Yesterday’s revelation that Attorney General Eric Holder emailed under several secretive aliases raises the question of how widespread such practices are, in what President Obama has proclaimed as the most transparent administration in history.
Unlike former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who set up her own private email server and then deleted reams of emails that she says were personal, Holder used names, including “Henry Yearwood,” to mask his identity.
The purported reason for this was to “guard against security risks” and “prevent his inbox from being needlessly inundated,” according to a spokesman. Notably, however, the same end could be achieved by using a non-standard format to his email address, rather than creating numerous fictitious personas.
And, while the Justice Department says that Holder’s secretive aliases didn’t interfere with the agency’s responsiveness to document requests and subpoenas, we know of another case where it did interfere with a federal agency’s record responses.
Former EPA Adminstrator Lisa Jackson used a nom de plume, “Richard Windsor,” to email under. Previous agency heads had secondary, non-public email addresses – but not under fictitious names. In some instances, documents produced under the Freedom of Information Act did not label “Richard Windsor” as the EPA administrator, obfuscating the author of those documents to the public.
Republicans familiar with the issue say that Holder’s real email address was obscured even when investigators traveled to the Justice Department for “in camera” review of documents, despite that the documents were not being released. Why such elaborate secrecy? Did Holder think that GOP congressional staffers would spam him?
Clinton, though, still takes the cake. Not only did she not use a government email address, she housed the email server for her account in her own house. With plenty of freely available email services, housing your own email server is something someone does with a purpose.
Clinton’s aides then decided which emails they would finally turn over to the State Department to comply with federal record-keeping laws, although this occurred after she had left the agency. Then, she revealed yesterday, she deleted reams of emails that were “personal.”
We have only Clinton’s word that the deleted emails were, in fact, personal – and not her official correspondence as Secretary of State. And it is unusual, suffice it to say, for someone to proactively delete their own emails, especially someone of her stature.
Compounding suspicion about Clinton is that some of the things she claimed in her first press conference since the scandal erupted were immediately contradicted by other things Clinton or her aides had said.
Clinton said the personal emails she sent were to her husband, former President Bill Clinton. But just yesterday, a Clinton spokesman said the former president had only sent two emails in his life.
And Clinton said she used the personal account for convenience because she didn’t want to carry two phones. But only two weeks ago, she said she carried two phones.
What else will we learn about the email practices of the “most transparent administration in history?”