In the ever-growing wave of paranoia that is the Trump era, many Republican have turned to an app called Confide to ensure that their communications are kept secure. This news was first reported by Axios before being picked up by WaPo.
The defining feature of Confide is that messages are deleted after they are read which helps to keep communications secure. However, the app’s use by government employees has raised some concerns regarding the legality of the app, since such communications cannot be reviewed.
In the wake of Micheal Flynn’s resignation, several White House staffers have taken to using Confide in order to avoid arousing the suspicion of their supervisors. Beyond that, members of Congress have recently spoken out against government employees using Confide or similar apps.
The Hill has reported that House Science Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) and Rep. Darin LaHood (R-Ill.) wrote to the Environmental Protection Agency’s inspector general seeking an inquiry into the department’s use of the app. The letter argues that government employees were using the app to sidestep the federal government’s record requirements.
‘Reportedly, this group of career officials at the EPA are aiming to spread their goals covertly to avoid federal records requirements, while also aiming to circumvent the government’s ability to monitor their communications.
‘Over the past few years, we have seen several examples of federal officials’ circumventing Federal Records Act requirements and transparency generally. In this instance, the Committee is concerned that these encrypted and off-the-record communication practices, if true, run afoul of federal record-keeping requirements, leaving information that could be responsive to future Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and congressional requests unattainable.’
However, it isn’t just Republican congressman who are concerned about such technology. Watchdog groups warn that the use of such apps by White House staff are a violation of the Presidential Records Act.
Sean Moulton, who oversees Project on Government’s open government program, warns that such laws are necessary in order to ensure the White House remains accountable.
‘The reason we have to have an archived record is so there’s accountability for the actions and decisions that get made and historically we can review the activities of an administration.
‘If you don’t want that kind of paper trail then it raises serious questions about the discussions and the decisions that are being made’
Even conservative watchdog groups are opposed to the Trump administration’s alleged use of Confide. Tom Fitton, who is president of Judicial Watch, said that use of such an app would be illegal and “highly irresponsible.” Judicial Watch was famous for their opposition to Hillary Clinton, but it appears that they might soon turn their attention on Trump.
‘You can’t on the fly delete records because you don’t think they’re government records. And in the end, the president is responsible for this and he needs to make sure the rules are being followed.’
Legally speaking, government employees, like anyone else, are allowed to have messaging apps for their personal business, but any official communications are required to be forwarded to their superiors so they can be archived for future review or Freedom of Information Act requests.
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