On Monday, State Department officials confirmed that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton exclusively used a personal e-mail address to conduct government business throughout her four-year stint at the State Department. Clinton's failure to use a government e-mail address "may have violated federal requirements that officials’ correspondence be retained as part of the agency’s record," according to The New York Times, which first broke the story.
It also may have removed the paper trail on which the public relies to make sense of the past. "Hillary Clinton's emails are the contemporary equivalent of letters and memos from past secretaries of state that have enabled historians to study the history of American foreign relations," Mary L. Dudziak, a professor at Emory Law School and a leading U.S. legal historian, wrote in an e-mail. "By failing to retain her correspondence at the time it was produced, Secretary Clinton may have jeopardized preservation of a full and accurate historical record. This undermines the ability of scholars to assess her own legacy as secretary. This is most unfortunate."
This isn't the first controversy over the use of private e-mail by public officials. "In 2007," as Josh Gerstein at Politico noted, "the Republican National Committee announced that a large volume of emails generated by 22 officials in President George W. Bush’s White House, including political adviser Karl Rove, had been deleted and were unavailable for congressional investigators."