Vice President Mike Pence, seen here in Washington, D.C., during a swearing-in ceremony for Dr. Ben Carson as secretary of the Housing and Urban Development Department on Thursday, used a private email account to conduct state business as governor of Indiana. Pool photo by Olivier Douliery/UPI | License Photo
March 3 (UPI) -- Vice President Mike Pence used a private AOL email account that was hacked in 2016 to conduct government business, sometimes discussing national security issues, newly released documents indicate.
As part of a Freedom of Information request by the IndyStar, Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb's office released 29 pages of emails from Pence's AOL account. The office declined to release an unspecified number of emails because the state government considers them confidential and too sensitive for public release.
Hackers gained access to Pence's private AOL email account was hacked last summer, The Washington Post reported. The hacker sent emails to Pence's contacts saying Pence and his wife were stranded in the Philippines and urgently needed money.
Justin Cappos, a computer security professor at New York University's Tandon School of Engineering, told the Indy Star that Pence's use of an AOL email account to conduct sensitive government business "is crazy to me."
"This account was used to handle these messages that are so sensitive they can't be turned over in a records request," Cappos said. "It's one thing to have an AOL account and use it to send birthday cards to grandkids, but it's another thing to use it to send and receive messages that are sensitive and could negatively impact people if that information is public."
Indiana does not forbid the use of private email accounts but state officials are discouraged from using such accounts for political business. All communication by a public official must comply with Indiana's public record laws -- even if conducted on private email accounts.
"Similar to previous governors, during his time as governor of Indiana, Mike Pence maintained a state email account and a personal email account," Pence's office in Washington, D.C., said in a statement. "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 publicly criticized former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server before and during the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
Pence spokesman Marc Lotter said comparisons of the use of private emails between Pence and Clinton are "absurd," adding that Pence was not dealing with federally classified information and that he was using a well-known email provider, not a private server.