Congressional investigators asked Hillary Clinton whether she used a private email account — a decision that has come under fire in the past month — back in 2012, The New York Times reports. The Times says it has obtained a December 2012 letter from Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), then chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. In the letter, Issa asks whether Clinton or any other senior official at the State Department used a personal email address for official business, and if so, whether the agency had requirements for turning over documentation of work messages sent through personal accounts.
According to the Times, the State Department wrote back in March of 2013, shortly after Clinton had left office. As Issa had requested, the department provided a description of its email policies, which said that anyone using a personal account "should make it clear that his or her personal email is not being used for official business." The department reportedly did not answer Issa's question about Clinton or any other senior official's accounts.
In March, the Times broke news that Clinton has used a single account for both work and personal email, storing mail on a private server. This could potentially stop government watchdogs from reviewing how Clinton conducted business, since any non-classified official messages are supposed to be preserved and available for public review. Clinton acknowledged that she had used a private account, characterizing it as a matter of convenience that was widely known inside the agency. She said that any messages sent to other State Department employees would have been preserved on their end, and that she later sent roughly half of the server's 60,000 messages (roughly 55,000 pages of email, according to the Times) to the agency for record-keeping, culling out only purely personal emails.
The 2012 letter was part of a broad investigation of several Obama administration agencies by Issa. One concerned a prominent Environmental Protection Agency official who was found using a second, pseudonymous government account, something that prompted an internal EPA audit. Issa was particularly critical of Clinton and the State Department after the death of US diplomats in Benghazi, Libya, alleging that officials were covering up mistakes in the government's response. Besides the EPA and State Department, he's also targeted emails related to insurance site Healthcare.gov's unstable rollout, accusing one official of deliberately deleting messages relating to the problems behind its launch.