The U.S. State Department argues Climate czar John Kerry can use a personal Gmail account for government business — despite the risky practice being “discouraged” in the very manual they cite.
The “Foreign Affairs Manual” referenced, particularly section 5 FAM 434, does not support outside messages.
“All Department personnel with an official State Department email account are discouraged from using a personal email account(s),” including Gmail, the manual reads. That section goes on to add Gmail can be used in “very limited circumstances.”
It also clearly states “convenience is not an appropriate reason” to use outside email.
The State Department’s push-back on Kerry’s behalf comes after the Herald reported Sunday that the former Massachusetts senator and onetime Democratic presidential candidate was cc’d a Climate memo to a Gmail account.
It’s all part of an ongoing struggle by the Herald and watchdog group Protect the Public’s Trust to get Kerry to abide by the nation’s Freedom of Information Act.
Kerry has informed the Herald a list of his office staff will not be delivered until October of 2024 — a month before the next presidential election. An appeal to the State Department was denied leaving Kerry to continue to operate in near-secrecy as the nation’s first special Presidential Envoy for Climate Change.
Kerry’s “office is a brand-new unit with tremendous power that has operated under an extraordinary veil of secrecy and engaged in what appear to be unusual attempts to evade transparency,” said Michael Chamberlain, director of Protect the Public’s Trust.
He added that “against this backdrop, when actions suggesting an attempt at secrecy come to light, it naturally gives rise to skepticism.”
Also, if Kerry is using a Gmail account for Biden administration business, it would be similar to Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server as secretary of state that triggered an FBI probe days before the 2016 election. She was never charged, but she lost that presidential race to Donald Trump.
Kerry’s office, according to the Department of Justice, is subject to the Freedom of Information Act — despite the prominence of Kerry’s post.
Chamberlain told the Herald that President Biden, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland and now Anthony Bilnken’s State Department all talk a good game, but don’t adhere to the spirit of FOIA.
“Given that this (Climate) unit is part of the self-proclaimed most transparent presidential administration in history” the skepticism is building, Chamberlain added. “Protect the Public’s Trust will continue to press for transparency from (Kerry) and we have submitted an additional FOIA request for communications with John Kerry’s personal email address.”
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