Zachary Toliver | Shale Plays Media
The EPA’s recent carbon emission regulation victory has overshadowed a recent calamity involving high-ranked officials. The conservative think tank and governmental watchdog organization known as the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) is suing the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) in order to obtain EPA records they believe are in violation of federal recordkeeping laws.
According to the CEI, top EPA staffers have repeatedly broken federal law by using their personal phones and email accounts for work business. Challengers of the EPA’s alleged actions claim that working from personal devices allow a greater chance to hide or destroy information, some of which could hold dishonest activity. By bypassing any sort of official business record, the information is far easier to safeguard from public view.
For months now, the CEI has tried to obtain texting and email records from the EPA under the Freedom of Information Act only to meet rejection. The EPA has claimed it did not store any of the requested information and that the data has been destroyed.
The CEI, along with the Free Market Environmental Law Clinic and the Energy and Environment Legal Institute, has since requested the data in question from the NSA twice but was denied both times according to the complaint filed on Monday.
The NSA has stated they “cannot acknowledge the existence or non-existence of such information” given that the information is classified. The NSA has repeatedly declared it does not collect the content intercepted in communications and that only metadata, including numbers, durations and time stamps are recorded. However, since the Edward Snowden leaks elaborating on the vast quantities of data the NSA gathers on everyone, it’s apparent some form of data exist. “There have been clear public admissions that the NSA has collected telephone and text message metadata, the very records requesters have sought.” states the lawsuit. The CEI feels even the information which the NSA has admitted to gathering is enough to begin analyzing the paper trail.
The CEI and its affiliates assert that the requested metadata is of significant public interest as it will shed light on ongoing controversies over widespread use by senior officials of non-official email accounts for work-related communication.
This is only the most recent flare-up of controversy emitting from the EPA. Last year, the agency came under fire when EPA staffer John Beale was sentenced to 32 months in prison after being unveiled as a CIA impersonator and cheating the agency out of nearly $900,000 in unearned pay and bonuses. In addition, an internal investigation of the agency found an employee with a salary of $120,000 had over 7,000 pornographic files uploaded to his government computer and spent two to six hours a day viewing them. He was caught viewing the content when an investigative agent showed up in his workspace. The investigation also uncovered a manager who let an employee collect full pay and benefits without reporting to work, costing the agency more than $500,000.