Secretary of State John Kerry appointed former career diplomat Janice Jacobs as the government agency’s “transparency coordinator” who will be responsible for improving its document preservation and transparency systems.
The announcement comes as the State Department receives multiple Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests and inquiries from congressional lawmakers stemming from the controversy surrounding former secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s exclusive use of a private email system while working in the Obama administration.
Jacobs, who most recently worked as Assistant Secretary for Consular Affairs before retiring last year, appears to have donated the maximum $2,700 to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign in June, according to records from the Federal Election Commission.
Jacobs will be tasked with ensuring that the department responds more efficiently to FOIA requests and improving the agency’s document preservation and production.
An unnamed senior official told CNN that the decision was “born out of frustration” from Kerry regarding criticism of the State Department by congressional lawmakers and federal judges for not responding to FOIA requests quickly enough, especially amid controversy surrounding Clinton’s email.
“He is also bothered frankly by unfair criticism of some of our public servants that have been working hard without enough resources,” the anonymous official continued.
Kerry said in a statement Tuesday that FOIA requests have tripled since 2008. According to officials, a “large volume” of the FOIA requests and congressional inquiries received by the agency over the last six months have had to do with Clinton’s email.
“We have a fundamental obligation to document the conduct of U.S. foreign policy and to produce our records in response to requests from the public and Congress,” Kerry said Tuesday, announcing the appointment. “Our records and our ability to share them serve as testament to our commitment to transparency and open government.”
“It is clear that our systems and our resources are straining to keep pace with the growing number of records we create and the expanding demand for access to them,” the secretary of state admitted. “It is time to take further action. I want the department to lead on these issues, to set and achieve a new standard for our efforts, and harness new technological tools in order to meet our commitments.”
Kerry labeled Jacobs, who once served as the U.S. Ambassador to Senegal and Guinea-Bissau, “exactly the right person for this job.”
Kerry specifically pointed to Jacobs’ experience as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Visa Services beginning in 2002, during which time she helped fix visa issuance policies and streamline how the State Department shared information with law enforcement and intelligence agencies after the 9/11 attacks.
In addition to fielding numerous FOIA requests and congressional inquiries, the State Department is also busy vetting the 55,000 pages of Hillary Clinton’s work-related emails in order to release them to the public.