The Shadow Knows vs the Shadow Gnaws

When Janet Napolitano revealed her personal cyber-security plan — never use email — she may have unwittingly undermined our confidence in the security of our own personal communications. Napolitano’s excuse for not using email is not knowing how it works, calling herself a Luddite.


Well, um, OK, don’t laugh, but I just don’t use email at all. For a whole host of reasons,’ said Napolitano. ‘So, I don’t have any of my own accounts and that, you know, I’m very secure,’

‘Some would call me a Luddite but you know. But that’s my own personal choice and I’m very unique in that regard I suspect,’ she added.

But maybe Napolitano was only shading the truth a little. Perhaps she does use email, just not her own. There’s no upside to communicating really important things as yourself. Recently The Competitive Enterprise Institute sued a sister agency — the EPA — to shed light on a secret channel through which an undetermined message traffic flowed.

Washington, D.C., October 1, 2012—The Competitive Enterprise Institute sued the Environmental Protection Agency, challenging its refusal to disclose information discussing the creation and use of “secondary” email accounts created for top level officials by EPA’s Office of Electronic Information. CEI also seeks certain emails from current Administrator Lisa Jackson’s account addressing the administration’s well-known ‘War on Coal’.

CEI first learned of these non-public accounts from a previous Freedom of Information Act request that it filed earlier in the year after reading of it in a report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO). That request turned up a 2008 EPA memo to the National Archives and Records Administration revealing the existence of these little-known secondary email accounts created under Clinton-Gore administrator, and later Obama ‘energy and environment czar’ Carol Browner. The memo acknowledged that “[f]ew EPA staff members, usually only high-level senior staff, even know that these accounts exist,” and that it is unable to recreate most of the accounts’ usage histories.


Former Obama confidante Tony Rezko, who is serving time in jail, encapsulated the whole ethos of Hope and Change telecommunications use in an interview with the media. In it he expressed no surprise that Governor Rod Blagojevich was engaged in selling Senate Offices to the highest bidder. What surprised him was that Blag would use the phone.

Rezko was behind bars when Blagojevich was arrested on charges that he tried to sell Obama’s old Senate seat. But there was something else that surprised Rezko.

“I thought he knew better, I should say. I was surprised. I was surprised that he had said the things he said with regard to the Senate seat on the phone,” Rezko said. “I wasn’t surprised that these conversations take place, I was surprised that these conversations take place on the phone.”

So the sign you’ve arrived in Chicago is when you make all your calls from random phone booths. Maybe the indicator that you’ve reached the apex at EPA is when you are assigned multiple and secret email accounts in different aliases. Anyone who is amazed at Napolitano’s avoidance of email is looking at things through the wrong end of the telescope. What should astonish anyone is if Napolitano actually used email like the rest of us.

Only chumps use their own telephones and sign their own names. So maybe the rest of us should learn to use products like Mozilla Thunderbird and encrypt our emails. Of course this will only make our communications more suspect to the NSA, make us a target of suspicion. But hey, suppose we already are? Then it’s six of one and half a dozen of the other. We can at a least try to dodge the incoming, though maybe we’ll just die tired.


Where do you insert the coins?

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