John Kerry sent a “secret” email from an unofficial account to then US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s private email address in 2011, State Department spokesman John Kirby said at a Tuesday briefing with reporters.
The message, sent by Kerry on May 19, 2011 — when he was chairman of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee — was upgraded to secret for its discussion of US relations with India, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, The Hill reported.
Information marked secret is more sensitive than “classified,” but less sensitive than “top secret.”
“We all know this will be a troubled relationship because that is it’s [sic] nature,” Kerry wrote in one non-redacted section, according to The Hill. “But there are real possibilities at this moment to put options to the test.”
Kirby told reporters that the email was sent from “a nonofficial account” used by Kerry that is “no longer active.”
“I have not spoken to the Secretary [Kerry] about his reaction to that email being out there,” Kirby added.
Government officials have faced additional scrutiny of their online communications since it was revealed that Clinton, the Democratic presidential front-runner, used a private email server for work correspondences during her time as secretary of state.
Facing criticism last year over the unusual setup, Clinton handed over about 30,000 work-related emails for the State Department to make public. She deleted about 31,000 more emails she says were personal in nature.
The emails are slowly being released to the public in troves by the State Department. Kerry’s secret email, sent from his iPad, was included in the latest release.
The FBI launched a separate probe into Clinton’s server in August in an effort to determine whether any classified information ever passed onto the server while she served as secretary of state. Officials have said that Clinton is not a target of the investigation.
Significantly, Clinton has defended herself in the past by noting that she used communication practices that were widespread across the federal government. That Kerry used a private account to communicate with Clinton at least once may lend credence to this defense.
Clinton’s use of a private email address was not illegal and was permitted by State Department rules. Still, the federal government has standards for how servers are built and secured and how their data is stored.
She apologized in September for the email arrangement that has remained a headache for her 2016 presidential campaign.
More than 1,200 emails in her private server contain information that has been retroactively marked classified since the investigation began in August. At least 22 emails contain information that has since been marked top secret by the State Department.