a close Hillary Clinton adviser’s contact with the media. Now, after the intervention of a federal judge, the Department has admitted that it has located 17,855 emails that appear to match the criteria. From 0 to 17,855 and no one seems particularly bothered by the false statement of the State Department in its early response to the lawful request under FOIA. No one is under review at the State Department for possible termination or even discipline. No one is being transferred or retrained. The government first says that there were no emails and then is forced to admit that there are potentially thousands. It is being treated as just another day in the life of our government.
The website Gawker filed a FOIA request in 2012 seeking any emails between Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Philippe Reines (a top Hillary Clinton adviser) and a list of 33 major media outlets. Reines was involved in an angry email exchange with journalist Michael Hastings where he lost his temper and told Hastings to “f-ck off.”
In July of 2013, the State Department responded to Gawker’s request with a letter which stated, “After a thorough search . . . no records responsive to your request were located.” Zero. Gawker then went to court. It has become all too predictable for agencies to deny everything and wait to see if they are forced to fess up to the truth on such evidence. This occurs because no one in government is held accountable by the courts.
The truth came out in a “court-ordered status report” where the State Department has admitted to having located 81,159 emails belonging to Reines and estimated that 22 percent may be responsive to the FOIA request made back in 2012. Indeed, three are so many relevant emails that the Department is requesting more time to “conduct a line-by-line review of an estimated 17,855 emails for applicable FOIA exemptions.”
It would seem reasonable to expect a show cause order for the State Department to explain the slight discrepancy from zero to thousands of emails. Otherwise, it appears that Reines’ answer to Hastings reflects a general response of the entire Department to the American people in using FOIA.