The AP calls those email addresses “secret,” and they are different from the frowned-upon practice of using personal email addresses to conduct business. These email addresses are set up by the government and intended for official use.
Administration officials defended using secret email addresses because they said it streamlines business. The non-public email address, for example, is not overwhelmed with email.
National Security Counselors, an open government group, worries, however, that when it comes to keeping records, this is a problem. Imagine, they told the AP, that the government receives a Freedom of Information Act request about Obamacare. Will the Department of Health and Human Services sift through HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius’ official email (Kathleen.Sebelius(at)hhs.gov) and her secret one (KGS2(at)hhs.gov)?
The government argues that it does.
In its report, the AP doubts it. They report:
“[The AP] searched hundreds of pages of government emails previously released under the open records law and found only one instance of a published email with a secret address: an email from Labor Department spokesman Carl Fillichio to 34 coworkers in 2010 was turned over to an advocacy group, Americans for Limited Government. It included as one recipient the non-public address for Seth D. Harris, currently the acting labor secretary, who maintains at least three separate email accounts.
“Google can’t find any reference on the Internet to the secret address for HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. Congressional oversight committees told the AP they were unfamiliar with the non-public government addresses identified so far by the AP.”
The AP reports that because they have not received responses to all its FOIA requests, they are not sure how widespread this practice is.