The U.S. State Department has determined that emails containing classified information were sent to the personal email accounts of former Secretary of State Colin Powell and aides to his successor, Condoleezza Rice.
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's use of a personal email server has dogged her presidential campaign, and news that her predecessors in a Republican administration might have received such information on nonsecure servers could help her blunt the criticism that Republicans have leveled at her, hoping to impede her presidential campaign.
The State Department inspector general has determined that two emails sent to Powell and 10 others sent to Rice's staff also contained classified national security information. Those emails 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 email server that Clinton used while she was secretary of state from 2009 to 2013.
Powell and Rice were top diplomats under Republican President George W. Bush.
In a statement, Powell said the emails in question were not judged to contain confidential information at the time they were sent to him. A representative for Rice said the emails sent to her aide did not contain intelligence information.
The news came less than a week after the Obama administration confirmed for the first time that Clinton's unsecured home server when she was secretary of state contained 22 top-secret emails, which the State Department said would not be released.
State Department officials have said that using a private email account was not prohibited, and that Clinton never shared classified information over the account. But critics said the private account might have permitted her to hide her communications and that use of the unsecured server at her home outside New York City left it vulnerable to overseas hackers.
Clinton initially said that setting up the private server was a matter of convenience, but later conceded it was a mistake.