by William Teach | June 4, 2013 8:39 am
This was not just Lisa Jackson, but others, and, apparently just because their regular inboxes are overloaded or something.
(Newsday) Some of President Barack Obama’s political appointees, including the secretary for Health and Human Services, are using secret government email accounts they say are necessary to prevent their inboxes from being overwhelmed with unwanted messages, according to a review by The Associated Press.
The scope of using the secret accounts across government remains a mystery: Most U.S. agencies have failed to turn over lists of political appointees’ email addresses, which the AP sought under the Freedom of Information Act more than three months ago. The Labor Department initially asked the AP to pay more than $1 million for its email addresses.
The AP asked for the addresses following last year’s disclosures that the former administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency had used separate email accounts at work. The practice is separate from officials who use personal, non-government email accounts for work, which generally is discouraged — but often happens anyway — due to laws requiring that most federal records be preserved.
So, what’s the problem?
The secret email accounts complicate an agency’s legal responsibilities to find and turn over emails in response to congressional or internal investigations, civil lawsuits or public records requests because employees assigned to compile such responses would necessarily need to know about the accounts to search them. Secret accounts also drive perceptions that government officials are trying to hide actions or decisions.
“What happens when that person doesn’t work there anymore? He leaves and someone makes a request (to review emails) in two years,” said Kel McClanahan, executive director of National Security Counselors, an open government group. “Who’s going to know to search the other accounts? You would hope that agencies doing this would keep a list of aliases in a desk drawer, but you know that isn’t happening.”
Let’s be clear, this is not necessarily illegal, and they could be called “secondary email accounts”. However, what we saw with Lisa Jackson and her “Richard Windsor” account was an attempt to circumvent FOIA requests, transparency, requests from Congress, and a way to spread propaganda and coordinate secretly with fringe environmental and “climate change” groups.
Unsurprisingly, many agencies are stonewalling the AP’s FOIA request
Ten agencies have not yet turned over lists of email addresses, including the Environmental Protection Agency; the Pentagon; and the departments of Veterans Affairs, Transportation, Treasury, Justice, Housing and Urban Development, Homeland Security, Commerce and Agriculture. All have said they are working on a response to the AP.
And tried to hide information about Sebelius
The Health and Human Services Department initially turned over to the AP the email addresses for roughly 240 appointees — except none of the email accounts for Sebelius, even one for her already published on its website. After the AP objected, it turned over three of Sebelius’ email addresses, including a secret one. It asked the AP not to publish the address, which it said she used to conduct day-to-day business at the department. Most of the 240 political appointees at HHS appeared to be using only public government accounts.
Sebelius’ wasn’t as strange as Lisa Jackson’s (yes, the AP did publish it, it’s in the above article), but, as Ed Morrissey points out, department heads tend to have people who go through correspondence, including email, to sort out the chaff from the wheat. Remember, Most Transparent Administration Ever!
Crossed at Pirate’s Cove. Follow me on Twitter @WilliamTeach.
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