Report: Obama appointees using secret email accounts

Several of President Obama’s political appointees are using secret government email accounts, The Associated Press reported Tuesday.

The administration officials contend the separate addresses used by the former head of the Environmental Protection Agency and other departments are necessary to keep their primary inboxes from overflowing.

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But the practice invites concerns that federal agencies are conducting official business through accounts that go undetected in public records requests. It brings worries that government officials are hiding information and decisions.

"What happens when that person doesn't work there anymore? He leaves and someone makes a request (to review emails) in two years," Kel McClanahan, executive director of National Security Counselors, an open government group, told AP. "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."

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, former EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson and several other federal officials have maintained secret email accounts.

Jackson’s use of a “Richard Windsor” alias in a separate email account was the genesis for AP requests at other agencies. The EPA’s internal watchdog is currently investigating the environmental regulator’s email practices.

The EPA has said the separate accounts date back to former President George W. Bush’s administration. The agency also says it hands over all correspondence from those addresses in public records requests.

AP said how many administration officials have secret email accounts “remains a mystery,” noting most federal agencies didn’t provide email accounts requested by the wire service in a Freedom of Information Act request.

AP said 10 agencies have not given the wire service a list of email addresses, including the EPA and the departments of Veteran Affairs, Transportation, Treasury, Justice, Housing and Urban Development, Homeland Security, Commerce, and Agriculture.