Washington, DC – Cause of Action Institute (CoA Institute) today filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to compel Secretary of State John Kerry and U.S. Archivist David Ferriero to fulfill their statutory obligations to recover all of former Secretary of State Colin Powell’s work-related email records from a personal email service provider. The lawsuit was filed after Secretary Kerry and Archivist Ferriero failed to act on a Federal Records Act notice and a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request sent earlier this month.

In September, the House Oversight & Government Reform Committee held a hearing at which Under Secretary of State Patrick Kennedy testified that his agency had undertaken only minimal efforts to retrieve former Secretary Powell’s work-related emails from his private email account. Upon learning that Secretary Powell no longer had access to this account, the State Department merely requested that he contact his email provider to see if any records were still recoverable.  Secretary Powell never responded to that request, and the State Department took no further action, despite a request from the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) to contact Secretary Powell’s internet service or email provider directly.

Cause of Action Institute Vice President John Vecchione: “The law requires that all work-related emails sent or received using former Secretary of State Colin Powell’s personal email account be properly archived and available to the public through FOIA. The State Department has failed to take appropriate actions to secure those federal records. Secretary of State John Kerry and the Archivist are legally obligated to secure the records so that future generations can understand how important decisions were made during politically contentious years.”

The email records in question are not the personal property of former Secretary Powell but are federal records belonging to the State Department.  The Federal Records Act gives the Secretary of State (as well as the Archivist of the United States) the authority, acting through the U.S. Attorney General, to take necessary legal action to recover alienated records.  The right to initiate action through the Attorney General is a mandatory obligation—in other words, the Secretary and the Archivist are required to initiate action through the Attorney General to recover Secretary Powell’s work-related email.

CoA Institute’s lawsuit seeks to compel Secretary Kerry and Archivist Ferriero to fulfill their statutory obligations so that all of Secretary Powell’s work-related emails will be recovered.

Cause of Action Institute’s complaint can be accessed HERE

All complaint exhibits can be accessed HERE

Cause of Action Institute’s Federal Records Act notices can be accessed HERE and HERE


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