A high-ranking Republican congressman believes the Obama administration’s electronic correspondence is not being archived in “the spirit” of federal law.
Darrell Issa, who chairs the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, insisted during a recent hearing that the archive should include personal emails, text messages, Facebook posts and tweets.
Nevertheless, Issa admitted the outdated Presidential Records Act is somewhat unclear about official correspondence sent via private digital channels.
Currently, the White House system automatically archives official emails, logs messages from one government BlackBerry to another and stores official text messages.
But Issa said the White House “wouldn’t be able to catch” a staffer who was “communicating freely” using a private email account over an external carrier, such as AT&T or Verizon.
Brook Colangelo, chief information officer at the White House Office of Administration, attempted to assuage Issa’s concerns by emphasizing federal employees are only allowed to use private accounts in the case of emergencies.
In addition, all work-related emails sent from private accounts are supposed to be routed to official inboxes where they will ultimately be archived.
Still, Colangelo admitted it was difficult to save messages posted on Facebook and Twitter (which only a few White House officials can access), because “the technology in this area has not matured enough to offer a sufficiently comprehensive, reliable and affordable solution.”
As such, the administration has been forced to exploit a combination of manual and automated archiving techniques, including screen captures.
During the hearing, Issa was urged to consider legislation proposed by ranking member Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) in 2010.
The initiative seeks to modernize the record collection, while improving related issues such as bolstering the Government Accountability Office and ensuring “donations to presidential libraries are part of the public record.”