Author Christopher Horner joined the Bloggers Briefing this week to discuss his new book, The Liberal War on Transparency, and how citizen journalists can use the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to hold the government accountable.
“You’ve got Issa oversight, and you’ve got you oversight—FOIA and state open records laws,” said Horner, referring to Representative Darrell Issa (R–CA), chairman of the House Oversight Committee.
Revelations in Horner’s book of secret “alias” email accounts used by former Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa Jackson may have ushered her more quickly out the door, he claimed.
Horner’s FOIA requests were able to discover that Jackson’s “alias” emails—in particular the one named “Richard Windsor”—came as a result of the creation of a false identity under that name in order to create the fake email accounts. Horner described the reliance on such misdirection in the current Administration as “promiscuous” and “symptomatic of an epidemic” throughout government.
“This is how they roll,” Horner said. He detailed the revelation of secret computers and document destruction in addition to the secret email accounts.
Horner said he expects an additional 12,000 emails from “Richard Windsor” to be turned over Monday. Horner’s search narrowed down the emails to those with four key words: coal, climate, MACT, and endanger/endangerment. MACT refers to “Maximum Achievable Control Technology” used to reduce emissions, primarily of coal power plants.
Horner argued that the failure of any cap-and-trade legislation led to EPA regulations designed to circumvent opposition and, ultimately, appeared to prompt the introduction of clandestine email accounts.
But such a creation isn’t new. Horner harkened back to the late 1990s, when former EPA Administrator Carol Browner and the agency came under controversy for the destruction of EPA documents relating to EPA regulations issued just prior to the end of President Clinton’s term.
Horner described a Government Accountability Office report detailing the EPA’s email policies, and the EPA’s admission in 2008 that the creation of a secondary email account had precedent—one that first occurred under Browner’s administration.
One of the primary purposes for the creation of such an account, Horner argued, is to frustrate those in search of historical records from government, and retrace the actions of Jackson’s administration.
Horner’s book includes a how-to guide to filing a FOIA request, and he repeatedly suggested that ordinary people learn to file the document requests.
“It’s your information. The burden is on them,” Horner said, noting that the government agencies must provide reasoning for non-release of information.
“It’s all we’ve got for two years,” Horner stressed.