Judicial Watch had filed a lawsuit in May of 2016 against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security after they failed to respond to a Freedom of Information request from December 2015. Their Freedom of Information request was part of their investigation to find out if Homeland Security Secretary, Jed Johnson and three other top officials were using unsecured personal email addresses to carry out business. They also petitioned the court to preserve any and all of the personal emails. These actions were taken because Judicial Watch had previously uncovered that government computers were used to access these personal email accounts despite a DHS ban of using government computers this way, due to heightened security concerns.

Lax of cyber-security

Judicial Watch has now revealed that they obtained a 215 page document with information on the contents of Secretary Jeh Johnson, Deputy Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, Chief of Staff Christian Marrone and General Counsel Stevan Bunnell unsecured personal email accounts. The documents revealed:

  • The U.S. Ambassador of Kuwaiti sent to Johnson’s unsecure email account a request to set up a meeting between him and Kuwait’s Interior Ministry and discussed the Interior Minister's meeting with top CIA, FBI and DNI officials.

  • The US Ambassador to Saudi Arabia used Johnson’s unsecure account to discuss Johnson’s upcoming meetings at the Saudi Interior Ministry in Jeddah.

  • Johnson sent out a progress report speech in which he stated Homeland Security Department’s “strides in cybersecurity.”

After reviewing the documents further they found; DHS Chief of Staff Marrone used an unsecure email to have sensitive discussions with a unidentified individual about Lockheed Martin earnings and a discussion; which the sender noted “to use wisely;” about a space vehicle launch consortium between Lockheed and Boeing.

Marrone also used a unsecured email account to received procurement documents for launch vehicles and their “Launch Infrastructure Capability.”

Phishing scam

You would think that Secretary Johnson and his aides would take care to use the security that they preach to others, but as the documents revealed an unidentified individual used Johnson's name and email account in a phishing scheme that told recipients that if they revealed their personal information they could obtain money from abandoned funds in west Africa that was worth $4.5 million.

Judicial Watch is still investigating this issue and continues to use the federal courts to obtain more information on emails using unsecured web-based accounts during the Obama administration.