WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell and aides to his successor, Condoleezza Rice, both obtained classified information a handful of times through personal email reports, the top Democrat to a congressional oversight panel said on Thursday.
The findings come after nearly a year of controversy over Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s choice to set up a private email address because of her work as secretary of state. Democratic lawmakers and employees on Clinton’s presidential campaign seized on the report as vindicating a few of their defenses of the contentious arrangement.
Representative Elijah Cummings said the disclosures about Powell’s and Rice’s aides’ mails were created from the State Department’s inspector general, who is reviewing the email practices of the last five secretaries of state.
That office advised the State Department on Wednesday that it discovered 12 emails comprising classified information sent to Rice’s aides or Powell, according to Cummings, who is the ranking Democrat on the House of Representatives Oversight Committee.
In a statement, Powell said the two mails he obtained weren’t judged to contain confidential information at the time they had been sent to him by American ambassadors.
“I wish they would release them,” Powell told NBC News, “to ensure a normal, air-breathing mammal would look at them and say, ‘What is the situation?'”
An agent for Rice, that, as with Powell, served under Republican President George W. Bush, said the 10 emails sent to her aides didn’t contain intelligence information.
More than 1,500 of Clinton’s emails, that are being made public on a national judge’s order, have been discovered to comprise classified information up to now, according to the State Department.
Clinton both sent and received advice the State Department now deems to become classified, such as the privately shared notions of foreign leaders, in addition to highly classified U.S. intelligence agency secrets.
It became public last March that Clinton set up a private email server in her New York house for her work as President Barack Obama’s secretary of state between 2009 and 2013. Accusations that she subjected authorities secrets to hackers and attempted to side-step record keeping laws have because dogged her effort, and the arrangement is being analyzed from the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Clinton’s campaign staff indicated the findings announced on Thursday assisted vindicate her claim that she did nothing wrong or odd and repeated their accusation that the State Department has been overclassifying her mails, a notion the department has dismissed.
“Hillary Clinton agrees with her predecessor that his emails, like hers, are being inappropriately subjected to over-classification,” John Podesta, Clinton’s campaign chairman, said in a statement, calling for their unredacted release.
J. William Leonard, who oversaw the government’s classification regime since the Information Security Oversight Office director until 2008, said so-called “spillage” of classified information into unsecured email systems was common.
“That is the reason in the get-go it was exceedingly bad judgment to prepare a private email accounts because of this very real fact,” Leonard said in an interview, referring to Clinton’s arrangement.
The government prohibits sending classified information via email, however the . Gov email system, which Clinton circumvented, is tracked and protected on the premise that classified information spills right into it.
Powell has said the State Department was peacefully when he joined in 2001 and that he had to struggle to obtain an Internet-connected computer installed in his office, from which he continued to use his personal email accounts.
Georgia Godfrey, Rice’s chief of staff at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, said Rice didn’t use email while at the State Department, and that the 10 mails to her employees were reports on “diplomatic conversations.”
Government regulations require that information shared in confidence by foreign government officials ought to be treated as classified.
(Additional reporting by Jonathan Allen in New York; Editing by Andrew Hay and Tom Brown)
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