WASHINGTON, June 30 (UPI) -- The State Department has asked a judge for two more years to sort through emails from four former aides to Hillary Clinton, saying the search method the department used was faulty and omitted thousands more emails than initially thought relevant to a lawsuit by a conservative group.
The group Citizens United sued the State Department last year, seeking access to emails sent by four former Clinton aides: Huma Abedin, Cheryl Mills, Melanee Verveer and Michael Fuchs. The suit seeks access to emails regarding the Clinton Foundation and a firm with close ties to the Clintons, Teneo Consulting.
U.S. District Judge Rudolph Contreras ordered the State Department to make the emails available to Citizens United by July 21.
But now, State Department lawyers said in a legal filing there may be thousands more emails potentially relevant to the lawsuit than initially thought, and due to the large number of Freedom of Information lawsuits and requests generated by the revelation that Clinton used a private email server while secretary of state, it could take up to 27 months to complete the work.
State Department Freedom of Information officer Eric Stein said the agency initially only searched the "to" and "from" lines in its email database to determine how many emails might be relevant to the Citizens United case. But that search method excludes forwarded emails and other items that text searches for various related phrases did not, leading to thousands more emails that must be reviewed for relevance and national security redactions.
Stein said the agency is reviewing the emails at a rate of about 500 per month.
A representative for Citizens United told Politico the two-year request was too much time, given the presidential election taking place in November.
"This is totally unacceptable; the State Department is using taxpayer dollars to protect their candidate Hillary Clinton." Citizens United President David Bossie said. "The American people have a right to see these emails before the election. If transparency is truly important to Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, they will order the production of all of these records as ordered by the court by July 21, 2016. The conflicts of interest that were made possible by the activities of Hillary Clinton's State Department in tandem with the Clinton Foundation are of significant importance to the public and the law enforcement community."