Former Attorney General Loretta Lynch used a fake named email alias account to deal with correspondence regarding the now infamous Tarmac Meeting between herself and former President, Bill Clinton.
Lynch had been operating the email alias account under the name “Elizabeth Carlisle” since at least February 2016. The Hill, reporting Feb. 2016 on former AG Eric Holder’s use of an email alias, reported Lynch’s use as well with no name given. The alias was then confirmed by her lawyer, Robert Raben in an interview on Monday with The Daily Caller. The knowledge that she used this alias in dealing with the Tarmac Meeting became available after Judicial Watch, a conservative watchdog group, received 413 pages of Justice Department documents as part of a Freedom of Information Request.
The use of aliases in email correspondence by government officials is apparently not illegal, and has been a practice for at least the last few years; Eric Holder, Lynch’s predecessor also used a fake email name, as did IRS official Lois Lerner. Though not illegal, the practice seems to be exclusive to Democrats and has been condemned by Republicans as far back as 2013.
Federal officials have argued security concerns and spam to their official email addresses,swamping their in-boxes, as justification for using aliases. However, tech groups and commentators are calling this argument disingenuous and misleading. Basic email addresses come with Spam filters that automatically remove “non-targeted” spam. More direct spam (e.g. a random person just emailing to complain to the AG) could be dealt with by adding a single digit to the user named email address, for example, 1AGLynch@XYZ.gov.
Security concerns from hackers or foreign governments would not be solved by having an alias. since the computers and email addresses would all be, and are by necessity, on the same government servers. Therefore, anyone attempting to hack the AG would be hacking the computer or the email server, not a random email address. Most email hacks are either a worm-type virus or phishing attacks. These attacks require opening a file or volunteering information to what appears to be a legitimate request. They could be sent to multiple email accounts on the server to attempt to gain access. Vulnerability to such attacks is in the control of the email user and their email discipline. A fake named account is just as vulnerable as a real named account and may even be more likely to be targeted than a known public figure.
Many are questioning if the use of email aliases are a diversionary tactic to hide or bury information. By having multiple and/or alias named accounts, FOI requests could be thwarted or at least held up for months, if not years.
Lynch has admitted to using the “Elizabeth Carlisle” email for official DOJ correspondence when dealing with media requests and in coordinating the response to her Tarmac Meeting with Bill Clinton. However, if the DOJ is in the habit of using fake emails to deal with “sensitive” topics, this could open up new avenues of investigation. Including the potential for further investigation into Hillary Clinton’s past email scandals.
Mark is a political writer and journalist who has worked on campaigns for Brexit.