GOP Senators Move to Ban State Department Officials From Using Private Email Servers

Legislation has been introduced in the Senate that would prohibit all State Department officials from using private email accounts and servers to handle sensitive and classified information going forward.

Three Senators have introduced legislation that would prohibit all State Department officials from using private email accounts and servers to handle sensitive and classified information.

One of the bill’s sponsors, Senator David Perdue (R-GA), said that the State Department is lacking in data security, hence the need for the bill. Perdue said that the recent news about former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton using a private email server during her tenure put a spotlight on these security problems.

Although the FBI investigated and declined to recommend prosecution against Clinton, there is no formal ban in place to stop State Department officials from using a similar private email setup in the future, potentially putting more data at risk. The legislation is meant to protect against such problems going forward.

The bill would enact the following:

Prohibits Use of Non-Governmental Information Systems

  • Prohibits the use of non-agency owned and managed electronic communications systems and non-governmental email accounts for all work-related communications. (includes a national security waiver).
  • Instructs State Department’s Inspector General to complete an oversight plan to ensure all work-related communications are in compliance.

Prevents Information Leaks

  • Requires certain Diplomatic Security agents to receive training in identifying classified information.
  • Implements quarterly random email samples to check for classified information spillage, which will then be audited by the Inspector General.

Improves Security Training

  • Requires all employees with security clearances to immediately complete additional training on handling classified information.
  • Implements an annual training program on how to prevent the mishandling of classified information.

Streamlines Electronic Archiving

  • Creates a new training program on how to archive electronic communications.
  • Ensures sworn affidavits are received annually to certify all required documents have been archived accordingly.
  • Requires State officials in charge of FOIA requests be trained on identifying classified information and coordinating reviews with the Intelligence Community.

Increases Oversight

  • Requires the State Department to submit an annual report to Congress on all security violations and the Department’s response to security violations.

The bill was introduced by Senator David Perdue (R-GA), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations State Department and USAID Management Subcommittee, along with Senators Johnny Isakson (R-GA) and Ben Sasse (R-NE).

“Isn’t it obvious that the federal government should not be sending sensitive and classified information through insecure channels?,” asked Senator Perdue. “All records should be properly preserved to ensure full integrity and transparency. This bill will restore accountability at the State Department by improving management protocols so our country’s classified information remains secure.”

He added, “There are serious and systemic security management problems at the State Department that span the tenure of several Secretaries. Most recently during Hillary Clinton’s tenure, these security weaknesses were amplified by the use of private email servers and non-governmental email accounts. A recent FBI investigation and the State Department’s Inspector General review found that the State Department is lacking when it comes to cyber security for data communications. It is unacceptable for an agency that handles our nation’s security secrets to be so vulnerable.”

About the Author

Ian Smith is one of the co-founders of He has over 20 years of combined experience in media and government services, having worked at two government contracting firms and an online news and web development company prior to his current role at FedSmith.