WASHINGTON • The United States State Department has discovered a dozen e-mails containing classified information that were sent to the personal e-mail accounts of Mr Colin Powell and close aides of Dr Condoleezza Rice when they served as secretaries of state under former president George W. Bush.
Two e-mails were sent to Mr Powell's personal account, and 10 were sent to personal accounts of Dr Rice's senior aides.
Those e-mails have now been classified as "confidential" or "secret", as part of a review process that has resulted in similar "upgrades" of information sent through the personal e-mail server that Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton used while she was secretary of state from 2009 to 2013.
Of the nearly 30,000 e-mails from Mrs Clinton's server that have been released by the State Department under a court order, 18 e-mails sent to or from her have been classified "secret", while 1,564 others have been classified at the lower level of "confidential".
Last week, the US State Department said 22 e-mails have now been classified "top secret", and would not be released, with part or all of their contents redacted or blacked out.
A review of 3,700 more e-mails by the State Department and intelligence agencies continues.
The State Department's Inspector-General Steve Linick, in a letter on Wednesday, said a review of communications with four other secretaries of state had uncovered the 12 e-mails, and that they should be removed from the department's archives.
Mr Linick wrote to Undersecretary of State for Management Patrick F. Kennedy, saying "the substance of the material and 'Nodis' (no distribution) references in the body or subject lines of some of the documents suggested the documents could be potentially sensitive".
Mr Powell, in a telephone interview, said he had reviewed the two e-mails with the inspector-general's office and responded incredulously "What are you talking about?"
The e-mails, he said, were sent by two career ambassadors and forwarded to him by his executive assistant, something he encouraged for important or urgent matters.
One involved a kidnapping in the Philippines, and the other, general views on the situation in the Middle East. Both, he said, were now considered "confidential". "That is an absurdity," he said.
If two seasoned diplomats could not discuss their views with the secretary in unclassified e-mails, he said, "we might as well shut the department down".
Dr Rice, now at the Hoover Institution in Stanford University, was not available for comment.
Her chief of staff, Ms Georgia Godfrey, said she did not use e-mail or have a personal e-mail account when she was secretary of state.
NEW YORK TIMES