Colin Powell’s Email Use: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

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Colin Powell and Hillary Clinton both served as Secretary of State — and both used personal email accounts for official business. (Getty)

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell told Hillary Clinton, who served in the same office under a different administration, it was OK to use a personal email account, Clinton told FBI investigators, according to the New York Times.

FBI Director James Comey previously said Clinton and her State Department staff were “extremely careless” with handling classified information. Clinton used a private email account and server for both personal and government use.

Powell, who served in the George W. Bush administration, advised Clinton one night over dessert at a Madeline Albright dinner party to use a personal email except for classified information, according to a forthcoming book by journalist Joe Conason, the Times reports.

“Toward the end of the evening, over dessert, Albright asked all of the former secretaries to offer one salient bit of counsel to the nation’s next top diplomat,” The Times report quotes Conason. “Powell told her to use her own email, as he had done, except for classified communications, which he had sent and received via a State Department computer.”

According to the Times, Powell’s office released a statement saying he doesn’t recall the conversation, but Powell did write a 2009 email to Clinton about email practices. That exchange was already after Clinton decided to use a personal account, according to the Times.

Here is what you need to know about Powell’s email use:


1. Powell Used a Personal Email Account for Official Business, But the Rules Were Different

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In a 2009 email exchange, Powell told Clinton about best email practices. (Getty)

Once reports surfaced that Clinton used her personal email account, possibly breaking government-use rules, a Powell aide confirmed he did it, too. The difference, however, is that the rules changed between the time Powell was in charge of the State Department and when Clinton assumed the office.

“He was not aware of any restrictions nor does he recall being made aware of any over the four years he served at State,” the statement said. “He sent emails to his staff generally via their State Department email addresses. These emails should be on the State Department computers. He might have occasionally used personal email addresses, as he did when emailing to family and friends.”

Powell’s statement added that his account had been closed for a number of years — and those restrictions changed in the department in 2005, after Powell’s tenure.


2. Powell Said He Didn’t Use His Personal Account for Classified Information

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Former Secretary of State Colin Powell used a personal email account to communicate with ambassadors and foreign leaders. (Getty)

Although Powell used a personal email account, he said it was only for unclassified information, “and how it vastly improved communications within the State Department,” the statement to the Times said.

The statement, in March 2015, added: “He did not take any hard copies of emails with him when he left office and has no record of the emails. They were all unclassified and mostly of a housekeeping nature. He came into office encouraging the use of emails as a way of getting the staff to embrace the new 21st information world.”

Clinton, however, had top secret emails on her personal account. Those findings came after a House investigation over the 2012 Benghazi, Libya terrorist attack on U.S. civilians and Marines.


3. Powell Didn’t Use A Personal Server, But Clinton Did

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Powell used personal email for unclassified communication, he said, but he didn’t use a personal server like Clinton did. (Getty)

The biggest contrast between the two former top U.S. ambassadors is the email server. Powell used an AOL account, which is different from a server in Clinton’s Chappaqua, N.Y., home basement.

Powell claims he used his AOL account because the email server at the State Department was inadequate — and he took pride in revamping the system after taking over, according to the Washington Post.

A state department inspector general’s report in May stated Clinton’s emails, on her personal server, were “considerably more detailed and more sophisticated” than Powell’s.


4. The Source Used By The Times is a Longtime Clinton Supporter

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Powell at the 2016 National Memorial Day Concert. (Getty)

The Times report citing the dinner party where Powell told Clinton to use a personal email account came from a forthcoming book of a liberal journalist who has railed against right wing politics.

Joe Conason, in his book which will be published Sept. 13, refers to a dessert conversation at a dinner party hosted by former Bill Clinton administration Secretary of State Madeline Albright. As the Times notes, Hillary Clinton has never publicly blamed Powell for the suggested email use, but instead the acknowledgement surfaced during an FBI probe into Clinton’s email use.

Conason’s forthcoming book, “Man of the World: The Further Endeavors of Bill Clinton” focuses on the post-presidency of Clinton and includes interviews with both Bill and Hillary Clinton.


5. Powell Had The Authority to Classify or Unclassify Communication

President George W. Bush gave Powell the latitude to classify emails; Clinton was limited to policies. (Getty)

President George W. Bush gave Powell the latitude to classify emails; Clinton was limited to policies. (Getty)

President George W. Bush gave Powell, through an executive order, the ability to classify his and his staff’s emails accordingly. While the order restricted agencies to only classify its native information — not received communication from other agencies or outlets — later State Department policies restricted these uses.

State Department officials said Clinton broke the rules established by the agency in 2005. Powell, however, did break record-keeping rules, according to Politico.


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