“Judicial Watch announced today that John Hackett, the former Director for Information Programs and Services (IPS), which handles records management at the State Department, testified under oath that he had raised concerns that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s staff had “culled out 30,000” of the secretary’s “personal” emails without following strict National Archives standards. The full deposition transcript is available here.
John Hackett, as part of a series of court-ordered depositions and questions under oath of senior Obama-era State Department officials, lawyers, and Clinton aides, also revealed that he believed there was interference with the formal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) review process related to the classification of Clinton’s Benghazi-related emails.
Hackett served first as deputy director then as director for Information Programs and Services, which handles the FOIA request program and the retirement of and declassification of documents at the State Department. He was at the department from April 2013 to March 2016.
In March 2015, Clinton told reporters that she and her staff had deleted more than 30,000 emails “because they were personal and private about matters that I believed were within the scope of my personal privacy.” ABC News reported: “However, after a year-long investigation, the FBI recovered more than 17,000 emails that had been deleted or otherwise not turned over to the State Department, and many of them were work-related, the FBI has said.”
(Heather Samuelson, the Clinton lawyer who deleted the Clinton emails, separately testified to Judicial Watch that she received immunity from the Justice Department.)
Hackett answered during the deposition that he recalled a conversation that he had when he was at the State Department about requesting rules or parameters from Secretary Clinton or her attorneys that they used to segregate her personal and official work emails.
Hackett: I recall it wasn’t much of a conversation. I — I was — I mean, I have to say, it was emphatic to the Under Secretary of Management — and I didn’t speak in tones like that very often to him — you know, that we needed these — you know, the guidelines.
Judicial Watch: And when you said, the Under Secretary, are you referring to Patrick Kennedy [then-Under Secretary of State for Management]?
Hackett: I think I might have raised it to Rich Visek, the Acting Office of Legal Advisor, or Peggy — or Margaret Grafeld [an executive-level State Department FOIA official] raised it to Rich, as well.
Judicial Watch: Why did you feel so strongly that this was necessary, that they provide this information?
Hackett: Well, we heard that there were 50,000 or 60,000 emails, and that they had – “they” being the Secretary’s team — had culled out 30,000 of these. And which is — so we wanted to know what criteria they used. The standard from the National Archives is very strict. If there was — if there were mixed records, that would be considered a federal record. If it was mixed personal and mentioned a discussion, that would be — under the narrow National Archives rules, it would be considered a federal record.
(…) Hackett testified that his initial concern over Secretary Clinton’s email use arose in June 2013 when he said he viewed a photograph on the WTOP website of Clinton “sitting on a plane with a BlackBerry. “And that got me thinking that, well, what — what was that BlackBerry? Was it a government BlackBerry? And if so, where were the emails relating to that BlackBerry?” Hackett said.
Hackett testified he went to then-IPS Director Sheryl Walter “after seeing that photograph and suggested that we had to be careful about what sort of responses we made relating to Hillary Clinton’s emails, when it — if there was a No Record Located response that was being given out. In fact, I advised Sheryl that we should stop giving No Record Located responses until we come to — kind of come, you know — find out what that BlackBerry meant, come to ground about what was known about the former Secretary’s emailing habits.”
Asked how Walter responded, Hackett said “My recollection is, she agreed with me.”
“The other thing that we did, or I did at that time, was, we wanted to find out what this BlackBerry meant,” Hackett testified. “So we tasked — my recollection is, we verbally tasked Tasha Thian, the department’s Records Manager at that time, to look into the BlackBerry. And I believe Tasha contacted Clarence Finney in the Secretary’s office to ask him what he knew about the former Secretary’s emailing habits.”
Asked what Thian found out, Hackett responded: “I don’t recall exactly what she found out, but she didn’t find out much. Tasha also contacted the part of the State Department that’s part of the intelligence community, and Intelligence and Research Bureau, to ask to see if there were any classified emails on — in the classified systems that the Secretary might have produced. And I do recall that I think Tasha came back with the answer that they did not have any.”
Hackett went on to say that “There was a lot of confusion about exactly what that BlackBerry, you know, meant at that time. you had a concern as to how the department was responding to FOIA requests that related to Secretary Clinton’s emails after you saw the photograph of the Secretary holding a BlackBerry. … My recollection is — and I had only been there two months — that someone had told me that, — and I can’t remember — that she did not have an email account, a government email account. So there was obviously a contradiction here when, you know, there’s that photograph. So we were just trying to find out what was the ground truth. So that’s why I had a concern about issuing responses that said no records had been located.” (Read more: Judicial Watch, 7/02/2019)