Former Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson spoke candidly about the controversial secret email account, “Richard Windsor,” she was using during her tenure as the top environmental regulator in the country.
Jackson spoke before an audience at an event called “The Unfinished Business of the Environmental Movement” at Princeton University. The talk mainly revolved around issues in the environmental movement and what issues it needs to tackle going forward, but one student asked Jackson about her use of an alias email account.
Jackson said an internal email account was necessary due to the high volume of emails her public account gets every year, and she swayed by career staff to pick a name that was not her own. Combining the name of her dog Ricky and the East Windsor Township in New Jersey, she came up with the alias name “Richard Windsor.”
“It is not an unofficial account. The account is ‘Windsor.firstname.lastname@example.org,’” Jackson said. “When we got to EPA, I said let’s make it ‘email@example.com,’ and the career staff, who work there, advised … that that shouldn’t be done, because we have a searchable database, and what would happen is people would search it, find it, and start using it.”
“So, that’s why we did it, just like the guy before me did it — a Republican — and what the woman before him may have done, I have no idea what she did,” she added.
“So it’s not unofficial,” Jackson said. “And I get very angry at the way politics is done, because you can put that up there — not you personally, I don’t know, maybe you did … so then that becomes that I set up an email — so you take a fact, which is true, that I had another email account.”
Jackson also said that she endlessly told people to search for Richard Windsor emails when using a Freedom of Information Act request to get agency information and records.
“After 25 years in public service, I have people accusing me on both sides of doing something unethical to hide information,” she said. “And I have endless times when I’ve said to people, ‘Make sure when you’re searching for FOIA information you search the Richard Windsor account.’”
Jackson came under fire after Competitive Enterprise Institute senior fellow Chris Horner told the Daily Caller News Foundation that two EPA officials confirmed to him that she was using an account under the name Richard Windsor. A lawsuit from CEI has forced the EPA to turn over thousands of emails between Jackson’s alias account and other agency officials.
“As to this notion that it was widely known that Richard Windsor was Jackson’s false identity for EPA emailing, that is preposterous,” Horner told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “We see emails from many high-ranking EPA officials sent not to Windsor but to Lisa Jackson’s account in her name; we have dozens of them proving that in fact the false identity was known only to a select, small group of insiders for certain communications.”
Jackson’s alias account also piqued the interest of congressional Republicans who began to question Jackson, and other agency officials, on the use of alias and private email accounts to conduct official business.
“Do I regret naming it [that]?” Jackson said at Princeton. “I wish that I had stuck with my original inclination and just left it ‘admjackson,’ although I’m sure somebody would have decided that that was too obscure as well, but you take that and then you assign a motive to it.”
“But the difference between fact and ascription of motive is the most base form of our politics. And as policy students, I certainly hope that’s the one thing you know besides [unintelligible],” she said.
Jackson announced she would leave the Obama administration last December, saying that she wished to spend time with her family and pursue other opportunities.
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