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EPA Hid Information Behind False Identities

New documents show agency’s lack of transparency includes secret email accounts.

A personal memo sent out by EPA staff refers to the existence of secondary email accounts for top staffers, according to a new release of agency documents. These secret email accounts were allegedly only known to high-level senior staff, and their contents are not available to the public. Since the EPA is a government agency, its emails are supposed to be available to the public under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

According to the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), which filed for records of the secret email accounts, these were not just secondary accounts, but an entire false identity. Emails sent from the pseudonym “Richard Windsor” were actually sent by EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson. That begs the question of why the EPA would want to go to such levels of secrecy. Jackson resigned at the end of 2012, without any explanation, shortly after these emails surfaced.

According to CEI, “[t]he memo acknowledged that ‘[f]ew EPA staff members, usually only high-level senior staff, even know that these accounts exist,’ and that it is unable to recreate most of the accounts' usage histories.”

CEI Senior Fellow Chris Horner told the Business and Media Institute that “federal law requires that government officials maintain an adequate record of their activities. It should go without mention that creating a false-identity email account for certain correspondence with one's inner circle – inside as well as outside government, notwithstanding EPA's untrue but wholly irrelevant spin that the false-identity account was acceptable because it was just for internal purposes – fails that requirement.”

Horner wrote a recent book on this topic, entitled “The Liberal War on Transparency: Confessions of a Freedom of Information ‘Criminal’.”

Lisa Jackson said while she was still the nominee for her current job that “as administrator, I will ensure EPA's efforts to address the environmental crises of today are rooted in three fundamental values: science-based policies and program, adherence to the rule of law, and overwhelming transparency.” Apparently Jackson changed her mind on “transparency” thing, and possibly even the “rule of law.”

A batch of emails released by the EPA on February 15 included a November 2009 internal email alert about a Wall Street Journal article being published on the “EPA’s transparency.” Kim Strassel, who wrote the WSJ article, also wrote another article on how CEI unearthed emails forbidding the release of a report by a senior analyst at the EPA which called into question the conclusiveness of climate change research.

Another top EPA official, Region 8 Administrator James Martin, also announced that he would resign on February 22, after Sen. David Vitter questioned him about the emails.

No major media outlets have reported on this developing story as of yet. The CEI lawsuit began in May 2012, according to an official statement by CEI.