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David Vitter says EPA Windsorgate email privacy redaction claims are 'fishy'

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Photo - Sen. David Vitter, R-LA, questions whether Environmental Protection Agency officials were justified in redacting addresses in thousands of emails it made public yesterday in connection with the Windsorgate scandal. AP Photo
Sen. David Vitter, R-LA, questions whether Environmental Protection Agency officials were justified in redacting addresses in thousands of emails it made public yesterday in connection with the Windsorgate scandal. AP Photo
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Senate Environment and Public Works Committee ranking minority member David Vitter of Louisiana smells something "fishy" with the Environmental Protection Agency's claim that it redacted names on "Richard Windsor" emails it made public yesterday in order to protect privacy.

"This strikes me as incredibly fishy and begs a number of important questions," Vitter said. "The EPA needs to honor the president's pledge of transparency and release these documents without redaction of the Administrator's email address - a big first step toward removing the blanket of secrecy in this agency."

Vitter was referring to Monday's posting by EPA of a redacted email address used by outgoing Administrator Lisa Jackson in connection with a federal Freedom of Information Act lawsuit concerning her use of the non de plume "Richard Windsor" in a government email account. It is illegal for government officials to use fake names in emails discussing official business.

In yesterday's release, EPA redacted the address in 2,100 emails the agency agreed to make public to comply with a federal court order. A total of approximately 12,000 of the "Richard Windsor" emails are supposed to be made public by EPA in four separate releases.

The agency justified yesterday's redactions by citing FOIA exemption B6, which allows information to be redacted in order to protect personal privacy.

Vitter noted that the exemption would not properly apply to an official email used by an EPA Administrator. He also noted that on other occasions EPA has used a different FOIA exemption to avoid making public emails sent by Jackson using a government account.

"EPA's supposed reliance on 'precedent' is especially misleading because they're clearly using a separate and distinct practice than previous administrations. And if 'Richard Windsor' is no more than a standard work email account, why not share the unredacted versions and prove it to the American public?" said Vitter.

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