EPA can't find administrator's text messages
Justice Department officials have informed a federal court that text messages from EPA administrator Gina McCarthy are missing. The texts are part of an FOIA request from the Competitive Enterprise Institute and could reveal close coordination by the EPA with environmental groups in developing regulations that would cripple the coal industry.
CEI has charged that McCarthy began to use her private email and text accounts in order to avoid congressional scrutiny.
An EPA spokeswoman said agency officials have acknowledged to the court and to the National Archives that the agency doesn’t have the text messages, but they contend the messages never had to be stored in the first place, since they were personal in nature and aren’t required to be preserved under open-records laws, nor turned over under the Freedom of Information Act.
She said the notification to the archives was being done “out of an abundance of caution.”
Both written and electronic federal agency records are required to be preserved, similar to emails, but not every communication is deemed to be a record. As more communications are done online, states and federal agencies are increasingly grappling with those questions.
A Washington Times sample survey of federal agencies earlier this year found that most don’t have a policy governing whether employees should be preserving and storing those kinds of electronic communications.
Transparency advocates fear that some government officials may be using text messages or computer instant-chat networks to try to get around the law.
In the letter the EPA will send to the Archives, the agency will argue that text messages “are inherently unlikely to qualify for preservation” because they are usually limited, and can’t contain the kinds of decision-making that qualifies as a “record.”
Unlike other agencies surveyed by The Times, the EPA says it has had a policy since 2005 instructing employees to save any text messages that would qualify for preservation, and it has no evidence that employees are failing to do that.
The EPA also says that even if text messages were being destroyed in violation with its guidance, that’s not against the law because they believe text messages are “transitory records … which may be deleted when no longer needed,” Ms. Purchia said.
It would be illegal for McCarthy to conduct public business using her private email and text accounts, so the fact that these records have gone missing is highly suspicious. And if it was ever found that the texts were deliberately destroyed, obstruction of justice charges would be forthcoming.
Funny how Obama administration officials keep losing communications that could incriminate them.