State Department won't say how missing records for $6 billion were stored

A spokesperson for the State Department refuses to say if any missing contract files from March 2008 - March 2014 were stored electronically.

The American Thinker began covering the case of the missing records for $6 billion on April 5, 2014, soon after the State Department’s Office of Inspector General released two unclassified memos dated March 20, 2014.

Several news media outlets also covered the missing State Department records in early April, but, to date, there’s been little, if any, follow-up to the story.  In short, it’s off the mainstream media radar.

Nothing to see here. Move along.

The fact that Hillary Clinton was the Secretary of State for four of the six years covered by the missing files may explain the reluctance of the State Department to answer simple, factual inquiries about the missing records.

On September 14, 2014, the American Thinker followed-up its April 2014 story noting this quote from a Department of State spokesperson who asked to remain anonymous:

“At this time, the Department continues to work on the issues raised by the OIG in its audit and to improve its file management.  We are in regular communication with the OIG [Office of Inspector General] to update them on our progress.”

Does “work on the issues” mean trying to locate the missing records? Or just cleaning up the accounting processes per. the OIG’s recommendations?

Below is a subsequent email thread, in sequence from September 16-22, which involved the anonymous spokesperson as well as three officials in the OIG (Office of the Inspector General). Names and email addresses are deleted.

From: Lee Cary
Sent: Tuesday, September 16, 2014 2:25 PM
To: Spokesperson, Department of State
Cc: OIC Official #1 @state.gov; OIC Official #2 @state.gov; OIC Official#3 @state.gov
Subject: Media Query 9/16/14

Spokesperson’s name deleted,

Press Officer & Spokesperson

United States Department of State

202.___-____

Re.  “Specifically, over the past 6 years, OIG has identified Department of State (Department) contracts with a total value of more than $6 billion in which contract files were incomplete or could not be located at all.”  (Statement in first paragraph of March 20, 2014 document, “Management Alert Contract File Management Deficiencies”) 

Name deleted,

I hope this finds you well. 

Two questions:

1.  Do the incomplete and/or missing files represent paper and/or electronic documents? 

2.  If one or more of the incomplete or missing files are electronic files, are the electronic back-ups of the original documents equally incomplete and/or missing?

Thank you.

 Lee Cary

Writer for the American Thinker website

………………………………………….

From: Spokesperson, Department of State

Sent: Tuesday, September 16, 2014 1:29 PM

To: Lee Cary

Subject: RE: Media Query 9/16/14

Lee – I’ll see what I have for you, Name deleted

This email is UNCLASSIFIED.

………………………………

From: Lee Cary
Sent: Thursday, September 18, 2014 10:45 AM
To: State Department spokesperson
Subject: Re: Media Query 9/16/14

Thank you, name deleted.  Standing by,

Lee

…………………………………………..

From: State Department Spokesperson

Sent: Thursday, September 18, 2014 4:36 PM

To: Lee Cary

Subject: RE: Media Query 9/16/14

This is to be attributed on background from a State Department official:

(1) Reports that there is $6 billion that can’t be accounted for are grossly inaccurate. The OIG’s March 2014 management alert noted that there were a number of incomplete files for our contracts, and those contracts’ cumulative value is $6 billion. As highlighted in our response to the OIG, this is an issue of which the Department is aware and IS taking steps to remedy.  It is a paperwork issue, not an accounting issue.

Thanks, Name deleted.

This email is UNCLASSIFIED.

………………………………..

From: Lee Cary
Date: Thursday, September 18, 2014 at 3:51 PM
TO: State Department Spokesperson

Cc: Official #1 @state.gov; OIC Official #2 @state.gov; OIC Official#3 @state.gov; Lee Cary

Subject: Re: Media Query 9/16/14

 Name deleted – Thank you for your response.  It will, as before, be “attributed on background...etc.” when quoted.

The $6 billion was mentioned in the OIG’s March 20, 2014 memo as:  “contracts with a total value of more than $6 billion in which contract files were incomplete or could not be located at all.”

I do not infer from the OIG’s memo that 6 billion dollars are missing, but, clearly, some degree of accounting for monies is missing, per. the OIG memo.

So...

Q.1.  In general terms, what is the content of the missing information that is absent partially, and in some cases totally, from the subject contract files? 

I don’t understand your response re. “paperwork issue” and “accounting issue.”  On its face, the language (paperwork) designates the means of information storage/conveyance, while “accounting” logically pertains to the general content of the subject content – as in an accumulation of numbers.  Numbers on paper would mean both the means of information and its general content. 

Q.2. With respect, I repeat and expand my previous query: Are there any missing electronic files, in part or in full?  If so, how many “contract files” are totally missing, and what is the approximate, total expenditures involved in those electronic files that are totally missing?

Name deleted, if you are unable to answer my queries, please forwarding me to someone who can/will do so.

Thanks, Lee Cary

Writer for the American Thinker website

…………………………………………..

From: Lee Cary

Sent: Monday, September 22, 2014 1:26 PM
To: OIG Official #1 @state.gov
Cc: AT editor
Subject: Fw: Media Query 9/16/14

Name deleted,

The questions below are simple [previous email was attached], direct and, it would seem, merely a matter of fact. 

So why am I having so much trouble getting a straight answer from the Department of State spokesperson?

Can you enlighten me, sir.

Lee Cary

Writer for American Thinker website

………………………………………

From: OIG Official #1

Sent: Monday, September 22, 2014 12:34 PM

To: Lee Cary

Subject: RE: Media Query 9/16/14

Lee:

If you feel the response doesn’t answer your question, you may want to elevate your inquiry over at the Department to the senior press officer or director.

The main number for Press relations is 202-647-2492 (PAPress2@state.gov).

Name deleted

Signature block deleted

………………………..

From: Lee Cary
Sent: Monday, September 22, 2014 1:54 PM
To: PAPress@state.gov
Cc: OIG Official #1
Subject: Fw: Media Query 9/16/14

Senior Press Officer or Director (see referral below):

I am having no success getting responses to what are two simple and, I believe, clear factual questions that don’t require detailed, confidential information.

Perhaps someone there can help me.

The context for these questions is below:

Q.1. In general terms, what is the content of the missing information that is absent partially, and in some cases totally, from the subject contract files? 

Q.2. With respect, I repeat and expand my previous query: Are there any missing electronic files, in part or in full?  If so, how many “contract files” are totally missing, and what is the approximate, total expenditures involved in those electronic files that are totally missing?

Thank you.

Lee Cary

Writer for the American Thinker website

…………………………………………..

Note: A query to the PAPress2@state.gov yielded only the following response.

…………………………………………..

From: State Department Spokesperson

Sent: Monday, September 22, 2014 1:08 PM

To: Lee Cary

Cc: OIG Official #1

Subject: RE: Media Query 9/16/14

Hi Lee – This is not for attribution and please do not print my name:

I have responded to your requests, and we have nothing further for you from the press office.  You are welcome to FOIA the State Department for the information you seek. The FOIA process is laid out here: http://foia.state.gov/, as it is an office separate from the press office and OIG.

Hope this is helpful and take care,

Name deleted,

This email is UNCLASSIFIED.

…………………………………

The failure of a government agency to answer questions is not an admission of guilt, nor necessarily evidence of any malfeasance or violation of any law(s).

But it is curious when the information requested and denied is, on its face, a matter of a simple, physical fact.

So why the unwillingness to identify the missing contract files as having been stored in part, or in total, electronically?

It raises this question: Is this now the fourth instance of significant electronically stored information having conveniently gone missing inside a major government agency?  (1) The Department of Justice’s Fast & Furious operation. (2) The IRS scandal.  (3) The Department of State’s Benghazi episode. And now this: (4) “contract files” representing $6,000,000,000 of Department of State expenditures are missing in part, or are completely missing.

The clear emphasis in the Office of Inspector General’s memos (linked above) is on the Department of State’s need to improve its accounting procedures.  Is there even an effort underway to track and retrieve the missing information concerning $6 billion of expenditures?

Who is in charge of that effort, if it exists?

Are we to believe that there were/are no back-up copies of the missing contract files?

How far has the searched progressed, if there even is a search underway?

What did those expenditures buy?

And just what did happen to the documentation that’s missing?  Any clues after six months?

Sandy Berger probably didn’t stuff paper files or hard drives into his socks and walk out of Foggy Bottom with the missing files.

This story does not deserve to die, but it’s headed in that direction.

A spokesperson for the State Department refuses to say if any missing contract files from March 2008 - March 2014 were stored electronically.

The American Thinker began covering the case of the missing records for $6 billion on April 5, 2014, soon after the State Department’s Office of Inspector General released two unclassified memos dated March 20, 2014.

Several news media outlets also covered the missing State Department records in early April, but, to date, there’s been little, if any, follow-up to the story.  In short, it’s off the mainstream media radar.

Nothing to see here. Move along.

The fact that Hillary Clinton was the Secretary of State for four of the six years covered by the missing files may explain the reluctance of the State Department to answer simple, factual inquiries about the missing records.

On September 14, 2014, the American Thinker followed-up its April 2014 story noting this quote from a Department of State spokesperson who asked to remain anonymous:

“At this time, the Department continues to work on the issues raised by the OIG in its audit and to improve its file management.  We are in regular communication with the OIG [Office of Inspector General] to update them on our progress.”

Does “work on the issues” mean trying to locate the missing records? Or just cleaning up the accounting processes per. the OIG’s recommendations?

Below is a subsequent email thread, in sequence from September 16-22, which involved the anonymous spokesperson as well as three officials in the OIG (Office of the Inspector General). Names and email addresses are deleted.

From: Lee Cary
Sent: Tuesday, September 16, 2014 2:25 PM
To: Spokesperson, Department of State
Cc: OIC Official #1 @state.gov; OIC Official #2 @state.gov; OIC Official#3 @state.gov
Subject: Media Query 9/16/14

Spokesperson’s name deleted,

Press Officer & Spokesperson

United States Department of State

202.___-____

Re.  “Specifically, over the past 6 years, OIG has identified Department of State (Department) contracts with a total value of more than $6 billion in which contract files were incomplete or could not be located at all.”  (Statement in first paragraph of March 20, 2014 document, “Management Alert Contract File Management Deficiencies”) 

Name deleted,

I hope this finds you well. 

Two questions:

1.  Do the incomplete and/or missing files represent paper and/or electronic documents? 

2.  If one or more of the incomplete or missing files are electronic files, are the electronic back-ups of the original documents equally incomplete and/or missing?

Thank you.

 Lee Cary

Writer for the American Thinker website

………………………………………….

From: Spokesperson, Department of State

Sent: Tuesday, September 16, 2014 1:29 PM

To: Lee Cary

Subject: RE: Media Query 9/16/14

Lee – I’ll see what I have for you, Name deleted

This email is UNCLASSIFIED.

………………………………

From: Lee Cary
Sent: Thursday, September 18, 2014 10:45 AM
To: State Department spokesperson
Subject: Re: Media Query 9/16/14

Thank you, name deleted.  Standing by,

Lee

…………………………………………..

From: State Department Spokesperson

Sent: Thursday, September 18, 2014 4:36 PM

To: Lee Cary

Subject: RE: Media Query 9/16/14

This is to be attributed on background from a State Department official:

(1) Reports that there is $6 billion that can’t be accounted for are grossly inaccurate. The OIG’s March 2014 management alert noted that there were a number of incomplete files for our contracts, and those contracts’ cumulative value is $6 billion. As highlighted in our response to the OIG, this is an issue of which the Department is aware and IS taking steps to remedy.  It is a paperwork issue, not an accounting issue.

Thanks, Name deleted.

This email is UNCLASSIFIED.

………………………………..

From: Lee Cary
Date: Thursday, September 18, 2014 at 3:51 PM
TO: State Department Spokesperson

Cc: Official #1 @state.gov; OIC Official #2 @state.gov; OIC Official#3 @state.gov; Lee Cary

Subject: Re: Media Query 9/16/14

 Name deleted – Thank you for your response.  It will, as before, be “attributed on background...etc.” when quoted.

The $6 billion was mentioned in the OIG’s March 20, 2014 memo as:  “contracts with a total value of more than $6 billion in which contract files were incomplete or could not be located at all.”

I do not infer from the OIG’s memo that 6 billion dollars are missing, but, clearly, some degree of accounting for monies is missing, per. the OIG memo.

So...

Q.1.  In general terms, what is the content of the missing information that is absent partially, and in some cases totally, from the subject contract files? 

I don’t understand your response re. “paperwork issue” and “accounting issue.”  On its face, the language (paperwork) designates the means of information storage/conveyance, while “accounting” logically pertains to the general content of the subject content – as in an accumulation of numbers.  Numbers on paper would mean both the means of information and its general content. 

Q.2. With respect, I repeat and expand my previous query: Are there any missing electronic files, in part or in full?  If so, how many “contract files” are totally missing, and what is the approximate, total expenditures involved in those electronic files that are totally missing?

Name deleted, if you are unable to answer my queries, please forwarding me to someone who can/will do so.

Thanks, Lee Cary

Writer for the American Thinker website

…………………………………………..

From: Lee Cary

Sent: Monday, September 22, 2014 1:26 PM
To: OIG Official #1 @state.gov
Cc: AT editor
Subject: Fw: Media Query 9/16/14

Name deleted,

The questions below are simple [previous email was attached], direct and, it would seem, merely a matter of fact. 

So why am I having so much trouble getting a straight answer from the Department of State spokesperson?

Can you enlighten me, sir.

Lee Cary

Writer for American Thinker website

………………………………………

From: OIG Official #1

Sent: Monday, September 22, 2014 12:34 PM

To: Lee Cary

Subject: RE: Media Query 9/16/14

Lee:

If you feel the response doesn’t answer your question, you may want to elevate your inquiry over at the Department to the senior press officer or director.

The main number for Press relations is 202-647-2492 (PAPress2@state.gov).

Name deleted

Signature block deleted

………………………..

From: Lee Cary
Sent: Monday, September 22, 2014 1:54 PM
To: PAPress@state.gov
Cc: OIG Official #1
Subject: Fw: Media Query 9/16/14

Senior Press Officer or Director (see referral below):

I am having no success getting responses to what are two simple and, I believe, clear factual questions that don’t require detailed, confidential information.

Perhaps someone there can help me.

The context for these questions is below:

Q.1. In general terms, what is the content of the missing information that is absent partially, and in some cases totally, from the subject contract files? 

Q.2. With respect, I repeat and expand my previous query: Are there any missing electronic files, in part or in full?  If so, how many “contract files” are totally missing, and what is the approximate, total expenditures involved in those electronic files that are totally missing?

Thank you.

Lee Cary

Writer for the American Thinker website

…………………………………………..

Note: A query to the PAPress2@state.gov yielded only the following response.

…………………………………………..

From: State Department Spokesperson

Sent: Monday, September 22, 2014 1:08 PM

To: Lee Cary

Cc: OIG Official #1

Subject: RE: Media Query 9/16/14

Hi Lee – This is not for attribution and please do not print my name:

I have responded to your requests, and we have nothing further for you from the press office.  You are welcome to FOIA the State Department for the information you seek. The FOIA process is laid out here: http://foia.state.gov/, as it is an office separate from the press office and OIG.

Hope this is helpful and take care,

Name deleted,

This email is UNCLASSIFIED.

…………………………………

The failure of a government agency to answer questions is not an admission of guilt, nor necessarily evidence of any malfeasance or violation of any law(s).

But it is curious when the information requested and denied is, on its face, a matter of a simple, physical fact.

So why the unwillingness to identify the missing contract files as having been stored in part, or in total, electronically?

It raises this question: Is this now the fourth instance of significant electronically stored information having conveniently gone missing inside a major government agency?  (1) The Department of Justice’s Fast & Furious operation. (2) The IRS scandal.  (3) The Department of State’s Benghazi episode. And now this: (4) “contract files” representing $6,000,000,000 of Department of State expenditures are missing in part, or are completely missing.

The clear emphasis in the Office of Inspector General’s memos (linked above) is on the Department of State’s need to improve its accounting procedures.  Is there even an effort underway to track and retrieve the missing information concerning $6 billion of expenditures?

Who is in charge of that effort, if it exists?

Are we to believe that there were/are no back-up copies of the missing contract files?

How far has the searched progressed, if there even is a search underway?

What did those expenditures buy?

And just what did happen to the documentation that’s missing?  Any clues after six months?

Sandy Berger probably didn’t stuff paper files or hard drives into his socks and walk out of Foggy Bottom with the missing files.

This story does not deserve to die, but it’s headed in that direction.