Hillary’s email scandal sign of a larger problem

Victoria Zawitkowski
Staff Columnist

Illustration by Kelli Moore

Hillary Clinton’s announcement that she is running for president came right after her email scandal, where it was uncovered that she used a private email address for government business. Clinton deleted 62,000 emails on her account that she deemed to be private and sent the 55,000 pages of emails she deemed to be work related to the State Department.

This incident shows poor judgment on her part and increases public distrust of the government. But she is not the only one at fault. This latest discredit to Clinton’s administration is merely part of the slew of issues the public should be taking up with our government officials.

As taxpayers, we are entitled to at least some information about what the leaders of our country are doing on our behalf. The Freedom of Information Act, the law that allows for the full or partial disclosure of previously unreleased information and documents controlled by the United States government, is one way of ensuring openness from our federal government. For national security reasons, there is information that is inaccessible regardless of FOIA. Government business should be recorded at the very least for historical purposes, but also for checks and balances of the U.S. administration.

Mitt Romney used a private email to discuss official state business as governor of Massachusetts, according to documents from the Associated Press. Mike Huckabee destroyed all records during his 12-year term as governor of Arkansas, as reported by news source Mother Jones when they sent a FOIA request for documents. Scott Walker is a potential GOP presidential candidate whose County Executive’s office used a secret email system for campaign work on county time, according to the Journal Sentinel. This attitude exemplified most recently by Clinton is obviously nothing new. It speaks to a larger problem with our government about being open and transparent to the public.

Managing large amounts of data is a difficult task for our federal government. Both Democratic and Republican administrations have spent much more money on keeping information secure than on preserving it for the historical record. According to the Information Security Oversight Office, in 2013 $11.6 billion was spent on keeping information protected. Only $99 billion of that was devoted to declassification.  In the last 15 years there has also been a huge decrease in the number of pages that are declassified each year. In the late ’90s more than 200 million pages of government documents were declassified every year. Now that number averages at around 30 million per year with an increase in the amount of classified documents.

In August 2012, the Obama administration signed a memorandum ordering all federal electronic records to be managed digitally by 2019. This could prevent documents from being printed out and destroyed without having any other record of it. But that is four years and another presidential election away.

This email scandal won’t be the end of Hillary’s political career. In fact, the 31,830 missing emails probably won’t prevent her from winning or at least getting close to the U.S. presidency. We should be concerned about that. While Clinton and other candidates undoubtedly possess many great qualities of a president, it is worrisome that people with those questionable ethics and lack of judgment are making it into the presidential race. This goes to the heart of so many major concerns.

We are experiencing a great deal of turmoil within our society over how much power is given to government agencies, without the taxpayers knowing or having any say in how they conduct themselves. Our ABC department, who recently bloodied the face of U.Va. student Martese Johnson without cause, police departments and all government officials should have a system of checks and balances in place. Their business to a certain extent is our business and we have the right to know.

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