Hid­ing some­thing? EPA says Jack­son has in­ter­nal-use email

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY STEPHEN DINAN

The En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency has ac­knowl­edged that Ad­min­is­tra­tor Lisa P. Jack­son has a sec­ond of­fi­cial email that she uses for im­por­tant com­mu­ni­ca­tions, but said it’s a stan­dard prac­tice and doesn’t shield her from open­records re­quests.

EPA’s state­ment last week came a few days af­ter the House Sci­ence, Space and Tech­nol­ogy Com­mit­tee said it was con­duct­ing an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Mrs. Jack­son’s emails, af­ter re­searcher Christo­pher Horner re­vealed the sec­ondary email’s ex­is­tence.

“For more than a decade, EPA ad­min­is­tra­tors have been as­signed two of­fi­cial, government-is­sued email ac­counts: a pub­lic ac­count and an in­ter­nal ac­count,” the agency said in a state­ment, adding that Mrs. Jack­son’s pub­lic email is avail­able on­line and gets hun­dreds of thou­sands of mes­sages, mak­ing it nec­es­sary to have an­other ad­dress.

“The in­ter­nal ac­count is an ev­ery­day, work­ing email ac­count of the ad­min­is­tra­tor to com­mu­ni­cate with staff and other government of­fi­cials,” the EPA said.

The agency said the pub­lic and in­ter­nal ac­counts are both checked when­ever some­one makes a re­quest for Mrs. Jack­son’s emails un­der the Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion Act, which is the chief open­records law the press and the pub­lic use to try to un­cover in­for­ma­tion from fed­eral de­part­ments and agen­cies.

Mrs. Jack­son’s pub­lic email, jack­son.lisap@epa.gov, is listed on the agency’s web­site. Mr. Horner un­cov­ered that she also got email un­der the name of Richard Wind­sor — the ac­count she used to do busi­ness within EPA.

The House com­mit­tee two weeks ago asked Mrs. Jack­son to pro­vide de­tails of her email ac­counts and asked the EPA’s in­spec­tor gen­eral to look into whether Mrs. Jack­son or other of­fi­cials had used sec­ondary or pri­vate emails to skirt dis­clo­sure.

Mr. Horner, the re­searcher who ex­posed the sec­ondary EPA email and who just pub­lished the “The Lib­eral War on Trans­parency: Con­fes­sions of a Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion ‘Crim­i­nal,’” a book that delves into government se­crecy, said there are still too many ques­tions about whether of­fi­cials are try­ing to hide their deal­ings from the pub­lic.

“We sim­ply have too much ex­pe­ri­ence with se­cre­tive bu­reau­crats hid­ing pub­lic work on pri­vate email ac­counts, servers and com­put­ers, and ra­tio­nal­iz­ing why they should not search for or pro­duce records they worked to keep se­cret, to trust but not ver­ify,” he said.

On Nov. 20, Ci­ti­zens for Re­spon­si­bil­ity and Ethics in Washington, a watch­dog, also called for an in­spec­tor gen­eral’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

“Ad­min­is­tra­tor Jack­son’s prac­tice of us­ing fic­ti­tious email ac­counts to con­duct of­fi­cial EPA busi­ness, shield­ing the con­tents from pub­lic view, con­flicts di­rectly with her re­spon­si­bil­ity to fol­low fed­eral records law,” said CREW Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor Me­lanie Sloan. “The fact that oth­ers may have en­gaged in such con­duct be­fore her ten­ure is no jus­ti­fi­ca­tion. ‘Ev­ery­body does it,’ is an ex­cuse for kinder­gart­ners, not Cab­i­net of­fi­cials.”

The ad­min­is­tra­tion’s com­mit­ment to trans­parency has come un­der fire af­ter news re­ports re­vealed that some White House of­fi­cials were sched­ul­ing meet­ings with lob­by­ists at a cof­fee shop across the street from the White House, which meant they avoided be­ing logged in as vis­i­tors in records open to the pub­lic.

The House com­mit­tee also said some En­ergy De­part­ment of­fi­cials used pri­vate emails to con­duct government busi­ness to try to shield them­selves from scru­tiny.

Not-so-trans­par­ent: Sheila Jack­son

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