AP Says U.S. Officials Using Private Email Accounts

7 June 2013

U.S. officials are using private emails accounts to conduct government business and agencies are refusing to disclose the email addresses, according to a May 4 report by Jack Gillum of the Associated Press.

The AP story said the practice ”complicates agencies’ legal responsibilities to find and turn over emails under public records requests and congressional inquiries.”

“The scope of using the secret accounts across government remains a mystery,” the AP said, noting that 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 requests followed the disclosure last year that the administration’s top environmental official used a separate email account at work under the fictious name “Richard Windsor.”

The AP said: “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.”

White House spokesman Jay Carney defended the practice, which he said had been done in previous administrations, too. He said alternative email accounts make “eminent sense” to help officials deal with a barrage of email. Other officials said that private email accounts are subject to examination in response to FOI requests.

The AP decided to publish the nonpublic address for one Cabinet official, over the government’s objections.

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