The CIA and Homeland Security want to delete almost all their emails

Wednesday, November 26, 2014
By Paul Martin

by Mariella Moon
Nov. 26, 2014

Usually, deleting emails is a no-fanfare, one-click affair — but not when you’re the Central Intelligence Agency or the Department of Homeland Security. Both agencies have recently submitted proposals to the National Archives and Records Administration that outline their plans to delete years’ worth of emails, which the Archives has already tentatively approved. The CIA apparently turned one in to comply with the administration’s directive, ordering federal agencies to conjure up viable plans to better manage government emails by 2016. If approved, all the correspondences of every person to ever be employed by the CIA will be flushed down the digital toilet three years after they leave. All messages older than seven years old will also be nuked, and only the digital missives of 22 top officials will be preserved — something which several senators do not want to happen.

Led by California Senator Dianne Fenstein, the group sent NARA a letter detailing why they want the Archives to reconsider its tentative approval of the CIA’s proposal. Based on what was written there, the senators seem concerned that the agency might use that opportunity to expunge any important correspondence or materials (say, any evidence of dubious activities) not filed as a permanent record.

Homeland Security, on the other hand, says it submitted a similar proposal, because the emails it wants to get rid of don’t contain any research significance and would save the government money meant for storage (which costs around $50 per terabyte a month). Its critics worry that this would delete important records of the agency’s surveillance system called Einstein, among other things, which monitors government websites’ traffic. Losing Einstein documentation could either mean bidding valuable data farewell or destroying evidence that it never worked as the agency intended in the first place.

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