Vitter: Lisa Jackson’s “Richard Windsor” Emails Released are Fishy
Vitter suggests EPA may be violating FOIA standards
January 15, 2013
U.S. Senator David Vitter (R-La.) made the following statement today after the outgoing U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa Jackson released a portion of her emails that have been under scrutiny for using a secondary email alias, "Richard Windsor." The EPA has also redacted names in the emails using a Freedom of Information Act exemption that does not apply to the released emails.
"This strikes me as incredibly fishy and begs a number of important questions," Vitter said. "The EPA needs to honor the President's pledge of transparency and release these documents without redaction of the Administrator's email address - a big first step toward removing the blanket of secrecy in this agency."
EPA redacted the email address used by Administrator Jackson citing FOIA exemption B6 - an exemption only to be used to protect personal privacy. The application of exemption B6 to a work email address for the EPA Administration would not apply. Additionally EPA has previously relied on a different FOIA exemption to redact the Administrator's alias account in other document productions.
Among the most important of questions is whether EPA made a material misrepresentation to Congress when it responded to House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology Chairman Ralph Hall on December 12, 2012. In this response to Congress, the EPA Associate Administrator cited a long-standing practice for Agency Administrators to use two email accounts, one for public use and one for "everyday, working email[s]." Evidence of EPA precedent for multiple email accounts is defined in a 2008 memo to the National Archives and Records Administration, which explained that "secondary e-mail accounts are configured so the account holder's name appears in the ‘sent by' field." However, if this were the case, then there would be no need to redact the email address as EPA routinely releases emails that contain "Lisa P. Jackson" in the "to" or "sent" fields and it would not be considered to be "personal information."
"EPA's supposed reliance on ‘precedent' is especially misleading because they're clearly using a separate and distinct practice than previous Administrations. And if ‘Richard Windsor' is no more than a standard work email account, why not share the unredacted versions and prove it to the American public?" asked Vitter.
When the email investigation was made public, Vitter suggested that Lisa Jackson may have resigned in part because of this.
• Click here to read the December 12, 2012 letter from the EPA Associate Administrator to House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology Chairman Ralph Hall.
• Click here to read the April 11, 2008 EPA letter from EPA Agency Records Officer John Ellis to the National Archives and Records Administration.