By Tom Fitton
President, Judicial Watch
Illustrating how government hides information from the American public, former Attorney General Loretta Lynch used a fake name to conduct official Department of Justice (DOJ) business in agency emails obtained by Judicial Watch. As the nation’s chief law enforcement officer Lynch, Barack Obama’s second attorney general, skirted public-records laws by using the alias Elizabeth Carlisle in emails she sent from her official DOJ account. In the records provided to Judicial Watch, the DOJ explains it as necessary to “protect her security and privacy and enable her to conduct Department business efficiently via email.”
This begs the question of how many other government officials use fake names and whether those aliases are searched when agencies process Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. Besides Lynch, we have only discovered the use of such aliases among government operatives to conduct official business at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Obama’s EPA administrator, Lisa Jackson, famously used the alias Richard Windsor in a government email account to conduct official business and communicate with staff. Jackson even took required EPA computer training under the fake identity with the handle Windsor.Richard@epa.gov. She eventually resigned over the scandal, which brought to light the agency’s violations of federal open-records laws.
In Lynch’s case, Judicial Watch requested the records as part of an investigation into the Obama administration’s involvement in a United Nation’s international law enforcement coalition called Strong Cities Network (SCN). The purported mission of the global coalition was to build social cohesion and community resilience to counter violent extremism. The DOJ masterminded the agreement and Americans found out about the U.S.’s participation when Lynch announced it during a U.N. speech on September 29, 2015. Lynch referred to SCN as a “truly groundbreaking endeavor” and assured the notoriously corrupt world body that the Obama administration was deeply committed to the new initiative. “The government of the United States is fully invested in this collaborative approach and we have seen the value of empowering local communities by promoting initiatives they design and lead themselves,” Lynch said.
Following the Attorney General’s fiery U.N. delivery, a New York newspaper reported that the city was joining a new global, terror-busting network to combat homegrown extremism. Civil rights groups quickly denounced the U.S. participation, expressing concerns about law enforcement abuses against Muslims. In a letter to New York Mayor Bill de Blasio 22 civil rights groups warned that other programs created to counter violent extremism stigmatized “Muslim communities as suspicious and in need of special monitoring.” The anti-terror initiatives have also made “the relationship between Muslims and schools and social service providers into security-based engagements,” the letter states. SCN assures however, that “violent extremism and prevention efforts should not be associated with any particular religion, nationality or ethnic group.” In a statement the DOJ also guaranteed that the SCN will safeguard the rights of local citizens and communities. The State Department also put its weight behind SCN.
In its mission to educate the public about the operations and activities of government, Judicial Watch filed a FOIA request with the DOJ on October 15, 2015 for documents related to SCN. Specifically, Judicial Watch asked for legal opinions and analysis prepared by the DOJ relating to the U.S. involvement in the program, documents that form the foundation for the decision for the country to participate in SCN, all international agreements and related records involving the commitment of U.S. resources or personnel to SCN and records of communication between officials in the Office of the Attorney General relating to the initiative. The DOJ claimed to have no records related to the SCN and billed Judicial Watch a startling $50,000 to conduct the search that didn’t produce a single file.
Though the DOJ recently furnished the documents with Lynch’s fake name, the records were part of Judicial Watch’s original 2015 FOIA request. The records also show that then Assistant Attorney General John Carlin touted SCN at an event sponsored by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), an extremist leftist group that helped a gunman commit an act of terrorism against a conservative organization. A year later Carlin would launch the Michael Flynn counterintelligence investigation and seek the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant now in question.