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Top Obama Appointees Use Secret Email Accounts

From the Associated Press:

Emails of top Obama appointees remain a mystery

By JACK GILLUM | June 4, 2013

WASHINGTON (AP) — Some of President Barack Obama’s political appointees, including the Cabinet secretary for the Health and Human Services Department, 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.

Note the AP’s headline. In a Republican administration, such behavior would be called a crime. But in the case of the Obama administration it is just “a mystery.”

But lest we forget, when it was disclosed that Sarah Palin had a Yahoo account (which was hacked by a Democrat operative, whom the AP celebrated), that was considered to be the crime of the century.

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 AP claims they got interested in this because of the news that Liza Jackson was using an alternative email account. (See below.) Which was well known by September 2012, before the elections. But the AP thought it best to wait until after Obama was re-elected before investigating any of this.

The Labor Department initially asked the AP to pay more than $1 million for its email addresses.

Which, of course, is not only ridiculous, it is illegal. (As the AP notes later in the piece.)

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…

Again, "disclosures" that were made before the elections.

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…

Which is almost certainly why they are used. To escape accountability.

Agencies where the AP so far has identified secret addresses, including the Labor Department and HHS, said maintaining non-public email accounts allows senior officials to keep separate their internal messages with agency employees from emails they exchange with the public.

Because these top bureaucrats don’t have any aides to go through their emails. But this is a lie anyway, since they use these secret accounts to respond to the public, when they are friendly. As Liza Jackson regularly did with environmental groups.

They also said public and non-public accounts are always searched in response to official requests and the records are provided as necessary.

The AP couldn’t independently verify the practice. It searched hundreds of pages of government emails previously released under the open records law and found only one instance of a published email with a secret address…

In other words, it’s a lie that secret emails are included in FOIA responses. Except by accident.

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…

Maybe they are trying to figure out how many millions to ask for?

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…

The Interior Department gave the AP a list of about 100 government email addresses for political appointees who work there but none for the interior secretary at the time, Ken Salazar, who has since resigned…

The Labor Department initially asked the AP to pay just over $1.03 million when the AP asked for email addresses of political appointees there… But under the department’s own FOIA rules — which it cited in its letter to the AP — it is prohibited from charging news organizations any costs except for photocopies after the first 100 pages. The department said it would take 14 weeks to find the emails if the AP had paid the money.

Fillichio later acknowledged that the $1.03 million bill was a mistake and provided the AP with email addresses for the agency’s Senate-confirmed appointees, including three addresses for Harris, the acting secretary…

So when the DOL was caught red-handed, they turned over the emails for free and before the time they said it would take if the AP had paid $1.03 million dollars. How typical of our government.

Late last year, the EPA’s critics — including Republicans in Congress — accused former EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson of using an email account under the name "Richard Windsor" to sidestep disclosure rules. The EPA said emails Jackson sent using her Windsor alias were turned over under open records requests. The agency’s inspector general is investigating the use of such accounts, after being asked to do so by Congress.

So many IGs, so little inspection unless Congress gets involved.

An EPA spokeswoman described Jackson’s alternate email address as "an everyday, working email account of the administrator to communicate with staff and other government officials." It was later determined that Jackson also used the email address to correspond sometimes with environmentalists outside government and at least in some cases did not correct a misperception among outsiders they were corresponding with a government employee named Richard Windsor…

(See more about Richard Windsor here.)

The EPA’s secret email accounts were revealed last fall by the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a conservative Washington think tank that was tipped off about Jackson’s alias by an insider and later noticed it in documents it obtained the FOIA. The EPA said its policy was to disclose in such documents that "Richard Windsor" was actually the EPA administrator…

Again, the AP has known about Liza Jackson’s secret emails since September 2012. But they are only reporting about it now that Obama is safely re-elected and they are a little tweaked at the Obama administration.

This article was posted by Steve on Wednesday, June 5th, 2013. Comments are currently closed.

One Response to “Top Obama Appointees Use Secret Email Accounts”

  1. GetBackJack says:

    You know who else uses fake email accounts to avoid probity?


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