| WASHINGTON, June 13
WASHINGTON, June 13 Two U.S. Senate Democrats on
Tuesday called for government-wide investigations into the Trump
administration's use of secretive messaging phone applications
and whether officials are ignoring or delaying responses to some
Congressional oversight requests.
Delaware Senator Tom Carper and Missouri Senator Claire
McCaskill, both influential members of the Homeland Security and
Governmental Affairs Committee, asked the inspectors general at
24 executive agencies and departments to investigate whether
officials are using apps for work that make it hard to trace
communications. The apps encrypt messages and automatically
delete them after they are read, which could run afoul of laws
on preserving government records, the senators wrote.
While Republicans control both the Senate and the House of
Representatives, Democrats in Congress can still request that
inspectors general, neutral investigators who check up on
various federal offices, look into specific matters.
They also asked the inspectors general if officials in the
administration of Republican President Donald Trump are
directing employees of government agencies to ignore requests
for information from Democrats in Congress. Members of both
parties objected after the administration said agencies do not
have to honor requests made by senior Democrats on congressional
Democrats and public interest groups are worried that the
Trump administration is hiding important information about
possible wrongdoing and stonewalling potential critics. They are
also worried about social media, where Trump has tweeted and
then later deleted posts.
The office of the Department of Justice's inspector general,
Michael Horowitz, who also chairs the council of federal
inspectors general, declined to comment on the letter. The
White House did not respond to a request for comment.
The federal government has strict laws on preserving
records, which can be used to uncover and prosecute public
corruption and collusion. Inspectors general themselves often
rely on archived emails and text messages in investigations.
Since Trump's inauguration in January many Washington
insiders have embraced messaging apps that promptly destroy
chats, encrypt texts and phone calls, and leave no trace of
communication on smartphones. Concerns about information
security have grown in the wake of the hack of the Democratic
party's emails, criticism of candidate Hillary Clinton's use of
a private server and laws that count communications from
non-government accounts as federal records.
Journalists and officials now frequently communicate via the
encrypted Signal or Confide messenger apps. Confide is so
popular that the company hosted a media and technology event
during this year's White House Correspondents Dinner weekend.
(Reporting by Lisa Lambert; Editing by David Gregorio)