Frustrated with an absence of penalties against Hillary Clinton for her use of private email while secretary of state, Republican senators are now seeking to ban personal email and servers at the State Department.
The Securing Our Secrets Act, introduced this week by David Perdue and Johnny Isakson of Georgia and Ben Sasse of Nebraska, would require employees at the State Department to use official government email accounts for all work-related messages.
Perdue said it should be “obvious” that governmental information should not be sent through insecure channels, citing a long history of poor security management that predates Clinton’s tenure at the department.
The former secretary of state and presumptive Democratic presidential nominee has been dogged by criticism for a year and a half after it became public that she had used a private, home-based email server during her tenure as the nation’s top diplomat from 2009 to 2013.
“It is unacceptable for an agency that handles our nation’s security secrets to be so vulnerable,” Perdue said. “Isn’t it obvious that the federal government should not be sending sensitive and classified information through insecure channels?
“All records should be properly preserved to ensure full integrity and transparency. This bill will restore accountability at the State Department by improving management protocols so our country’s classified information remains secure.”
Current federal law allows “non-official” email accounts to be used for official government business as long as any messages are forwarded to an official account within 20 days.
Privacy advocates haven’t issued statements or made much noise about Perdue’s bill. A spokesman for the Washington-based Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) said the legislation “isn’t high on our priorities,” noting the lateness of the congressional session; and the San Francisco-based Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) did not return a request for comment. Likewise, the Georgia Democratic Party declined to comment.
Perdue, a former Georgia governor, sits on the Senate Foreign Relations and Judiciary committees – and chairs a subcommittee that is in charge of overseeing the State Department.
As such, he was one of the more critical Republicans of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) decision last week not to charge Clinton with any crimes. The party has publicly vowed often since then, however, to keep the controversy alive by continuing to investigate Clinton through Republican-led congressional committees and other methods.
Perdue joined House Speaker Paul Ryan last week, for example, in trying to ban Clinton from receiving national security updates as a presidential candidate. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper denied that request.
Perdue also requested last week that the State Department revoke Clinton’s security clearances – and even introduced legislation to do so.
A Perdue aide told AMI Newswire on Thursday that since the subject is within Perdue’s jurisdiction given his committee assignments, he is “optimistic” that the bill can move later this year even with the election-year politics and shortened congressional work calendar.
The bill may actually have a leg up on contenders, some observers have even said, since congressional Republicans are still looking to make hay out of Clinton’s use of a private email server during her tenure as secretary of state.
The Perdue-Isakson-Sasse bill would do more than simply establish a private email ban. It would create new security training as well as random scans of State Department emails to try to detect inappropriately insecure emails.
Also, the department would be required to develop an “oversight plan” to ensure compliance with the new bill, should it become law, with any violations annually reported to Congress.