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Hillary Clinton Tries to Quell Controversy Over Private Email - NYTimes.com

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UNITED NATIONS — Hillary Rodham Clinton revealed on Tuesday that she had deleted about half her emails from her years as secretary of state, saying she had turned over to the Obama administration all correspondence about government business but had erased records of communications about private matters, like yoga routines, her daughter’s wedding and her mother’s funeral.

In a news conference about her exclusive use of a private email account while secretary, Mrs. Clinton sought to squelch the furor about those communications, already in its second week.

She acknowledged that it would have been wiser to use a government email for official business, but said she had “fully complied with every rule” and was going “above and beyond” what was required of her in asking the State Department to make public much of her email correspondence.

“No one wants their personal emails made public,” she said, “and I think most people understand that and respect that privacy.”

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Hillary Rodham Clinton on Tuesday at the United Nations, where she held a news conference after giving a speech. Credit Todd Heisler/The New York Times

“I thought it would be easier to carry just one device for my work and for my personal emails instead of two,” she explained. She asked, in effect, that voters trust that she was disclosing more of them than she needed to — and even to credit her with an unusual degree of transparency.

Mrs. Clinton said she turned over some 30,490 emails to the State Department in December, nearly two years after leaving office. But she said she had deleted nearly 32,000 others.

Her confirmation that she and her aides had chosen which emails to make available to the State Department raised new concerns about Mrs. Clinton’s power to decide which records of her tenure as secretary would be available to congressional investigators, to journalists filing Freedom of Information Act requests, and to history.

It immediately emboldened Republicans who are leading a specially appointed House committee investigating the 2012 attack on the United States mission in Benghazi, Libya. “Because Secretary Clinton has created more questions than answers, the Select Committee is left with no choice but to call her to appear at least twice,” said Representative Trey Gowdy, Republican of South Carolina, who is chairman of the committee.

On Tuesday morning, Mrs. Clinton’s office announced that she would address the issue just after she delivered what was meant to be an attention-getting speech at the United Nations, part of a week of events intended to highlight her lifelong work to advance the rights of women and girls.

Mrs. Clinton had hardly fielded questions from the political news media since she last ran for president, in 2008. And the news conference had the feel of an unofficial — and ungainly — start to her 2016 presidential campaign, which could come formally as soon as early April.

She said she had taken an “unprecedented” action in providing the State Department roughly 55,000 printed pages of emails, and pointed to other elected officials who use official and private emails, deciding themselves which belong on which account.

 “For any government employee, it is that government employee’s responsibility to determine what’s personal and what’s work related,” Mrs. Clinton told reporters. “I went above and beyond what I was requested to do.”

Indeed, nothing prohibited federal employees from using private accounts for work when Mrs. Clinton was secretary of state, although the practice was discouraged. But beginning in October 2009, 10 months after she took office, new regulations from the National Archives and Records Administration said agencies where employees were free to use private email systems “must ensure that federal records sent or received on such systems are preserved in the appropriate agency record-keeping system.”

Mrs. Clinton’s emails were backed up on her personal server — not on a government one. But she argued that, because she had sent emails to “government officials on their State or other .gov accounts so that the emails were immediately captured and preserved,” she had complied with the rule. Mrs. Clinton did not address how emails she had sent to people outside the government had been preserved.

“Once the American public begins to see the emails, they will have an unprecedented insight into a high government official’s daily communications,” she said.

Mrs. Clinton said that the server that housed her email address had been set up on property guarded by the Secret Service, and that there had been no security breaches. She said she had never emailed classified material to anyone. 

It is unclear if the emails were deleted irretrievably, and a spokesman for Mrs. Clinton declined to elaborate on how she had erased the correspondence.

“If the emails were on a server in her house and she deleted them, there’s a chance the emails could still be on the server’s hard drive if you forensically examine it,” said Chester Wisniewski, a senior security adviser at the computer security firm Sophos. “To make sure the emails are really destroyed, you would have to physically destroy the hard drive, which many companies and places like the Defense Department often do.”

Mr. Wisniewski said that if the emails were kept on a third-party provider, they were less likely to be recoverable.

Mrs. Clinton’s explanation that it was more convenient to carry only one device seemed at odds with her remark last month, at a technology conference in Silicon Valley, that she uses multiple devices, including two kinds of iPads, an iPhone and a BlackBerry. She said then: “I don’t throw anything away. I’m like two steps short of a hoarder.”

At one point on Tuesday, Mrs. Clinton said the emails she had deleted contained “personal communications from my husband and me.” But on Sunday, a spokesman for Mr. Clinton told reporters that the former president had “sent two emails in his life.”

After the news conference, Mrs. Clinton’s office provided several new details about the email account and what she has provided to the State Department. More than 100 government officials knew about Mrs. Clinton’s use of private email, her office said.

(The White House spokesman, Josh Earnest, said Monday that President Obama exchanged emails with Mrs. Clinton, saw that she was using a personal account, but did not understand that her messages were not being made available to the government in some form.)

Mrs. Clinton used her email only once to communicate with a foreign official, her office said.

In 2007, Mrs. Clinton, then a senator from New York and candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, accused the George W. Bush administration of using “secret White House email accounts” along with secret wiretaps and military tribunals.

“You know, our Constitution is being shredded,” she said at the time.

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