You know that a politician is in trouble when something they promised is not only a source of derision but the butt of jokes. Such was George HW Bush’s “read my lips,” and such is Barack Obama’s “most transparent administration in history.” Perhaps it was a typo on the teleprompter, because this has been one of the least transparent administrations in history (to the point where Joe Biden once held a meeting on government transparency that was closed to the press).
Today’s news is just one more example of this
administration’s disregard of the public’s right to know. According to
the AP some President Barack Obama’s political appointees (including the
secretary for the Health and Human Services Department) are using
secret government email accounts. These appointees say the secret emails
are necessary to prevent their inboxes from being overwhelmed with
unwanted messages. It makes one wonder who does the IT work for the
Administration? Haven’t they ever heard of a spam filter? They help
weed out unwanted Messages.
Last year it was discovered that [email protected] was the an email alias used by former EPA head Lisa Jackson to conduct agency business ( she resigned earlier this year possibly because of the questions regarding the fake email account). While others have used secondary email accounts that Ms. Jackson
took the secondary email further than any of her predecessors by not attaching her real name to the account thus avoiding transparency.
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 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.”
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. They also said public and non-public accounts are always searched in response to official requests and the records are provided as necessary.
The full article goes into the details, the real issue is the reason. Why is the Obama Administration trying to keep these aliases secret? Why wont they provide the information to the Press? In the case of these emails as well as the four ongoing scandals the administration is forgetting rule #1 of embarrassing political news–fess up and you will be forgiven, obstruct and you will suffer as things leak out drip by drip.