U.S. Vice President Mike Pence routinely used a private email account to conduct public business as governor of Indiana, The Indianapolis Star reported on Thursday.
According to the report, Pence at times discussed sensitive matters and homeland security issues.
Emails released to the newspaper in response to a public records request show Pence communicated via his personal AOL account with top advisers 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 relayed an update from the FBI regarding the arrests of several men on federal terror-related charges.
According to The Indianapolis Star, cybersecurity experts say the emails raise concerns about whether such sensitive information was adequately protected from hackers, given that personal accounts like Pence's are typically less secure than government email accounts.
In fact, the newspaper revealed, Pence's personal account was hacked last summer.
Pence's office in Washington said in a written statement Thursday: "Similar to previous governors, during his time as Governor of Indiana, Mike Pence maintained 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 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.”
Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb's office released more than 30 pages from Pence's AOL account, but declined to release an unspecified number of emails because the state considers them confidential and too sensitive to release to the public.
The Indianapolis Star noted that Indiana law does not prohibit public officials from using personal email accounts, although the law is generally interpreted to mean that official business conducted on private email must be retained for public record purposes.
Concerns also surrounded former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton's use of a private server and email account during her tenure as secretary of state, though Pence as governor would not have dealt with classified matters or national security issues as sensitive or as broad as those handled by Clinton in her position.
The FBI found Clinton was "extremely careless" with sensitive information by using the private server but recommended against bringing charges against Clinton. Nevertheless, she has been dogged by questions about the issue throughout her campaign for the White House.
Clinton said she used private emails out of "convenience", though she also admitted it "would have been better" to have two accounts to separate work and personal emails.
Pence spokesman Marc Lotter called any comparisons between Pence and Clinton "absurd," noting that the Vice President didn't deal with federally classified information as governor.
While Pence used a well-known consumer email provider, Clinton had a private server installed in her home, he said, according to The Indianapolis Star.