Documents uncovered through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) reveal that former Attorney General Eric Holder used a false name for his official Justice Department email account.
According to Vice News journalist Jason Leopold, who obtained more than 500 pages of heavily redacted emails as the result of a 2014 lawsuit, a DOJ letter accompanying the documents stated that all mentions of “Lew Alcindor,” the birth name of basketball player Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, were actually referring to Holder himself.
“For your information, e-mails in the enclosed documents which use the account name ‘Lew Alcindor’ denote e-mails to or from former Attorney General Holder,” the letter said.
The documents show communications between Holder and staff regarding matters such as “calls from lawmakers for a federal investigation into claims that CIA personnel spied on Senate staffers” as well as “messages sent to the DOJ by David Grannis… about authorizing Senate staffers to return to a secure facility leased by the CIA so they could finish fact-checking and writing the torture report.”
Former Justice Department spokesman Brian Fallon had previously accused Holder of using three different aliases, the two others being “Henry Yearwood” and “David Kendricks,” in 2015 as well.
In response to the FOIA release, a Justice Department spokesman argued that Holder’s actions were not improper, legally questionable or used to thwart FOIA requests seeking information on the former attorney general.
“Yet DOJ and many other federal agencies, the State Department and FBI in particular, have been harshly criticized (including by VICE News) for poorly performing searches meant to capture emails from officials who use their true identities,” notes Leopold. “Experts in FOIA law said Holder’s Lew Alcindor identity calls into question the ability of FOIA staff to locate all emails from an official who uses an alias.”
The revelation follows months of controversy surrounding similar Obama administration scandals such as former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s private email server.
As stated by Intelligence Community Inspector General I. Charles McCullough III, the emails exposed intelligence from the U.S. government’s most highly classified programs.
Other Obama administration officials such as former Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) head Lisa Jackson have also used aliases for official government email.