New York Times Doesn’t Understand the Freedom of Information Act

Update July 24, 2015: The New York Times is now back-pedaling this story. Apparently the probe isn’t criminal or even related to any potential wrongdoing by Hillary Clinton. It’s an investigation into whether Clinton was on the receiving end of classified information.

Update July 25, 2015: For more on how shockingly wrong this entire Clinton “scandal” story is, check out this bitch slap over at Newsweek. Basically, as the FOIA folks are combing through the tens of thousands of Clinton emails, they’re finding some stuff in there that shouldn’t be in there, but it has nothing to do with any potential wrongdoing by Clinton.

One would expect that a serious news organization like the New York Times would have a pretty solid grasp of the Freedom of Information Act. If one expected that to be the case, one would be wrong.

On Thursday, the New York Times published this sentence regarding a criminal probe into Hillary Clinton’s use of a personal server to handle all of her email when she was secretary of state.

“Mrs. Clinton has said she used the account because it was more convenient, but it also shielded her correspondence from congressional and Freedom of Information Act requests.”

Wrong. Clinton may have used the personal email account because it was more convenient, but her doing so in no legal way shields her correspondence as secretary of state from Congress or FOIA requests. All communication, whether it’s written on a bar napkin or chiseled into a slab of granite is accessible via a FOIA request. Now it may be that Clinton illegally deleted email messages, thus hiding them from inspection, but that’s not what the New York Times is saying.

In my time as a reporter I’ve probably had this same conversation with a half dozen people. As a government official, you can’t skirt FOIA by using a non-government means of communication. The mode of communication is not the relevant issue, it’s whether what’s discussed is related to your government job.

But this is Hillary, so it’s part of the media’s job to make her seem like someone who can’t be trusted – slick Willie is now slick Hillary. Nicely done New York Times, you’ve done your part.

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