Judicial Watch Sues Department of Homeland Security for Records of Senior DHS Officials Using Personal Email Accounts on Government-Owned Computers
DHS secretary and 28 other senior DHS officials sought and received personal email account waivers, despite the practice being banned in April 2014
(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch announced today that it filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to obtain records related to the use by senior officials, including Secretary Jeh Johnson, of government-owned computers for personal web-based email accounts. The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of Homeland Security (No. 1:15-cv-01772)).
According to press reports, Johnson and 28 other top Homeland Security officials sought and were granted waivers to use the personal email accounts for the past year, despite the practice having been banned in April 2014. Included among those senior Homeland Security officials using the private email accounts on government-owned computers were Deputy Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, Chief of Staff Christian Marrone and General Counsel Stevan Bunnell.
The Judicial Watch lawsuit was filed on October 21 after Homeland Security failed to comply with a FOIA request submitted on July 21, 2014, seeking:
- All requests (in any form) submitted by senior DHS officials for waivers to use personal Web-based email accounts on government-owned computers.
- Copies of all waivers granted to senior DHS officials to use personal Web-based email accounts on government-owned computers.
After receiving the official FOIA request, Homeland Security had 20 days to determine whether to comply and notify Judicial Watch of its decision. After invoking a 10-day extension of time request, as provided by the Act, Homeland Security was required to respond by September 2, 2015. The Judicial Watch FOIA lawsuit was filed after Homeland Security failed to meet that deadline.
The waivers granted to Johnson and 28 other senior staffers were in direct violation of Homeland Security’s Sensitive Systems Policy Directive 4300A, promulgated on April 30, 2014. The Directive was issued after hackers breached the Office of Personnel Management computer system. Directive 4300A states, “The use of Internet Webmail (Gmail, Yahoo, AOL) or other personal email accounts is not authorized over DHS furnished equipment or network connections.” According to Bloombergview.com, “exceptions were decided on a case-by-case basis by the chief information officer, Luke McCormack.” (Jeh Johnson’s personal email account was recently hacked.)
Deputy Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas also received one of the email waivers. Mayorkas was found by the Homeland Inspector General to have improperly intervened to help wealthy EB-5 visa applicants with ties to Democratic party figures, including Senator Harry Reid (D-NV), now-Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe and Hillary Clinton’s brother, Anthony Rodham.
Secretary Johnson’s department has become notorious for failing to enforce and for ignoring immigration law. Most recently, the department was stopped by the courts from granting a form of amnesty to millions without legal authority.
“Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and Hillary Clinton are two peas in a pod when it comes to breaking the law on the use of email,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “As with Hillary Clinton’s email scandal, the Obama administration is in cover-up mode – refusing to provide information as required by law about the illicit email ‘waivers’ that may have allowed Jeh Johnson and other top Homeland Security officials to conduct government business in secret while putting the nation’s security at risk.”