The Associated Press filed Freedom of Information Act requests for the secret email addresses of appointed administration employees, and a Labor Department spokesman came back with an offer: you can have the emails if you give us a million bucks.
The AP tried to get the alternate addresses — being used by a variety government officials "to prevent their inboxes from being overwhelmed with unwanted messages" — after an Environmental Protection Agency administrator disclosed using separate email accounts for work last year. But the government was hesitant because, as spokespeople for Labor and the Department of Health and Human Services insisted, the accounts are necessary for government officials to do their jobs efficiently. After the AP filed the FOIA requests, they were met with this:
The Labor Department initially asked the AP to pay just over $1.03 million when the AP asked for email addresses of political appointees there. It said it needed pull 2,236 computer backup tapes from its archives and pay 50 people to pore over old records. Those costs included three weeks to identify tapes and ship them to a vendor, and pay each person $2,500 for nearly a month’s work.
Asking for that kind of money based on a FOIA request is, of course, against the law, something the Labor Department admitted in later emails with the AP. They eventually handed over the email accounts sought by the AP, who are on rocky terms with the administration right now, to say the least. And Health and Human Services, after initially refusing to hand over the secret accounts for Secretary Kathleen Sebelius (pictured above), eventually obliged, giving the AP all three of her accounts while requesting they don't disclose her private one:
The AP decided to publish the secret address for Sebelius — KGS2(at)hhs.gov — over the government’s objections because the secretary is a high-ranking civil servant who oversees not only major agencies like the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services but also the implementation of Obama’s signature health care law. Her public email address is Kathleen.Sebelius(at)hhs.gov.
So much for that. The AP called out 10 other branches of government, which are apparently working on a response to the email request: the EPA, the Pentagon, as well as Veterans Affairs, Transportation, the Treasury, Justice, Housing and Urban Development, Homeland, Commerce, and Agriculture.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.