Let the bombshells begin. Nonpartisan government watchdog outfit Judicial Watch just announced its receipt of 216 pages of documents containing the private email messages of former Homeland Security director Jeh Johnson, as well as those of three other top agency officials.
The other three DHS officials included in the Freedom of Information Act request made by Judicial Watch were deputy secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, chief of staff Christian Marrone and general counsel Stevan Bunnell.
And perhaps the biggest finding was the fact Homeland Security, under Barack Obama’s White House, was hardly the bastion of solid cybersecurity. Not only was the department spoofed by phishers, but Johnson’s own claim of making great “strides in cybersecurity” was revealed – mockingly – as complete bunk.
The emails contain messages about Johnson’s scheduled meetings with the Kuwaiti ambassador and with several Interior Ministry officials tied to Saudi Arabia’s government. They also give a behind-scenes peek at Johnson’s discussions about a $4.5 million online scam from West Africa that roped in unsuspecting consumers – and that hit at him personally.
Among the messaging, Judicial Watch reported:
- Kuwait’s ambassador to the United States emailed Johnson’s private, unsecured account to explain how he was trying to schedule a meeting for him with Kuwait’s interior minister;
- Kuwait’s ambassador to the United States emailed Johnson’s private account to also explain how he was trying to set meetings for Kuwait’s interior minister with top-ranked officials at the CIA, FBI and DNI;
- The U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia emailed Johnson at his private and unsecure account to discuss specifics of a looming meeting in Jeddah at Saudi’s Interior Ministry;
- The Department of Homeland Security’s chief of staff, Marrone, emailed several messages about the earnings of Lockheed Martin and about a project procurement;
- An unidentified individual emailed from a spoofed Johnson account about the potential to receive money from “an abandoned fund worth U.S.D. 4.5 million in West Africa,” if they only provided their personal information – a batch of messages that were later identified as part of a phishing scam.
In another email, Johnson also was found to have run down details about his department’s “strides in cybersecurity,” a message that included his “Progress Report” speech, Judicial Watch found.
“It is ironic and disconcerting that Secretary Johnson and his aides touted Homeland Security’s great ‘strides in cybersecurity’ while using unsecured, private web-based email accounts that the Department has officially prohibited,” said Tom Fitton, Judicial Watch’s president, in a written statement. “The fact that the documents found in these email accounts were so heavily redacted and that Johnson’s name and email account were spoofed in a phishing scam is indicative of just how lax communications security was inside Homeland Security during the Obama administration.”