Legal Loophole Lets Feds Delete Tons Of Official Records

Friday, December 23, 2016
By Paul Martin


A loophole in federal law allows Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) employees and other federal workers get away with deleting millions of official records created using cellphone text messaging, according to government transparency experts.

The Federal Records Act (FRA) and EPA policy allow individual employees who create and receive cell phone text messages to decide whether a particular one constitutes a federal record before deleting or preserving it.

That makes it difficult to say EPA employees violated FRA when they archive only 86 out of 3.1 million text messages as official business documents sent and received in 2015.

That’s “clearly a conflict of interest,” said Chaim Mandelbaum, counsel for the non-profit government watchdog Energy and Environment Legal Group. Mandelbaum’s group focuses on transparency and accountability issues in the federal government.

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