Emails relieve to The Indianapolis Star, in response to a public records request show Pence communicated via his personal account with top counselor on topics ranging from security gates at the governor’s residence to the state’s response to terror attacks across the globe. In one email, Pence’s top state homeland security adviser transmitted an update from the FBI regarding the arrests of several men on federal terror-related charges.
Cyber security experts say the emails raise interest about whether such sensitive information was adequately protected from hackers, personal accounts like Pence's are less secure than government email accounts. Pence's personal account was hacked last summer.
Furthermore, advocates for open government expressed concerns about transparency because personal emails aren't immediately caught on state servers that are searched in response to public records requests.
Pence's office in Washington said in a written statement Thursday: "Similar to previous governors, during his time as Governor of Indiana, Mike Pence preserve 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 posture 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.”
Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb's office relievers more than 30 pages from Pence's account but declined to release an unspecified number of emails because the state considers them confidential and too sensitive to release to the public.
Indiana law does not prohibit public officials from using personal email accounts, although the law is generally interpreted to mean that official business managed on private email must be retained for public record purposes.
Pence's office said his campaign employed outside counsel as he was departing as governor to review his AOL emails and transfer any entail public business to the state.
Concerns surrounded Hillary Clinton’s use of a private server and email account during her term as secretary of State, though Pence as governor would not have treated with national security issues as sensitive or as broad as those handled by Clinton in her position or with classified matters.
Pence has criticized Clinton the 2016 presidential campaign, accusing her of trying to keep her emails out of public reach and exposing classified information to potential hackers.
Pence spokesman Marc Lotter called any contrast between Pence and Clinton "absurd," noting that Pence didn't deal with federally classified information as governor. While Pence used a well-known consumer email provider, Clinton had a private server in her home, he said.
Cyber security experts say Pence’s emails were likely just as unsafe as Clinton’s. While there has been speculation about whether Clinton's emails were hacked, Pence’s account was compromised last summer.
Indiana law requires all records dealing with state business to be the keeper and available for public information requests. Emails exchanged on state accounts are apprehend on state servers, which can be searched in response to such requests. But emails Pence sent from his AOL account to another private account likely would have been hidden from the public and this makes them be available.
The emails were received after a series of public records requests that the Pence administration did not perform four months before Pence left office.
The administration of Pence’s inheritor, Gov. Eric Holcomb, released 29 pages of emails late last week. But it withheld others, saying they are planned, confidential under rules adopted by the Indiana Supreme Court or the work product of an attorney.
Holcomb’s office declined to disclose how many emails were concealed.
Cyber-security experts and government advocates said Pence's use of a personal email account for matters of state business — including confidential ones — is unexpected given his attacks on Clinton's exclusive use of a private email server.