- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 13, 2015

The State Department is struggling to hire enough staff to review the huge load of emails former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and her top aides dumped on the Obama administration over the last year, officials told a federal court late Tuesday.

The department is trying to hire 50 additional staffers but has been able to find fewer than three dozen applicants it’s been able to make offers to.

And, as of last week, only three had started working.

The next class of trainees is due in mid-November, and the department won’t have all 50 new staffers working until next year, John F. Hackett, the top open records officer in the State Department, said in a filing with the federal court in Washington, D.C.

“Although new staff has begun to come on board, and will continue to do so in ‘classes’ in the middle of each month, the full complement of 50 will likely not be on board until mid-January or February,” he wrote. “It will be more time before each class is fully up to speed and able to significantly increase the department’s overall FOIA-processing capacity.”

Part of the problem is the need to scrub the messages for classified information. The staffers need to have top secret clearance because of the information that could be in Mrs. Clinton’s emails, Mr. Hackett said.

He and his team are under pressure from federal judges to speed up their processing.

They say they’re on track to release Mrs. Clinton’s emails on a monthly rolling basis, with the final set coming in January. But they’ve been unable to say when they’ll have processed the other aides’ emails. While all of Mrs. Clinton’s messages are being processed for release, the aides’ messages won’t be released in total, but will instead be kept and searched in response to specific requests, the department says.

Mrs. Clinton turned over 55,000 pages of emails in December, and her top aides turned over tens of thousands of pages this year, leaving the department overwhelmed.

The emails were supposed to have been part of government records since they were created, but Mrs. Clinton and her aides used private email accounts or, in her case, an account tied to a server she set up herself at her home in New York, and didn’t turn them over when they left office.

Minutes after the document was filed with the court, Mrs. Clinton, at the kickoff Democratic presidential debate in Las Vegas, said she made a “mistake” in her email arrangement, but said she’s been transparent.

Her chief rival for the Democrats’ presidential nomination, Sen. Bernard Sanders, gave Mrs. Clinton a major assist, saying he was tired of her “damn emails” dominating the debate.

The timing of the emails is a schedule of Mrs. Clinton’s own making. She waited until nearly two years after leaving office to return the messages to the government, and turned over printed copies rather than electronic files, meaning the State Department spent the first five months re-digitizing the messages.

Only after officials began going through those messages did it become clear her top aides had also relied on private or secondary accounts for government business.

More than five dozen State Department employees are involved in processing Freedom of Information Act requests, and Mr. Hackett said they have worked overtime and on weekends to try to meet court-imposed deadlines.

The Obama administration had asked federal courts to consolidate most of the nearly 40 lawsuits demanding the release of Clinton-related emails, giving them to a single judge. But the district court rejected that, meaning more than a dozen judges are still hearing cases, and any one of them could impose new disclosure requirements or even force the State Department to try to recover emails from Mrs. Clinton’s server.

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