INDIANAPOLIS – As governor of Indiana, Vice President Mike Pence frequently used a personal email account to run public business, at times conversing about delicate and homeland security matters.
The emails disclosed to The Indianapolis Star in reaction to public records requests, reveal that Pence communicated with top advisors on issues ranging from the state response to terror attack globally to security gates at the governor’s residence through his private AOL account. According to one email, Pence’s top state homeland security advisor received and passed on information from the FBI concerning the apprehension of many men who were charged with terrorism-related issues. As specified by the cyber security experts, the emails raise questions of whether such delicate diplomatic information was properly shielded from hackers, considering private accounts like that of Pence are less protected compared to the state’s email accounts.
In actuality, this past summer, Pence’s email account was hacked. Champions for transparent government raised concerns about the openness since private emails are not always captured straight away on state servers. On Thursday, Pence’s office in Washington issued a drafted affirmation stating that just like Pence predecessors; he managed a state and a personal email account. As governor of Indiana, Mr. Pence adhered to the Indiana regulations in regards to the use of email and retention. Government emails involving his private and state accounts are being retained consistent with Indiana’s Access to Public Records Act.
Office of the Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb issued 29 pages of emails from Pence’s AOL account but refused to give out the unstated number of emails since the state considers them too sensitive and confidential for the public. Indiana law doesn’t limit public officials from using private email accounts, but in overall, the regulation is translated to mean that official duties done through personal email must be maintained for public-record reasons.
Pence’s office also mentioned that an outside counsel was hired by his campaign to check his AOL emails and move any important business to the state. The concern also stirred up the Hillary Clinton’s use of a personal server and email account when she was the secretary of state, albeit Pence as governor wouldn’t have handled security matters as broad or as sensitive as those Clinton dealt with in her tenure, nor would he have tackled classified matters.
Pence wildly attacked Clinton all through the 2016 presidential campaign, criticizing her of attempting to hold her emails from the public and revealing classified data to potential hackers. According to Marc Lotter, Pence spokesman, comparing Pence to Clinton is absurd, indicating that Pence was not dealing with federal classified information as governor. He added that Pence used a renowned email provider, while Clinton installed a personal server in her home.
Cybersecurity professionals note that both of Pence’s and Clinton’s emails were similarly insecure. While there are speculations whether or not Clinton’s emails were hacked, a scammer managed to break into Pence’s email account this summer, emailing his contacts to urgently send money asserting that Pence and the wife were stuck in the Philippines. Corey Nachreiner, a senior technology officer together with other experts, stated that private accounts, like Pence’s, are less secure, unlike the government email accounts, which are protected with additional layers of security and monitoring and are connected to servers under government control.
However, Private emails from Pence’s AOL account to other personal accounts would possibly be kept from public record searches, except if he allowed for them to be available. Luke Britt, Indiana Public Access counselor who was designated by Pence in 2013, advice all the state officials to forward or copy their emails having any relation to state’s business to their governments, accounts for the records to be archived on state servers. He went on to say that public officials who fail to maintain their personal account emails concerning public business run the risk of breaching the law.
All the emails provided to The Indianapolis Star were acquired after several public records request that Pence’s administration didn’t execute for almost four months prior to him leaving the office. The email topics included his effort to hinder the resettlement of the refugees from Syrian and the response of the state to a shooting that took place at Canada’s national parliament building. He further elaborated on the number of people who were apprehended, their charges and respective cities and then added an underline text; the two referenced refugees are said to be Iraqi – not Syrian.
At the time, the media appears to have reported much, if not all of the information. However, the sensitive information that remains in Pence’s AOL account is still a mystery. Experts say high-profile security failures have tied to their AOL email accounts. AOL reported a significant violation of its email in 2014, negatively impacting hundreds of thousands of users.
Pence’s private email account stirs new concerns on transparency issues. He is currently trying to hide the contents of emails which involve his choice to participate in the 2014 lawsuit opposing then president-Obama’s order on immigration.