2015 Press Releases

National Archives Releases State Department Letter re: Email Recordkeeping
Press Release · Thursday, April 9, 2015

Washington, DC

Response to National Archives’ March 3 request

Today, the National Archives and Records Administration is releasing the State Department’s response, and its attachments, to National Archives Chief Records Officer Paul M. Wester’s March 3, 2015, letter about email practices of former Secretaries of State. The March 3, 2015, letter was sent in accordance with NARA’s regulations, at 36 C.F.R. Part 1230, on Unlawful or Accidental Removal, Defacing, Alteration, or Destruction of Records:

If Federal records have been alienated, please describe all measure the Department has taken or expects to take, to retrieve the alienated records. Please also include a description of all safeguards established to prevent records alienation incidents from happening in the future.

The State Department provided NARA with a response on April 2. The response notes that Secretary of State John Kerry has asked the State Department’s Inspector General to review the agency’s recordkeeping and FOIA practices.

Archivist of the United States David S. Ferriero said: “We welcome this step and look forward to the results of the Inspector General review. Our records management team will work closely with the State Department over the next several months to address specifics in their response.”


As the Archivist testified before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee in September 2013, “The National Archives discourages the use of private email accounts to conduct Federal business, but understands that there are situations where such use does occur.” Congress amended the Federal Records Act and the Presidential Records Act in November 2014 to prohibit the use of private email accounts by government officials unless they copy or forward any such emails into their government account within 20 days. See the Presidential and Federal Records Act Amendments of 2014 (Public Law 113-187) codified at 44 U.S.C. 2911.

Since 2009, NARA’s regulations have stated that “Agencies that allow employees to send and receive official electronic mail messages using a system not operated by the agency must ensure that Federal records sent or received on such systems are preserved in the appropriate agency recordkeeping system.” (36 CFR 1236.22).

In addition, federal agencies are required to manage all email in an electronic form by the end of 2016. This deadline and other records management guidelines were set out in the 2012 OMB/NARA Managing Government Records Directive (M-12-18). The National Archives Records Management team continues to issue guidance, such as the Capstone approach to managing email records, to assist agencies in meeting this target.

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