Politics & Policy

Kerry Taps Former Bush Official for State Department Transparency Job as Clinton E-mail Scandal Swirls

(Matt Dunham/AFP/Getty)

In the wake of the scandal surrounding Hillary Clinton’s use of a private e-mail server for conducting government business, Secretary of State John Kerry has appointed a new transparency coordinator to implement recommendations developed by the State Department’s inspector general.

Former U.S. ambassador Janice Jacobs will work to “improv[e] document preservation and transparency systems,” according to the announcement. 

“Ambassador Jacobs will lead Departmental efforts to meet the President’s Managing Government Records Directive, to respond to recommendations from the review I asked the Department’s Inspector General to launch earlier this year, and to work with other agencies and the private sector to explore best practices and new technologies,” Kerry said in the statement. “I have also asked her to focus on improving our systems for responding to Freedom of Information Act and congressional requests faster and more efficiently.”

#share#Kerry’s announcement represents an implicit critique of his predecessor’s transparency practices. It is doubly awkward for President Obama’s team given that Kerry is bringing a George W. Bush appointee out of retirement to manage the overhaul — albeit a Bush appointee who has donated to Clinton’s 2016 presidential bid, according to the Associated Press.

Department officials insisted that Kerry had not asked Inspector General Steve Linick to conduct the transparency review as a direct response to the Clinton e-mail revelations. But his letter requesting the review from the IG alluded to the e-mail practice that has caused likely voters to lose trust in Clinton, namely the “use of nongovernment systems by some department personnel to conduct official business.” 

#related#Clinton’s decision to conduct all of her State Department business on a private e-mail also has sparked multiple Freedom of Information Act lawsuits. “As I have repeatedly made clear, we have a fundamental obligation to document the conduct of U.S. foreign policy and to produce our records in response to requests from the public and Congress,” Kerry said. “Our records, and our ability to share them, serve as testament to our commitment to transparency and open government. I take very seriously that responsibility, and so does everyone else at the State Department.”

Obama took office promising to lead the “most transparent and accountable administration in history” — drawing an explicit contrast to his predecessor — and claimed to have succeeded in that effort. But with the State Department under fire, Kerry turned to a George W. Bush administration official. Jacobs, a career foreign-service officer, served as ambassador to Senegal and Guinea-Bissau from 2006 to 2007. In 2008, Bush appointed her as assistant secretary for consular affairs, a post she held until retiring in 2014. Jacobs donated $2,700 to Clinton’s campaign in June.

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