Public records: Updates needed
Among Lois Lerner's emails that the Internal Revenue Service didn't “lose” is an exchange that highlights a glaring federal open-records pitfall.
The Washington Times reports Ms. Lerner, the former official at the center of the IRS tea-party targeting scandal, asked a tech staffer — “in the middle of what appeared to be a discussion about how to hide information from Congress” — whether instant-message chats were stored. She was told the system didn't store such chats, by default, though individual employees could change settings to store them — but the system's document search wouldn't locate stored chats.
That leaves gaping holes in the results of open-records searches for what The Times calls “key documents that show official decision-making,” which must be stored under laws first passed regarding paper records. And though “(a)gencies appear to have adopted rules for handling email,” The Times found that among 17 federal agencies, only two “had policies requiring instant messages to be stored as official, searchable records.”
Updating both federal record-keeping policies and open-records law to cover instant-message chats, even cellphone text messages, clearly is overdue. As technology and its uses change, so must the rules and laws ensuring that the people can exercise their unchanging right to know their government's business.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Pittsburgh Laurels & Lances
- Greensburg Laurels & Lances
- Alle-Kiski Laurels & Lances
- Host a Super Bowl?: False prophets/profits
- The Thursday wrap
- The Arneson firing: Legally dubious
- State of surveillanc: The DEA database
- The atom smasher
- Open records: Hold the phone?
- U.N. Watch: Climate games
- Sunday pops