Hillary Clinton's e-mails
Nothing to hide?
A hoo-hah about transparency
AS SCANDALS involving people called “Clinton” go, it seems a bit tame. On March 2nd theNew York Times revealed that when Hillary Clinton was secretary of state, she used a personal e-mail account rather than a government one for all her official business. This stumble reveals a more general problem with Mrs Clinton's undeclared presidential campaign.
The finding came through the Republican-controlled House Select Committee on Benghazi. (House Republicans have spent two years hunting fruitlessly for proof that, for political reasons, American missions in Libya were left vulnerable when they were attacked in 2012.) Federal rules require all e-mails sent for government business to be stored by departments. Mrs Clinton's evidently were not. They were in fact stored on a personal server set up in her home in Chappaqua, New York. That looks suspicious: because only Mrs Clinton possesses physical access to her e-mails, she can be selective about which ones she turns over.
For Republicans, the finding is politically convenient. The investigation into Benghazi had all but died for lack of anything interesting to say. The idea that Mrs Clinton may have kept back e-mails could help to revive the allegations. Trey Gowdy, the chairman of the investigative committee, quickly called for all Mrs Clinton's communications to be made available for his committee to scrutinise; on March 4th a subpoena was duly issued.
For Mrs Clinton, the story could prove a lasting headache. It fits into a pattern of cloudy dealings. Republicans were already complaining about the Clinton Foundation, a charity controlled by Mrs Clinton and her husband Bill, for accepting donations from foreign governments, including some while she served at the State Department, which could raise conflicts of interest. The foundation does plenty of charitable work, but it also helps to provide a platform for Mrs Clinton to do things that look a lot like campaigning.
Few think that such murkiness will be cleared up by better control of e-mails, however. Politicians who want to conceal shady dealings have plenty of other ways to communicate. They can meet in person or use intermediaries. Some might simply use more private electronic systems. A Snapchat message disappears after a few seconds. Does the Freedom of Information Act cover that?