Former U.S Attorney General Eric Holder used the alias Lew Alcindor, basketball great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s birth name, for one of his official DOJ email accounts.
It was previously revealed by his then-spokesmen Brian Fallon that Holder used the aliases “Henry Yearwood,” and “David Kendricks,” for two DOJ email addresses, at the time, he said the third was “based” on an athlete.
Emails from Lew Alcindor were released in response to a Vice News FOIA lawsuit for records pertaining to the Senate’s investigation of the CIA’s former detention and interrogation program. In a letter from a Department of Justice lawyer it states, “Moreover, for your information, e-mails in the enclosed documents which use the account name “Lew Alcindor” denote e-mails to or from former Attorney General Holder.”
Kareem-Abdul Jabbar legally changed his name in 1971 and was unaware Holder was using the email account “email@example.com.” His spokeswoman responded to Vice with no comment on the issue.
In the heavily redacted emails, Holder is discussing Senator [crscore]Ron Wyden[/crscore]’s request that the DOJ reopen its investigation into the alleged CIA spying of senate members. Holder in the email writes reopen in quotes. (RELATED: Holder Refuses To Investigate CIA For Spying On Senate)
It has been fairly common practice in the Obama administration for officials to use email aliases. Besides Holder, Hillary Clinton used one, as did EPA administrator Lisa Jackson, and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack.
The practice is defended by the justification that “this protects his privacy and security and allows him to conduct official business efficiently via e-mail.” The idea here being that it decreases the chance of spam and correspondence from the public.
While the usage of email aliases by government officials is legal, as long as they’re linked to an actual name, FOIA experts frown upon it.
“We’ve been pretty clear with agencies it is not a good practice to follow, and we don’t recommend that they authorize the use of personal e-mail accounts or alias accounts to conduct their business,” said Paul Wester, chief records officer for the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).
He added, “There’s a higher probability the emails wouldn’t be documented properly with their broader record keeping systems.”
Douglas Cox, law professor at the City University of New York School of Law, told Vice, “Agencies are unnecessarily creating risks of undermining FOIA responses, subpoena responses, and discovery disclosures. I also think alias emails are inconsistent with the letter and spirit of the federal record keeping laws.”
“I don’t see what the justification would be for not configuring [firstname.lastname@example.org] so [Holder’s] actual name appears in internal emails.” Cox continued to say, “When you consider the possibility, if not likelihood based on what we know, that alias emails are common practice among high-ranking officials across dozens of agencies, the risk of undermining FOIA searches and discovery requests within the various agencies approaches certainty.”
Holder did not reply to return a call for comment from Vice.