WASHINGTON — The State Department provided an "inaccurate or incomplete" response when a watchdog group asked in 2012 whether Hillary Clinton had used any alternate email accounts, saying it had no relevant records, even though dozens of top officials knew that she relied on a private email address for official communications, an independent investigator reported Thursday.
After the group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, filed its request for public records on Clinton's email use as secretary of state, the department told the organization in May 2013 that "no records responsive to your request were located," according to the department's inspector general. The request was made long before the New York Times first reported in March of last year that Clinton had used a private email server, an issue that roiled the early stages of her presidential campaign.
The FBI is investigating whether the arrangement compromised national security or led to the mishandling of classified material.
The issue has receded from public view in recent months, but the inspector general's report — along with the public release Thursday of another set of Clinton's emails — underscored that it could continue to flare up throughout the campaign.
Although Clinton's chief of staff, Cheryl D. Mills, knew of the watchdog group's records request, the inspector general said, there is no evidence that Mills or other senior officials familiar with Clinton's email use had approved the department's response. There is also no indication that the staff members who denied the records request were aware of Clinton's email practices.