Congress Moves to Ban Private Email, Server Use at State Department

New legislation aims to fix security fallout over Clinton emails

Sen. David Perdue (R., Ga.) / AP
July 12, 2016

Congress will introduce legislation to ban all State Department officials from using private email accounts and servers to conduct any official business, the Free Beacon has learned.

The legislation, to be introduced Tuesday by Sen. David Perdue (R., Ga.) and viewed by the Free Beacon, comes in direct response to the repeated disclosure of sensitive classified materials as a result of Democratic presidential frontrunner and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s private email server.

U.S. officials familiar with the legislation characterized it as a sweeping reform effort meant to ensure that U.S. officials never again jeopardize national security through the use of private email accounts and servers like those used by Clinton.

The FBI recently decided not to recommend prosecution for Clinton’s "extremely careless" actions, and there is no formal ban to stop State Department officials from utilizing a similar setup in the future. Experts have warned that this type of system interferes with transparency and can leave sensitive information subject to hacking attacks.

Perdue told the Free Beacon that the new legislation would help avoid a similar scandal in the future.

"Isn’t it obvious that the federal government should not be sending sensitive and classified information through insecure channels?" Perdue asked in a statement provided to the Free Beacon. "All records should be properly preserved to ensure full integrity and transparency. This bill will restore accountability at the State Department by improving management protocols so our country’s classified information remains secure."

The State Department continues to suffer from major oversight and security flaws, according to Perdue, who said his legislation would help close these gaps.

"There are serious and systemic security management problems at the State Department that span the tenure of several secretaries," said Perdue, chair of the Senate subcommittee overseeing the State Department. "Most recently during Hillary Clinton’s tenure, these security weaknesses were amplified by the use of private email servers and non-governmental email accounts."

The FBI and other government authorities, including the State Department’s own inspector general, have determined that "the State Department is lacking when it comes to cyber security for data communications," Perdue added. "It is unacceptable for an agency that handles our nation’s security secrets to be so vulnerable."

The legislation’s most significant reform would prohibit the use of all communications systems not owned and managed by a government agency. This prohibition would extend to private email domains. The legislation additionally directs the State Department’s inspector general to enact a plan to ensure all employees are complying with the reform.

The legislative proposal would require all employees holding security clearances to attend mandatory training sessions on how to handle classified information.

Random quarterly email audits would also be conducted to ensure that classified information is not being inappropriately handled, according to the legislation.

Methods to archive information sent over official servers would be strengthened by the legislation, which would ensure that all officials sign sworn affidavits guaranteeing that information and documents have been properly archived.

Congressional oversight of the State Department also would be strengthened under the legislation, which would require the department to submit annual reports to Congress detailing every security violation that occurred over the year.