A federal judge has ordered the State Department to try again to find Hillary Clinton’s missing emails where she discusses the 2012 Benghazi terrorist attack.
Judge Amit Mehta ruled that officials did not do enough to track down messages Clinton may have sent about the assault on the U.S. diplomatic compound on Sept. 11, 2012 — an attack that killed four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador to Libya,” Politico reports.
After a Freedom of Information Act request, the State Department searched the 30,000 emails Clinton turned over after officials realized she was using a personal email account during her time as Secretary of State.
They then searched the emails of Clinton’s former top aides, Huma Abedin, Cheryl Mills and Jake Sullivan. Then, Politico reports, they searched a collection of emails the FBI assembled when it was investigating Clinton’s use of the private account and server.
In all, State found 348 Benghazi-related messages or documents that were sent to or from Clinton in a period of nearly five months after the attack.
Responding to the results, Judicial Watch said the State Department’s initial search was not good enough because it didn’t search the email accounts of Clinton’s top aides for relevant messages pertaining to Benghazi.
Mehta, an appointee of former President Barack Obama, agreed with Judicial Watch in a 10-page ruling.
“To date, State has searched only data compilations originating from outside sources — Secretary Clinton, her former aides, and the FBI. … It has not, however, searched the one records system over which it has always had control and that is almost certain to contain some responsive records: the state.gov e-mail server,” Mehta wrote.
“If Secretary Clinton sent an e-mail about Benghazi to Abedin, Mills, or Sullivan at his or her state.gov e-mail address, or if one of them sent an e-mail to Secretary Clinton using his or her state.gov account, then State’s server presumably would have captured and stored such an e-mail. Therefore, State has an obligation to search its own server for responsive records.”
There was some opposition from Justice Department officials who said that searching other employees’ accounts would set a “bad precedent” for future FOI requests.
State Department officials have said there was no routine, automated archiving of official email during Clinton’s tenure. Some officials did copy their mailboxes from time to time and put archived message folders on desktop computers or servers, so State may still have some messages from the aides, but the FBI may already have acquired some of those messages during its inquiry.
A State Department spokesperson declined to comment on the judge’s decision. A Justice Department spokesman said: “We are reviewing the judge’s opinion and order.”