The Obama administration from the top down managed to operate around the eyes of the public often by using pseudonyms when communicating with one another online.
Although President Barack Obama previously claimed to CBS he only found out about Hillary Clinton’s private e-mail server through news reports, Politico reported Friday that an FBI news dump shows he communicated with Clinton on her private server using a fake name.
The idea of using a fake name to communicate through e-mail is not an unusual one to Obama administration appointees. Clinton and even her daughter Chelsea obscured their names when communicating with one another. Chelsea went by the alias “Diane Reynolds” when talking to her mother over e-mail the night of the attack in Benghazi.
According to CBS News, Clinton, instead of using her formal state.gov email address, used the email [email protected] or would sign off as “Gert” or “Gertie” to her friend Betsy Ebeling in Chicago. Another e-mail address she used was [email protected].
A “Richard Windsor” appeared to be an official at the EPA. The individual had an official epa.gov e-mail address, but it was later discovered through FOIA requests and public records that [email protected] not only did not exist, but the e-mail address belonged to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson.
“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 called upon the EPA’s inspector general to investigate the matter in 2012.
It did not stop at just the EPA. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, among other appointees, used secret e-mail accounts to conduct business, the Associated Press reported.
In June 2013, the AP asked for HHS’s unpublished secret email accounts from the agency, which the department initially resisted.
“The Health and Human Services Department initially turned over to the AP the email addresses for roughly 240 appointees — except none of the email accounts for Sebelius, even one for her already published on its website. After the AP objected, it turned over three of Sebelius’ email addresses, including a secret one. It asked the AP not to publish the address, which it said she used to conduct day-to-day business at the department,” the AP reported. “Most of the 240 political appointees at HHS appeared to be using only public government accounts.”
Eventually, the AP published Sebelius’s secret email — KGS2(at)hhs.gov — “over the government’s objections because the secretary is a high-ranking civil servant who oversees not only major agencies like the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services but also the implementation of Obama’s signature health care law. Her public email address is Kathleen.Sebelius(at)hhs.gov.”
The AP notes that “at least two other senior HHS officials — including Donald Berwick, former head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and Gary Cohen, a deputy administrator in charge of implementing health insurance reform — also had secret government email addresses.”
The Internal Revenue Service disclosed last year that Lois Lerner, the IRS official at the center of the agency’s targeting of conservative organizations controversy, also had a private e-mail account she may have used for government business.
Lerner’s second e-mail, discovered by the D.C. watchdog group Judicial Watch, is registered to the name “Toby Miles.”
“It is simply astonishing that years after this scandal erupted we are learning about an account Lois Lerner used that evidently hadn’t been searched,” Tom Fitton said in a statement to The Washington Times.
The use of a non-public pseudonym for e-mail communication within a government agency was done by address for Seth D. Harris when he was the acting labor secretary.
Did anybody at the Justice Department hold administration officials accountable for the use of such alternate emails? Unfortunately, the task would have been difficult for Attorney General Eric Holder who had two secret aliases — Lew Alcindor and Kareem Abdul Jabar, — to communicate through email at DOJ.