During his time as Governor of Indiana, Vice President Mike Pence discussed sensitive information and other public business on a personal email address, a new report by IndyStar has found.
According to emails released to IndyStar through records requests, Pence used an AOL account to discuss "topics ranging from security gates at the governor’s residence to the state’s response to terror attacks across the globe." 29 pages of emails were released by Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb's office, while an unknown amount of correspondence was deemed "confidential and too sensitive to release to the public."
Cybersecurity experts have deemed personal email accounts far more susceptible to hacks than government addresses, and advocates for government transparency say that a private address can prevent emails from being retained for scrutiny.
Pence was a frequent critic of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server throughout the 2016 campaign. Pence spokesman Marc Lotter said that any comparison between the two is "absurd," as Pence did not have access to the same level of classified information as Clinton. However, Pence's duties as governor means that sensitive topics like "Indiana's state police, national guard and department of homeland security, all of which collaborate with federal authorities and handle sensitive information" could all have been discussed—and compromised, or deleted from public view.
Pence's personal account was hacked in June 2016. The attack was broad and not targeted, which for Justin Cappos, a computer security professor at NYU, highlights how vulnerable Pence's account was. “The fact that these emails are stored in a private AOL account is crazy to me,” he told IndyStar. “This account was used to handle these messages that are so sensitive they can’t be turned over in a records request.”
Pence's office issued at statement after IndyStar published its story: "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.”