On Thursday, April 16, Jason R. Baron, co-chair of the Information Governance Initiative, appeared at a National Press Club Newsmakers news conference entitled “Hillary & History: Lessons to Improve Open Government Under the Records Laws From Clinton’s Email Records Episode.” The panel discussion, covered live on C-SPAN, focused on the greater policy implications for government recordkeeping, openness, and accountability raised by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server and personal email account when in office.
Baron, the former Director of Litigation for the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), said that whatever Clinton’s motives were, they were “inconsistent with longstanding policies and practices under the Federal Records Act.”
Virtually all government employees implicitly understand that they must follow an agency’s recordkeeping rules, Baron said.
“It would be wrong to think that the policies in place during the first Obama administration allowed for any cabinet official to privately maintain tens of thousands of government records in his or her possession for months or years after exiting government.”
While he’s glad that at the State Department’s request some 30,000 odd emails were returned by the Clinton camp, he remains “mystified that the use of a private email account went unnoticed or unremarked upon” during her tenure at the State Department.
“It is unfathomable to me that this would not have been noticed and reported up the chain,” Baron said. “In my view, there has been an institutional failure here.”
But there’s a silver lining: The situation presents an opportunity for the nation to have a much-needed conversation about the importance of governmental recordkeeping and records management in today’s fast-paced digital world. The discussion largely was centered around the challenges that the Federal government faces in meeting the Archivist’s 2012 Managing Government Records Directive, which sets out a December 31, 2016, for federal agencies to manage -mail records in an accessible electronic form, and a deadline of December 31, 2019, for federal agencies to preserve all permanent electronic records of the US government in a digital or electronic form that for eventual accessioning into the National Archives. Panelists also discussed NARA’s Capstone policy for e-mail management.
You can watch the National Press Club-sponsored panel discussion in full here. Other speakers at the event included Patrice McDermott, director of OpenTheGovernment.org; Liz Icenogle, government affairs director at ARMA International; and Thomas Blanton, director of the National Security Archive at George Washington University.
Organizations that are facing the management of email in the federal sector should view our March webinar recording where Jason R. Baron also discusses Capstone. Stay tuned for the release of our latest white paper on Capstone and managing email in the federal sector and our upcoming webinar, part two in the series, on the same topic — where we will present a detailed case study on how one agency has successfully tackled email governance.