Did Obama officials use private email accounts for public business?

Senior administration officials are conducting official business using private email addresses and aliases, apparently as a means of skirting open records laws, a move that could violate federal law, according to Republican members of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee.

Republicans want the Arthur A. Elkins Jr., the EPA’s inspector general, to investigate the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s compliance with the Federal Records Act (FRA) and the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). They question whether the agency’s responses to information requests and questions from the inspector general were complete and accurate.

Federal law requires agencies to maintain internal records and also prohibits officials from using private email accounts for government business. According to committee members, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson used an alias email address under the name of Richard Windsor for official business; the practice apparently started under Jackson’s predecessor, Carol Browner.

In a letter to Elkins, Republicans said “the use of these accounts could seriously impair records collection, preservation, and access, therefore compromising transparency and oversight.” The letter was signed by U.S. Reps. Ralph Hall, R-Texas; Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wisc.; Lamar Smith, R-Texas; Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif.; Paul Broun, R-Ga.; and Andy Harris, R-Md.

“The use of alias accounts that are not known to staff responsible for retaining and providing access to records seriously causes me to question the fidelity of previous responses to not only the public through FOIA, but also to the Office of the Inspector General as well as Congress,” the group wrote.

In their letter, the committee members provide specific details about a number of examples at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), the Department of Energy (DOE) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in addition to the EPA.

“All of these incidents point to a pattern of behavior directed at subverting transparency,” the group wrote.

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