- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 17, 2015

The chairman of the House Armed Services Committee on Thursday called on the Pentagon to seek an inspector general’s investigation of Defense Secretary Ashton Carter’s use of a private email account to conduct Pentagon business.

Mr. Carter acknowledged earlier in the day that he made a mistake by using unsecured email in the first months in office. He said he did not discuss classified information on the private account.

“I believe that it would be appropriate for him to ask for the DOD Inspector General’s assessment that no classified material was transmitted over unsecured channels,” said Rep. Mac Thornberry, Texas Republican. “It would be prudent for this assessment to extend to Secretary Carter’s time as Deputy Secretary of Defense as well. Congress should be briefed on the results.”

Mr. Carter addressed the issue on Wednesday, after the New York Times reported on his email practices outside a “.mil” account set up for military officials. Such accounts would presumedly be secured against hackers and foreign governments. The Times obtained his emails under a Freedom of Information Act request.

The incident had echoes of the scandal facing Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton. She exclusively conducted business on a private email service kept at her New York home. The FBI has been investigating her practice for any security breaches. Scores of her emails have been shown to contain classified information.

Senate Armed Services Chairman John McCain, Arizona Republican, was critical of Mr. Carter’s “judgment.”

“With all the public attention surrounding the improper use of personal email by other Administration officials, it is hard to believe that Secretary Carter would exercise the same error in judgment,” he said.

President Obama’s spokesman confirmed Thursday that White House officials asked the Pentagon in May about Mr. Carter’s use of a personal email account for some official business, but didn’t indicate any follow-up to learn whether he stopped the practice. Mr. Carter apparently continued to use the personal account until a few months ago.

The Pentagon said Mr. Carter backed up any official business he did on personal email by forwarding it to the officials account, ensuring it is preserved for the federal record.

“After reviewing his email practices earlier this year, the Secretary believes that his previous, occasional use of personal email for work-related business, even for routine administrative issues and backed up to his official account, was a mistake,” Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook said.

Asked if Mr. Carter’s move compromised sensitive government documents, Mr. Earnest said “it does not appear that his mistake led to any sort of breach of classified information.”

White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, upon learning of the problem in May, directed the White House counsel’s office to contact Pentagon officials.

After former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s scandalous use of a private email server to conduct government business, Mr. Earnest said there is “no ambiguity” that government employees shouldn’t engage in the practice. But he couldn’t say for certain whether any other Cabinet members might be doing so.

“If there are, this surely is another reminder of why that would be a poor choice,” Mr. Earnest said.

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