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Still, she said she hardly ever used it and relied on her staff to sort through e-mails and print out important messages. In Florida, she said she was overwhelmed by e-mail. She also said during her 2001 deposition that during her years as an environmental regulator in Florida, she once had to provide affidavits after an internal e-mail sent to her surfaced in litigation involving a permitting issue

“I thought, you know what? I don’t need this. I don’t need to go there again, I don’t need to deal with this. I will not use e-mail, and I did not use e-mail.”

Just before leaving office, Ms. Browner ordered that the hard drive of her computer be wiped clean, though a group had been seeking a court injunction to preserve her records. She said she wasn’t told to keep the computer records intact in connection with the FOIA lawsuit, but wanted to make sure that computer games her son installed on her work computer were removed.

Landmark Legal Foundation’s president, Mark R. Levin, who sued the EPA and was among the lawyers at Ms. Browner’s deposition, said her answers suggested a “culture of deniability” during her years at the agency.

“She was the most disconnected senior official I have ever come across in government,” Mr. Levin said.

Tommy Vietor, a spokesman for the Obama transition team, disputed Mr. Levin’s criticism, calling Landmark “a partisan attack group that fought clean-air standards and efforts to get arsenic out of drinking water.”

“Carol Browner’s record at EPA is marked by her work to increase the public’s right to know about toxic chemicals in the air and water, and her efforts to improve the government’s responsiveness to environmental issues,” he said.

“Both a judge and inspector general report found that Ms. Browner did nothing wrong” by ordering her computer files deleted, Mr. Vietor said.

Meredith Fuchs, general counsel to the nonpartisan National Security Archive, which collects and publishes declassified government records, said government officials have to walk a fine line when it comes to e-mail.

“A lot of these officials look at the record laws as a limitation of what they can do,” she said. “But they’re doing things on behalf of the public, and there has to be some transparency about what they’re doing.”

On the other hand, Ms. Fuchs added, “We don’t want these people heading big agencies reading e-mail all day.”