Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Governing off the books: It’s not just Hillary

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Matthew Braga writes at Motherboard:

Think Hillary Clinton was the first government employee ​to be caught using a personal email account to conduct official business​? Government employees have been doing this sort of thing for years.

Both the US and Canadian governments have information laws that require government correspondence to be logged, retained, and made available to the public through Freedom of Information or Access to Information laws, respectively. But both governments make skirting these requirements surprisingly easy, and in some cases, employees are only too happy to do so.

According to The New York Times, “Clinton did not have a government email address during her four-year tenure at the State Department. Her aides took no actions to have her personal emails preserved on department servers at the time, as required by the Federal Records Act.”

It’s not c​lear whether Clinton violated her record keeping obligations—her advisors maintain she complied with “the letter and spirit of the rules”—but it wouldn’t be the first time that government employees have been found to rely on personal accounts, or more ephemeral forms of messaging, for sensitive government communications.

Often, services such as BlackBerry Messenger, text messaging, and other instant messaging apps can be configured by government departments so that messages cannot be logged or accessed after a certain period of time.

Last March, for example, the state of Maine banne​d employees from using instant messages or text messages to conduct state business, after it was discovered that employees were being instructed to conduct sensitive business outside the eyes of record keepers.

According to the Portland Press Herald, “a former employee of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention told the Legislature’s Government Oversight Committee that supervisors had told her to use texts because the messages couldn’t be obtained through a public records request.”

Then, in July, the Washington Times found myriad ot​her US federal government agencies lacked requirements for text messages and instant messages to be stored.

And in 2013, the Information Commissioner of Canada wrote an entire report on the threat that instant messaging posed to access to inform​ation requests. The office reviewed the practices of 11 institutions and various ministerial offices, and found that “instant messages, for the most part, are not backed up on servers, are automatically deleted after a set period of time and are, as a result, not recoverable.”

The government’s rationale? . . .

Continue reading.

The last thing on earth that some government officials want is for the public to find out what they’re doing. They really don’t want the public to know, since they are working on behalf of the public but against the public’s interest. Otherwise, they would be happy to be on the record.

Punishment for concealing government activity really should involve prison time. It’s the only way to get their attention and make them comply with laws and regulations.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 March 2015 at 10:02 am

Posted in Government, Law

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