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Friday, March 03, 2017

Ind. Gov't. - "Pence used personal email for state business — and was hacked" [Updated]

Tony Cook reports today in a great story in the Indianapolis Star [emphasis added]:

Vice President Mike Pence routinely used a private email account to conduct public business as governor of Indiana, at times discussing sensitive matters and homeland security issues.

Emails released to IndyStar in response to a public records request show Pence communicated via his personal AOL account with top advisers on topics ranging from security gates at the governor’s residence to the state’s response to terror attacks across the globe. In one email, Pence’s top state homeland security adviser relayed an update from the FBI regarding the arrests of several men on federal terror-related charges.

Cyber-security experts say the emails raise concerns about whether such sensitive information was adequately protected from hackers, given that personal accounts like Pence's are typically less secure than government email accounts. In fact, Pence's personal account was hacked last summer.

Furthermore, advocates for open government expressed concerns about transparency because personal emails aren't immediately captured on state servers that are searched in response to public records requests.

Pence's office in Washington said in a written statement Thursday: "Similar to previous governors, during his time as Governor of Indiana, Mike Pence maintained a state email account and a personal email account. As Governor, Mr. Pence fully complied with Indiana law regarding email use and retention. Government emails involving his state and personal accounts are being archived by the state consistent with Indiana law, and are being managed according to Indiana’s Access to Public Records Act.”

Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb's office released 29 pages of emails from Pence's AOL account, but declined to release an unspecified number of others because the state considers them confidential and too sensitive to release to the public.

More from the lengthy story:
Indiana law requires all records dealing with state business to be retained and available for public information requests. Emails exchanged on state accounts are captured on state servers, which can be searched in response to such requests. But any emails Pence sent from his AOL account to another private account likely would have been hidden from public record searches unless he took steps to make them available.

Indiana Public Access Counselor Luke Britt, who was appointed by Pence in 2013, said he advises state officials to copy or forward their emails involving state business to their government accounts to ensure the record is preserved on state servers.

But there is no indication that Pence took any such steps to preserve his AOL emails until he was leaving the governor's office. * * *

Holcomb’s office declined to disclose how many emails were withheld.

Cyber-security experts and government transparency advocates said Pence's use of a personal email account for matters of state business — including confidential ones — is surprising given his attacks on Clinton's exclusive use of a private email server. * * *

Pence’s own account was compromised in June when a hacker sent a counterfeit email to his contacts claiming Pence he and his wife had been attacked on their way back to their hotel in the Philippines, losing their money, bank cards and mobile phone.

In response, Pence sent an email to those who had received the fake communication apologizing for any inconvenience. He also set up a new AOL account.

Because the hacker appears to have gained access to Pence’s contacts, experts say it is likely that the account was actually penetrated, giving the hacker access to Pence’s inbox and sent messages.

The story also touches on the Groth v. Pence/Holcomb case, now pending transfer to the Supreme Court:
In addition to security issues, Pence's personal email account also raises new concerns about transparency, according to ethics experts and government accountability advocates.

Pence is already fighting in state court to conceal the contents of emails involving his decision to join a 2014 lawsuit challenging then-President Barack Obama's executive order on immigration. The emails are being sought by William Groth, a Democrat and labor lawyer who says he wants to expose waste in the Republican administration.

Richard Painter, former chief ethics lawyer to President George W. Bush, said it's bothersome that Pence is only now transferring his AOL emails to the state. It raises questions about whether those emails were included in previous responses to public records requests. "That’s a problem that should have been dealt with back then," he said. "The existence of the private email account should have been dealt with at the time the record requests were made."

[Updated at 10:24AM] Here, via the IndyStar, are some of Vice President Mike Pence's AOL emails.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on March 3, 2017 09:44 AM
Posted to Indiana Government