CoA Institute Investigates EPA Employees Using Electronic Messaging Apps to Thwart Transparency
Washington D.C. – Cause of Action Institute (“CoA Institute”) has filed a Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) request after recent media reports identified a number of career EPA employees posibly using an encrypted electronic messaging app called “Signal” to communicate about work-related issues, including how to prevent political appointees from “undermin[ing] their agency’s mission to protect public health and the environment” or “delet[ing] valuable scientific data.”
“It appears that some employees at the EPA may be using encrypted apps on their phones to avoid transparency laws in an effort to conceal their communications from internal and external oversight,” said CoA Assistant Vice President Henry Kerner. “Under the Federal Records Act, the EPA has a legal obligation to preserve all records made by employees working on official government business. This obligation is all the more important if EPA employees are using personal cellular devices or private accounts for such purposes. These messages must also be made available under the Freedom of Information Act. Agency leadership, Congress, and the public have a right to know if federal employees are using encrypted electronic messages to evade transparency.”
It is unknown whether these employees discuss work related issues on Signal using their EPA-issued or personal devices. Under the Federal Records Act, the EPA has a legal obligation to preserve records evidencing employees working on government business, no matter the medium of their communication. This obligation is all the more important if employees are using personal devices or accounts for that work-related business. Such messages should also be made available under the Freedom of Information Act. CoA Institute is submitting this Freedom of Information Act request and notifying Acting Administrator McCabe of her obligation under the Federal Records Act to ensure that all work-related Signal messages are retained or retrieved by the EPA.
The full FOIA can be found here.