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“Secret accounts also drive perceptions that government officials are trying to hide actions or decisions,” the AP pointedly said.

One of the administration’s top Cabinet officials using a secret government email account is Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who has been in the thick of Mr. Obama’s continuing controversies and legal fights over his health care law.

How secret is Mrs. Sebelius’s off-the-books email account? Google, the global search engine, said it could not find any reference on the Internet to her email address.

This is a tightly closed administration that zealously guards its secrets to the point where the Justice Department has secretly seized and searched the phone records of Washington journalists and the emails of a Fox News reporter — another scandal that has triggered a rash of investigative hearings in the House and Senate.

Part of that widening investigation centers on Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.’s sworn testimony before the House Judiciary Committee on May 15, when he said he was not involved in the “potential prosecution of the press for the disclosure of material.”

“This is not something I’ve ever been involved in, heard of, [or] would think would be wise policy,” Mr. Holder said.

News accounts have reported that Mr. Holder signed off on the decision to obtain the Fox News reporter’s emails, and Republicans are looking into whether he lied under oath when he made that statement.

These investigations — plus ongoing inquiries into the administration’s misinformation about the deadly terrorist attacks at our consulate in Benghazi, Libya, where four Americans, including the ambassador, were killed — cast a darkening cloud of scandal and possibly criminal activity over Mr. Obama’s second term.

Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, says Mr. Obama has become “mired” in a swamp of scandals and that “the president’s credibility obviously is at stake here.”

A Gallup poll on Monday said Mr. Obama’s job-approval score has sunk to 47 percent, a 12-month low, and, lately, the West Wing is increasingly sounding like it’s coming unglued.

As Mr. McCain observed Monday on CBS’ “This Morning” in a delicious bit of understatement, administration officials are “not covering themselves with distinction here.”

Donald Lambro is a syndicated columnist and contributor to The Washington Times.