March 3, 2017
By Tony Cook
Vice President Mike Pence (click here) 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....
...When public officials fail to retain their private-account emails pertaining to public business, "they're running the risk of violating the law,” Britt said. “A good steward of those messages and best practice is going to dictate they preserve those."
All of the emails provided to IndyStar, part of the USA TODAY Network, were ones captured on state servers.
The emails were obtained after a series of public records requests that the Pence administration did not fulfill for nearly four months before Pence left office.
The administration of Pence’s successor, Gov. Eric Holcomb, released 29 pages of emails late this past week. But it withheld others, saying they are deliberative or advisory, confidential under rules adopted by the Indiana Supreme Court or the work product of an attorney.
Holcomb’s office declined to disclose how many emails were withheld....
..."Clinton did it. The Bush White House was doing it. It’s nothing new. But it’s a bad idea," he said, noting that Pence's account was vulnerable to a low-level hacker. "If they can get in there, ex-KGB agents can get in there. It’s a bad idea because of the hacking thing and the potential destruction of records."
Lanosga of the Indiana Coalition for Open Government said it's a problem that seems to cross party lines.
"Officials are eager to point the finger at a lack of transparency when it happens on the other side," he said, "but they dodge those issues when it comes to their own side."