The Associated Press has decided it has the power to make things very uncomfortable for the Obama administration, and has decided to hit back.
Some of President Barack Obama’s political appointees, including the secretary for Health and Human Services, are using secret government email accounts they say are necessary to prevent their inboxes from being overwhelmed with unwanted messages, according to a review by The Associated Press.
The scope of using the secret accounts across government remains a mystery: Most U.S. agencies have failed to turn over lists of political appointees’ email addresses, which the AP sought under the Freedom of Information Act more than three months ago. The Labor Department initially asked the AP to pay more than $1 million for its email addresses.
The AP asked for the addresses following last year’s disclosures that the former administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency had used separate email accounts at work. The practice is separate from officials who use personal, non-government email accounts for work, which generally is discouraged — but often happens anyway — due to laws requiring that most federal records be preserved.
The secret email accounts complicate an agency’s legal responsibilities to find and turn over emails in response to congressional or internal investigations, civil lawsuits or public records requests because employees assigned to compile such responses would necessarily need to know about the accounts to search them. Secret accounts also drive perceptions that government officials are trying to hide actions or decisions.
The Associated Press has decided that it felt the Obama administration was abusing its power and trust. Apparently, the AP has countered by doing much the same thing by putting these email addresses out there, certainly ones they've used to communicate with administration officials. At best, that's just being a bunch of douchebags. At worst, it's rank hypocrisy.
The AP story gives the impression that this is unprecedented, making no mention of the use of the multiple addresses by previous administrations.
U.S. Senators and Representatives also typically have non-published e-mail addresses, though Congress exempted itself from Freedom of Information laws. It seems obvious that political figures of both parties would need an unlisted e-mail address that cannot be easily guessed for communications with advisers and colleagues — just as cabinet secretaries private cell phone numbers would not be publicly available, though their main office number would be.
Despite Alexander’s concern, the release of this information shows that both the public and private email addresses are public record and that any legitimate FOIA request or subpoena for records would include those sent to and from both addresses.
People forget that at their heart, news organizations are intelligence-gathering agencies, and that intelligence can be misused for personal reasons. Somebody might want to refresh the AP's collective memory on that, and tell them to knock off this message pitch crap.