US President Barack Obama speaks during a Cabinet Meeting in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington on Feb. 3, 2015.
US President Barack Obama speaks during a Cabinet Meeting in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington on Feb. 3, 2015.  Saul Loeb—AFP/Getty Images

Obama Cabinet: We Don't Use Only Personal Email

Updated: Mar 11, 2015 1:02 PM ET | Originally published: Mar 06, 2015

Thirteen sitting Cabinet members in the Obama administration say that they do not exclusively use a personal email account for official business, as former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton did.

Spokespersons for the top officials at the departments of Defense, Treasury, Commerce, Health and Human Services, Education, Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, Agriculture, Interior, Homeland Security, Energy and Justice all told TIME that they use an official email account to conduct government business.

Several agencies—including Transportation, Agriculture, Energy, HUD, and Interior—said that their Secretaries also had personal accounts for family or other nongovernment purposes. Only two agencies—the departments of Labor and Veterans Affairs—declined to comment for this article.

Clinton faced criticism this week when the New York Times revealed that she exclusively used a private email system instead of an official government account, possibly violating federal rules on official correspondence. On Twitter Wednesday, she responded by saying she has asked the State department to release her emails.

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said earlier this week that he had not “encountered” a senior White House official who only uses a personal email and that the “official guidance” for Administration employees is to use government email when conducting official business and to forward any relevant emails from a personal account to properly preserve the record.

Representatives of 12 Cabinet agencies either told TIME that the current secretaries conduct all government business on their official account or that they forward any relevant emails from personal accounts. (Clinton's successor, Secretary of State John Kerry, uses a government email account, according to the New York Times.) Here are their responses:

  • “The Department of Defense follows all Federal guidance regarding the management of department records, to include email,” says Lt. Col. Tom Crosson, a Pentagon press officer. “Additionally, in 2012, the Department of Defense published DoD Instruction 8550.01, 'DoD Internet Service and Internet-Based Capabilities,' which covers email communications and applies to all DoD employees with no exceptions based on rank or position. This instruction forbids the routine use of personal email to conduct official business and specifically states, 'baring absence of official communication channels, personal accounts shall not be used to conduct official DoD communication.' Secretary [Ashton] Carter maintains an official government email account."
  • “The Department of the Treasury is firmly committed to maintaining records in a manner that complies with legal requirements, promotes accountability, and establishes an historical record,” says a Treasury Department spokesperson. “Treasury policy is that employees should conduct official business through their official Treasury email accounts. The policy recognizes that there are situations in which an employee must use a personal email account for work purposes. In those circumstances, the employee must ensure that all federal records are preserved. Secretary [Jack] Lew complies with Treasury’s policies regarding email use. Secretary Lew uses government email and conducts official Treasury business on government email.”
  • “Secretary [Jeh] Johnson uses his official dhs.gov email account for official business,” says Tanya J. Bradsher, a DHS spokesperson.
  • “Secretary [Sally Jewell] uses a government email address to conduct official business,” says Jessica Kershaw, a spokesperson for the Interior Department.
  • “Secretary [Tom] Vilsack has a government email account which he uses for USDA business,” says an Agriculture Department spokesperson. "He also has a personal account. In the event he receives an official request at that email address, it is forwarded to an official account."
  • “Secretary [Julián] Castro uses an official HUD.gov account for government business,” says Cameron French, a HUD spokesperson.
  • “Secretary [Sylvia Mathews Burwell] uses a government email address to conduct official government business,” says a HHS spokesperson.
  • “Secretary Arne Duncan uses an ed.gov email address for all Department business, which has been his practice since he was appointed six years ago,” says Dorie Turner Nolt, an Education department spokesperson.
  • “Secretary [Anthony] Foxx has an official government account that he uses to conduct government business,” says a Transportation Department spokesperson. “The Department of Transportation counsels all employees, including senior leadership, that they’re expected to use government approved/issued systems for all government business. If an employee does not have access to a government system/account and needs to engage in government business, the employee is advised to copy or forward the communication to his/her government account so that the Department can retain it as a government record.”
  • “Attorney General [Eric Holder] uses the Department of Justice email system for his official business,” says a DOJ spokesperson.
  • “Secretary [Ernest Moniz] uses his Department of Energy email account for official business," says a DOE spokesperson. "In the rare event of technical issues, the Secretary has on occasion used his personal email account for official business, but ensures that those emails are properly documented and filed as part of the official record.”
  • "Secretary [Penny] Pritzker has an official doc.gov email address that she uses for official business, which is consistent with Department of Commerce policy," says a spokesperson for the agency.

With reporting by Maya Rhodan/Washington

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