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House Oversight Demands Info on DHS Senior Staff Private Email Use... Again

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah // J. Scott Applewhite/AP

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, questioned Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson this week after the agency failed to turn over information of senior staff’s private email use Congress requested back in March.

In a letter dated Aug. 23, Chaffetz said DHS has “failed to comply with the committee’s request, failed to assert a legitimate justification for withholding any information from the committee, or even provide a timeline for responding.”

After a court order, DHS in June released 693 pages about its informal waiver process, which indicated senior officials could use government devices to access personal webmail accounts despite heightened security concerns. Chaffetz's letter states there is “no justifiable reason” for DHS to withhold information from Congress.

Chaffetz’s letter demands answers from DHS by Sept. 6 or stated the committee would use compulsory means—likely through subpoena—to get the documents and records.

A DHS spokesman told Government Executive in June the situation has been rectified.

“As of a year ago, no one here has access to their personal email (or 'webmail') over their DHS computers,” J. Todd Breasseale, assistant secretary for public affairs, said. “It feels oddly political to suddenly attempt to revive this topic.”

Top feds' personal email use continues to be thrust into the national spotlight. Earlier this week, the oversight committee requested additional information from the FBI regarding former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s handling of sensitive information, fearing “spillage” of classified data transferred from secure to unsecure devices.

Over the summer, it was also revealed that Defense Secretary Ash Carter used personal email for official business, though none of his emails contained classified information.

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