February 25, 2016

MIT Researcher Finds Thwarting US FOIA is Pervasive Among White House Appointees, PR Flack Denies

White House sure fooled a lot of people. Must be proud.

[From article]
Former US Attorney General Eric Holder is a huge fan of NBA hall of famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
So much so that Holder used Abdul-Jabbar's birth name, Lew Alcindor, as an alias for his official Department of Justice (DOJ) email account, raising more questions about the email practices of top Obama administration officials, and about the ability of US government agencies to track down correspondence in response to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.
The Lew Alcindor revelation was made in a February 16 letter that DOJ sent to VICE News and Ryan Shapiro, a historian and doctoral candidate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who specializes in national security research.
"For your information," the letter said, "e-mails in the enclosed documents which use the account name 'Lew Alcindor' denote e-mails to or from former Attorney General Holder."
The letter was part of about 500 pages of heavily redacted emails and other documents [pdf at the end of this story] given to VICE News and Shapiro in response to a FOIA lawsuit filed in late 2014. The documents show that Justice Department officials sent emails to Lew Alcindor regarding calls from lawmakers for a federal investigation into claims that CIA personnel spied on Senate staffers while the Senate was drafting a report about the CIA's torture program. Holder's name does not appear anywhere in his Lew Alcindor email account.
[. . .]
Fallon made the disclosure less than a week before he announced that he would serve as lead press secretary for Clinton's presidential campaign. Fallon identified two of the email accounts Holder previously used, but they weren't the names of any known living person. Fallon declined to identify Holder's third email alias other than to say that it was "based" on an athlete. (Before leaving the DOJ in April 2015, Holder had still been using the Lew Alcindor email address.)
Fallon, who exchanged many of the emails in the cache with Lew Alcindor, explained the rationale for the practice: to combat spam and to avoid being inundated with correspondence from the public.
A Justice Department spokesman told VICE News there was nothing improper or legally questionable about Holder using the identity of a living person for his email account. Nor was it in any way an attempt, he said, to thwart FOIA or the Federal Records Act, which requires government agencies to preserve federal records. DOJ officials who handle FOIA requests and congressional inquiries, the spokesman said, knew of Holder's email aliases.
[. . .]
A few years ago, the former head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Lisa Jackson, came under fire from conservative lawmakers and open government advocates — and was accused of attempting to thwart open records requests and federal records retention laws — after it was revealed that she used the email alias Richard Windsor when conducting official business.


While US Attorney General, Eric Holder Used Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s Birth Name as His Official Email Address
By Jason Leopold
February 25, 2016

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