FOIA Advisor

FOIA News: Congress takes interest in agency employees using encrypted communications

FOIA News (2017)Kevin SchmidtComment

Conservatives demanding details on federal workers' encryption use

By Andrew Restuccia, Politico, Feb. 14, 2017

They also contend that the use of encrypted messaging circumvents federal record-keeping laws — an argument Science Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) echoed in Tuesday's letter.

"[T]he Committee is concerned that these encrypted and off-the-record communication practices, if true, run afoul of federal record-keeping requirements, leaving information that could be responsive to future Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and congressional requests unattainable," wrote Smith, who organized the letter to the IG. The panel has jurisdiction over many cybersecurity issues.

Outside conservative groups have launched similar efforts.

Citing POLITICO's story, the Cause of Action Institute, a right-leaning watchdog group, filed a request under the Freedom of Information Act this month seeking EPA employees' communications using Signal. "The bottom line is: An encrypted app is basically a way to avoid transparency," Institute Assistant Vice President Henry Kerner said in an interview.

"The public is entitled to know whether career federal government employees are engaged in partisan politics on the taxpayers’ dime," said Allan Blutstein, vice president of FOIA operations at America Rising.

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