EPA accused of using fake names & email addresses to cover tracks
Several media outlets have been covering the growing story of EPA administrator, Lisa Jackson’s use of a second – hidden – email address and the fake name “Richard Windsor” to allegedly hide her activities from public view.
While the facts about this second email and false name were apparently leaked by EPA employees to a researcher at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, higher level EPA employees claim that dual email accounts and name changes are standard operating procedure for their senior staff.
“For more than a decade, EPA administrators have been assigned two official, government-issued email accounts: a public account and an internal account,” EPA said in a statement to POLITICO.
However, many elected officials, other EPA officials, and watchdog groups are questioning the need for secret aliases, double accounts, and this level of secrecy in a public agency.
Still, the hint of secrecy and intrigue — not to mention the use of such an opaque alias — left some people feeling that the agency was taking email security a step too far.
“That they felt the need to create a nom de plume struck me as cloak and dagger,” one former EPA official with knowledge of the alias account said.
And others weren’t buying the agency’s explanation.
“I don’t know any other agency that does this,” said Anne Weismann, chief counsel of the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, which asked EPA’s inspector general on Tuesday to investigate the matter. Even if Jackson needs a separate email account, Weismann asked, “why would you pick a fictitious name of someone of different gender? To me it smacks of … trying to hide.”
The fictitious account(s) are now the subject of an ongoing investigation, and law suit.
In September, Horner and CEI filed a lawsuit against the EPA, asking the U.S. District Court to order them to produce record regarding “‘secondary,’ non-public email accounts for EPA administrators, the existence of which accounts Plaintiff discovered in an Agency document obtained under a previous [Freedom of Information Act] request” which the EPA says were known only to a “few EPA staff members, usually only high-level senior staff.”
The hidden email account(s) have also drawn charges that the EPA is attempting to cover up activities and avoid FOIA requests.
CEI sent another Freedom of Information Act request to the EPA on Tuesday “to see what [Jackson] was saying about her radical plans in the means selected to avoid public scrutiny, ‘Richard Windsor,’” said Horner.
Horner has also claimed many other top federal officials use private email accounts to conduct government business and avoid scrutiny under FOIA.
“Ms. Jackson is of course the ‘eco-warrior,’ the ‘most progressive EPA chief in history’ — pushing Obama’s backdoor, other ways ‘of skinning the cat’ of cap-and-trade,” Horner concluded.