As the potential presidential candidacy of former secretary of State Hillary Clinton is being rocked by charges that her sole use of a private email account during her state tenure blocked transparency, the department, under her control, has received a miserable, failing grade in responding to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.
In the last two years of Clinton's tenure, according to the Center for Effective Government (CEG), 2012 and 2013, the State Department placed dead last among 15 government agencies graded for their openness, The Washington Post reports.
Across the board, CEG rated the agency's performance as "dismal" on "establishing disclosure rules that support transparency," "Creating user-friendly interactive websites" and "processing requests quickly and disclosing greater information," the CEG report states.
Sean Moulton, CEG director of Open Government Policy, told CNN, "I can definitely say that during her time at the agency, it [FOIA transparency] wasn't a priority."
"They're comfortable with the fact that they are underperforming on FOIA. They see all these excuses as sufficient."
The State Department received an "F" rating, or failing, in their FOIA performance, the report states, with the department's performance ranked at 37 percent.
"The State Department deserves special attention for its very low score," the report states. "In addition to performing poorly on measures of timeliness, it did not do well on withholding," with only 25 percent of requests fully granted.
"The Department of State score was particularly dismal," the report states, calling the State Department "a serious outlier," the Post reports.
"While 65 percent of its requests were simple, only eight percent were processed within the required 20 days. The State Department had the second-largest request backlog and the third-lowest rate of fully-granted requests," the report notes.
While none of the departments received an "A" grade, other agencies vastly outperformed State while it was under Clinton's leadership. The Department of Agriculture received a "B" grade at 85 percent; the Social Security Administration also got a "B" at 82 percent, followed by "C" grades for the Department of Justice; 73 percent, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission; 72 percent, and the National Archives and Records Administration at 71 percent.
In the 2015 report, while a host of agencies fell into the "D" category, including Homeland Security, Transportation, Treasury, the EPA, Department of Veterans Affairs, Labor, Defense and the Securities and Exchange Commission, only the Department of Health and Human Services shared an "F" rating with State, and still scored 20 points higher, at 57 percent, than State.
A State Department spokesman told CNN, "The State Department is the agency of first resort for all requests for foreign policy and national security information. We have a centralized, enterprise-wide FOIA program. We are different from other agencies in that we handle our requests at the agency level through a centralized program.
"In order to respond to requests, the Department may need to go to numerous places as part of the search effort. This includes nearly 100 bureaus and offices within the Department, more than 260 posts, including our embassies and consulates."
State did relatively well in ratings for its FOIA website, at 80 percent, but fell down to 23 percent when it came to processing requests and just 33 percent on disclosure rules.
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