Secretary Hillary Clinton’s Email Scandal and the Records Management and Information Security Awareness Training Mandated by the Federal Government

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In February I authored a lengthy blog post about Secretary Hillary Clinton’s email scandal. In return I received good feedback on my work, but discovered that I had written too much for some to ingest at one time. As a consequence, I decided to partition what I wrote into several separate segments and repost all of it. This second part concerns the records management and information security awareness training mandated by the federal government.

Records Management and Information Security Awareness Training

A month ago I wrote: “I have been associated with a particular U.S. government agency since about the time Hillary Clinton became secretary of state. Every year I have been on the job I have received training and had to be certified in records management and information security awareness.

“The training for both consists of a series of PowerPoint slides with a narrative audio track. After working through the slides one must take a multiple choice quiz. If one receives a grade of at least 85% certification is granted. A lower grade means the quiz must be repeated until the requisite score is achieved. Each year every federal government employee and federal government contractor (and I have to assume every appointed federal government official as well) connected with my agency is notified that they must again sit for the trainings, take the quizzes and be recertified. Failure to become recertified by a fixed deadline means that a person is locked out of and therefore cannot use and access any of the applications and databases needed to do our jobs. New hires are barred from doing their jobs until they complete the trainings for the first time.

“For the purposes of this discussion I am going to lump records management training and information security awareness training into one. The training has always included a slide that explains the U.S. government policy on using personal email accounts to conduct government business. In the most plain and simple language possible government employees and government contractors (and I have to assume every appointed government official as well) are told that they should never use a personal email account to conduct government business unless they find themselves in a situation where they temporarily have no alternative. In such a circumstance, government workers and government contractors (and I have to assume appointed government officials as well) are instructed that they must, at the first available moment, forward a copy of all emails sent and received that relate to government business to their own government email address. (This has always been a part of the training and for this reason I was surprised when on November 26, 2014 President Barack Obama signed into law an update of the Federal Records Act which spelled out the fact that these messages must be forwarded to government email address.) The training has always made clear that this requirement is in place because government email accounts are the official repository for emails that constitute active federal government records.

“The training likewise has never failed to cover how to properly handle documents that are not “releasable” to the public and therefore restricted for any number of reasons. Potential threats from hackers both foreign and domestic always received good coverage and the importance of using secured government computer networks to protect such restricted information is driven home. Applicable federal government laws and regulations regarding records management and the proper handling of restricted documents is another feature of the training that has always been present. We are even provided with links to additional resources for those who cannot understand basic English sentences.

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Records Management and Information Security Awareness Training Provided to Hillary Clinton

“The records management and security awareness training provided to Secretary Hillary Clinton, who never used her government email account and only used her personal email account to send and receive emails related to government work, and a number of high-ranking State Department officials who reported to Clinton and very often used a personal email account to conduct government business as well, was undoubtedly much more detailed and intense than that described above. I also have no reason to doubt that Clinton and the others were required to be retrained and recertified yearly just as they would be if they were connected to my agency.

“I therefore do not hesitate to state unequivocally that Hillary Clinton and the others not only were entirely cognizant of the fact that the manner in which they utilized personal email accounts in the course of performing their jobs was absolutely indefensible but they were reminded of this fact on a yearly basis.”

In my initial blog post on Clinton’s email scandal I asserted: “Journalists and commentators have done a poor job….Key details have been left out of the story. The true significance of certain facts has not been made clear. Important inferences that can and should be made have not been.” Check back in with my blog again soon for the rest of my opinions on Clinton’s email scandal.

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