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Pence used private accounts

Mike Pence used a private AOL account for state business while governor of Indiana

Mike Pence used a private AOL account for state business while governor of Indiana

Vice President Mike Pence used a personal email account for official business while governor of Indiana, according to a new report out Thursday. An investigation by the Indianapolis Star also showed that his personal account was hacked, revealing — among other information — sensitive security information related to terror suspects.

Pence, a vocal critic of Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server when she served as secretary of state, claims he’s done nothing wrong, stating that there is no law against a governor using a personal email account.

However, the fact that certain emails were not released due to their confidential and sensitive nature suggests that Pence’s use of a personal email account could have potentially led to leaks of compromising information.  

Here’s what you need to know:

  • The revelations were made in a report by the Indianapolis Star, based on emails it received following a Freedom of Information Act request. The information showed that Pence had used an AOL email account since the mid-1990s until it was hacked in the summer of 2016, three years into his term as governor of Indiana and while he was on the campaign trail with Donald Trump. After Pence discovered his AOL account was hacked, he stopped using it — and opened another one.
  • Among the emails released by the office of Gov. Eric Holcomb was an update from the FBI regarding the arrests of several men being held on terror charges. Other emails spoke about Pence’s efforts to prevent the resettlement of Syrian refugees, the state’s response to a shooting at Canada’s national parliament building, and the security gates at the governor’s residence.
  • An unspecified number of emails were not released to the paper because they were deemed “confidential, and too sensitive to release to the public.”
  • It is unclear how the hackers were able to gain access to the account, but two years earlier AOL revealed that an unknown number of its mail accounts had been compromised. Having gained access to the account, hackers would have had full control of Pence’s inbox and outbox, and the ability to see all previously sent and received emails.
  • It appears that the hackers may not have known who Mike Pence was. Having gained access to the account, they sent spam emails to Pence’s contact list claiming that he and his wife were stranded in the Philippines, and having lost their bank cards and phones, were in need of urgent financial assistance. This suggests the hackers were opportunistic and the hijack of Pence’s account was part of a wider campaign to attack AOL customers.

  • Had the hackers been politically motivated and targeting Pence specifically, we would likely have seen confidential and potentially embarrassing details leaked, either to the media, or as was the case in the Clinton email controversy, to WikiLeaks.
  • A statement from Pence’s office on Thursday attempted to play down the significance of the issue: “Similar to previous governors, during his time as governor of Indiana, Mike Pence maintained a state email account and a personal email account. As governor, Mr. Pence fully complied with Indiana law regarding email use and retention. Government emails involving his state and personal accounts are being archived by the state consistent with Indiana law, and are being managed according to Indiana’s Access to Public Records Act.”

  • Pence is correct that Indiana law does not preclude elected officials from using a personal email account when in office. However, given how vociferous Pence was during the election campaign about Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server to conduct official business while she was secretary of state, this will be a major embarrassment to the vice president.

During the campaign, Pence said that “no one is above the law” when the FBI reopened its investigation into Clinton’s use of a private email server. Pence went further when he told NBC’s “Meet the Press that Clinton was “the most dishonest candidate for president of the United States since Richard Nixon.”


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