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Hillary Clinton's team defends her email usage during her tenure at State

Aides to Hillary Clinton and the State Department are defending her use of a personal email address while secretary of state, while others are raising questions about whether her actions diverged from the habits of her predecessors and whether she complied with laws governing federal record keeping.

CBS News State Department Correspondent Margaret Brennan has been in contact with a Clinton aide who said, "Nothing nefarious was at play. She had a Blackberry, she used it prior to State, and like her predecessors she continued to use it when she got to State. This was not bucking the system; this was in keeping with exactly what former Secretaries had done."

Impact of Hillary Clinton's email controversy

Clinton, according to her spokesman, Nick Merrill, "used her own email account when engaging with any Department officials. For government business, she emailed them on their Department accounts, with every expectation they would be retained."

One of her predecessors, former Secretary of State Colin Powell, appears to have used his personal email in much the same way. He wrote in his book, "It Worked for Me: In Life and Leadership:"

"To complement the official State Department computer in my office, I installed a laptop computer on a private line. My personal email account on the laptop allowed me direct access to anyone online. I started shooting emails to my principal assistants, to individual ambassadors, and increasingly to my foreign-minister colleagues who like me were trying to bring their ministries into the 186,000-miles-per-second world."

Indeed, John Kerry is, according to the State Department, the first secretary of state whose primary account is a email address.

Last year, the State Department asked former Secretaries for help in retaining their email records. Clinton turned over 55,000 pages of emails, "anything pertaining to her work there," a Clinton aide told Brennan. "So if she emailed with her daughter about flower arrangements for her wedding, that didn't go in, but if she emailed one of the 100 State Department officials she regularly corresponded with, State had it in their servers already, and HRC's office replicated that to ensure it was all there. 9 out of 10 emails that she sent over the course of her tenure went to the State Department."

Did Hillary Clinton violate federal law by using personal email for government business?

Clinton's immediate predecessor, former Secretary Condoleezza Rice, rarely sent emails, and on the few occasions when she did, she used a State Department account.

Clinton spokesman Nick Merrill said, "Both the letter and spirit of the rules permitted State Department officials to use non-government email, as long as appropriate records were preserved."

But National Archives Record Administration (NARA) regulations demand that if agency employees are using an outside mail system instead of that provided by their workplace, they "must ensure that Federal records sent or received on such systems are preserved in the appropriate agency record keeping system."

And one attorney who used to work for the Archives suggested that even though Clinton's email habits are attracting second looks, legally, she's in the clear. There is little doubt that the record keeping is now more difficult, though. Jason R. Baron, a lawyer at Drinker Biddle & Reath and a former director of litigation at the National Archives and Records Administration, said that there should have been an early conversation with Clinton about the expectations of the record keeping act, and "the expectation is built into the regulations that there would be a timely transfer of emails to an appropriate record keeping system." "Timely" in this case is a little vague, but Baron said, "The transfer doesn't have to be in real time but it doesn't mean years later either."

The select committee on Benghazi, which has obtained 300 of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's emails as part of its investigation, said Tuesday that Clinton's use of a personal email address means the Committee isn't finished collecting documents from her.

Committee Chairman Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-South Carolina, told reporters, "The State Department does not have all of Secretary Clinton's emails on its servers. Only she has a complete record, and the committee is going to have to go to her, her attorneys and her email providers to ensure we have access to everything we are entitled to know."

Ranking Member Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Maryland, issued a statement saying that Clinton's use of a personal account "has been public for several years," and said that the committee received Clinton's emails relating to Benghazi last month, and he called on Gowdy to "join with me to make them available to the American public so they can read their contents for themselves."

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