An internal 2011 State Department cable, obtained by Fox News, shows that then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's office told employees not to use personal email for security reasons -- while at the same time, Clinton conducted all government business on a private account.

Sent to diplomatic and consular staff in June 2011, the unclassified cable, bearing Clinton's electronic signature,  made clear to employees they were expected to "avoid conducting official Department business from your personal e-mail accounts." The message also said employees should not "auto-forward Department email to personal email accounts which is prohibited by Department policy.”

The cable underscores that government policy strongly discouraged officials from using personal email and violators faced disciplinary action, even though Clinton for years relied exclusively on hers – and her own server -- to conduct official business. The White House, without condemning Clinton’s activities, has made clear that employees were urged to use government accounts.

The 2011 cable, bearing the subject line “Securing Personal E-mail Accounts,” told employees to secure personal/home email addresses, given increased targeting of government employees by “online adversaries.” It also emphasized that these personal accounts should never be used for government business and cited department procedures which prohibit the practices.

The cited section from the Foreign Affairs Manual states: “It is the Department’s general policy that normal day-to-day operations be conducted on an authorized AIS [the authorized department information system] which has the proper level of security control to provide nonrepudiation, authentication and encryption, to ensure confidentiality, integrity, and availability of the resident information. … Employees should be aware that transmissions from the Department’s OpenNet to and from non-U.S. Government Internet addresses, and other .gov or .mil addresses, unless specifically directed through an approved secure means, traverse the Internet unencrypted.”

In addition to the 2011 cable, a 2012 inspector general report chastised a former ambassador to Kenya for – among other issues – using commercial email to do official business. That ambassador, Scott Gration, resigned shortly before the scathing IG report was released.

In 2013, the FBI raided the home of former CIA Director David Petraeus. Petraeus pleaded guilty this week to the improper storage of classified material, in this case keeping several black notebooks documenting his wartime career in an unlocked drawer. Fox News asked the bureau’s senior spokesman if they were concerned the servers at Clinton’s home might also contain classified information, and, therefore, were also improperly stored.

Asked if they were “officially looking into the matter,” FBI spokesman Michael Kortan said: “We’re not.  You may want to check with State.”

Fox News asked the State Department how the 2011 cable, sent under Clinton’s signature, was consistent with her own use of a personal email account, and there was no immediate response. 


Catherine Herridge is an award-winning Chief Intelligence correspondent for FOX News Channel (FNC) based in Washington, D.C. She covers intelligence, the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security. Herridge joined FNC in 1996 as a London-based correspondent.