Colin Powell Advised Hillary Clinton on How to Skirt Email Security as Secretary of State

J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Powell describes how he communicated with friends without going through State Department servers.

One of the more notable aspects of this year’s U.S. presidential race is the sheer amount of attention given to Hillary Clinton’s use of email while she served as secretary of state from 2009, with Republicans questioning whether she used proper security procedures. But what about the email habits of her predecessors in that role?

Democratic congressman Elijah Cummings has made public an exchange between Clinton and Republican Colin Powell, who served as secretary of state during the first term of president George W. Bush. In it, Powell answers two questions from Clinton as she prepares for her new role in January 2009: “What were the restrictions on your use of your blackberry?” and “Did you use it in your personal office?”

Powell describes how he communicated with friends without going through State Department servers. Here’s the first page:

Notably, Powell says:

I didn’t have a BlackBerry. What I did do was have a personal computer that was hooked up to a private phone line (sounds ancient.) So I could communicate with a wide range of friends directly without going through the State Department servers. I even used it to do business with some foreign leaders and some of the senior folks in the Department on their personal email accounts. I did the same thing on the road in hotels.

In a statement, Cummings, a member of the investigative Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, gave his thoughts on what the exchange reveals:

This email exchange shows that Secretary Powell advised Secretary Clinton with a detailed blueprint on how to skirt security rules and bypass requirements to preserve federal records, although Secretary Clinton has made clear that she did not rely on this advice.

This email exchange also illustrates the longstanding problem that no Secretary of State ever used an official unclassified email account until the current Secretary of State.

The Republican obsession with Secretary Clinton has reached a fever pitch, and they have been using taxpayer resources to single her out in a desperate and abusive attempt to hurt her presidential campaign.

If Republicans were truly concerned with transparency, strengthening FOIA, and preserving federal records, they would be attempting to recover Secretary Powell’s emails from AOL, but they have taken no steps to do so despite the fact that this period — including the run-up to the Iraq War — was critical to our nation’s history.