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Run for the Hills

Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign could be in trouble because of her choice of email account


PA-22029081 Liam Richards Liam Richards

PRESUMPTIVE DEMOCRATIC NOMINEE for the 2016 US Presidential election and former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton may have derailed her presidential bid because of her choice of email account.

The New York Times reported earlier this week that Clinton had used a personal email account for the duration of her four years as Secretary of State.

The reports leave Clinton open to legal challenges and, more seriously, allegations that she intentionally avoided transparency and Freedom of Information requests.

The practice has been deemed, at best, “highly unusual” and at worst criminal.

Why do it?

Server Farms Cleveland AP / Press Association Images AP / Press Association Images / Press Association Images

The email address was set up on a domain traced to an Internet service registered to her family’s home in Chappaqua, New York, according to Internet records shortly after she was nominated for the Secretary of State position.

Most internet users rely on professional outside companies, such as Google or their own employers, for the behind-the-scenes complexities of managing their email communications. Government employees generally use servers run by federal agencies where they work.

However, some people who are concerned about security and surveillance set up their own email servers. While Clinton has not explained why the email address – – which traced back to her own private email server registered under an apparent pseudonym — for official State Department business, there are many reasons why a politician would do it.

Operating her own server would have afforded Clinton additional legal opportunities to block government or private subpoenas in criminal, administrative or civil cases because her lawyers could object in court before being forced to turn over any emails.

And since the Secret Service was guarding Clinton’s home, an email server there would have been well protected from theft or a physical hacking.

If it was a genuine error, it would display shocking naivete by a woman who has been at the top of American politics for two decades. If it was deliberate, it raises questions not only about Clinton, but about the Obama administration’s claimed commitment to transparency, which has already come under scrutiny.

Is it legal?

DEM 2016 Clinton Emails House Select Committee on Benghazi Chairman Rep. Trey Gowdy. AP / Press Association Images AP / Press Association Images / Press Association Images

Using a personal email for government business may have been illegal, the White House says.

Clinton may have breached the Federal Records Act, which calls for official correspondence to be retained.

The White House said it had given Obama administration employees “very specific guidance” to “use their official email accounts when they’re conducting official government business,” according to spokesman Josh Earnest.

But Earnest said Clinton did not necessarily break the rules. “When there are situations where personal email accounts are used, it is important for those records to be preserved.”

Republicans, led by the man overseeing the Benghazi hearings, Trey Gowdy, have been quick to pile in.

Clinton’s potential Republican rival Jeb Bush pointed to his own decision to selectively release thousands of emails from his time as Florida governor.

“Hillary Clinton should release her emails. Hopefully she hasn’t already destroyed them,” said Bush spokeswoman Kristy Campbell.

“Governor Bush believes transparency is a critical part of public service and of governing.”

Logged out

DEM 2016 Clinton Emails Homebrew Server The Clintons' home in Chappaqua, New York, where the email served was traced to. AP / Press Association Images AP / Press Association Images / Press Association Images

The US State Department acknowledged that when congressional investigators asked for documents related to the attack on the US compound in Benghazi in 2012, Clinton’s personal email had not been handed over.

Clinton had handed over 300 emails linked to the attack and around 50,000 emails of government-related material.

However, Democrats are fighting a rearguard action to defend Hilary.

“Like secretaries of state before her, she used her own email account when engaging with any department officials,” said Clinton spokesman Nick Merrill.

“Both the letter and spirit of the rules permitted State Department officials to use non-government email, as long as appropriate records were preserved.”

State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said the department “has long had access to a wide array of secretary Clinton’s records — including emails.”

With reporting from AFP and AP.

Read: Who are the likely candidates in 2016 US Presidential election?

Read: Aide resigns after telling Obama daughters to “dress like you deserve respect”

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