Defense Secretary Ash Carter used personal e-mail for work, Pentagon says

The New York Times obtained 72 work-related e-mails the defense secretary sent or received from his personal e-mail account during the month of April.

Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP
Members of the media cover the arrival of Defense Secretary Ash Carter before he testified on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2015, before the Senate Armed Service Committee hearing on the Islamic State.

A second official from the Obama administration is under fire for using a personal e-mail address to conduct government business.

The New York Times reports that Defense Secretary Ashton Carter relied on a personal e-mail address for some government-related business in his first few months in his post, which began in February, and that he continued the practice for at least two months after former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's e-mail practices came under scrutiny for violating Defense Department regulations. 

The Times says it obtained from the Defense Department 72 work-related emails Carter sent or received from his personal e-mail account during the month of April through a Freedom of Information Request, and that officials have confirmed knowledge of such email use.

In April of 2012, the Department of Defense established a policy that prohibits any employee from using a personal e-mail account to send or receive government-related communications. Two years later, President Obama enacted a law mandating any federal officials against sending or receiving e-mails on their personal accounts unless they were copied directly into their government accounts or forwarded to a government account within 20 days. A spokesman for Carter, Peter Cook, said that he followed the policy but did not provide any evidence to support that claim, The Times reports.

“Any email related to work received on this personal account, such as an invitation to speak at an event or an administrative issue, is copied or forwarded to his official account so it can be preserved as a federal record as appropriate,” Mr. Cook said in a statement.

He also acknowledged that the defense secretary “had determined that he had been wrong to use the personal account,” but stressed that he does not believe he used the personal account for classified material.

On Thursday, Carter told CBS News correspondent Charlie D'Agata in an interview at an American base in northern Iraq, that he never sent anything classified via his personal account, but that he did "occasionally" send "administrative" e-mails to his "immediate staff."

"It's a mistake, and it's entirely my own," the secretary told D'Agata, saying that as soon as it became clear to him that the practice was against policy, "I stopped."

At least two Senate committees are still investigating Mrs. Clinton's e-mail setup and seeking the release of correspondence from her top aides. The FBI is also investigating the security of Clinton's private e-mail account and server.

As of Dec. 1, at least two-thirds of Clinton's 30,000 work-related emails that were pulled from her private server registered to her home address in New York have been released to the public – short the many redactions made by the State Department.

Sen. John McCain, chair of the Armed Services Committee, said in a statement shortly after The Times released its report that the committee has requested copies of Carter's e-mails "and will be conducting a review to ensure that sensitive information was not compromised."

He called Carter's use of personal e-mail "hard to believe" because of the public backlash Clinton has faced for her use of personal e-mail.

"With all the public attention surrounding the improper use of personal email by other administration officials, it is hard to believe that Secretary Carter would exercise the same error in judgment," McCain said in a statement.

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