There are a couple of things that are troubling to me about this report:
- Agencies were asked to send proposals on management of email and CIA and DHS proposed to just delete them, regardless of their historical importance.
- The National Archives has already tentatively approved of the proposal
- The story goes on to note that 10 years ago, this proposal would have been applauded by privacy advocates!
- The letter sent to NARA from a group of senators interestingly notes that email is an essential search tool in “finding CIA records that may not exist in other so-called permanent records at the CIA.”
Usually, deleting emails is a no-fanfare, one-click affair — but not when you’re the Central Intelligence Agency or the Department of Homeland Security. Both agencies have recently submitted proposals to the National Archives and Records Administration that outline their plans to delete years’ worth of emails, which the Archives has already tentatively approved. The CIA apparently turned one in to comply with the administration’s directive, ordering federal agencies to conjure up viable plans to better manage government emails by 2016. If approved, all the correspondences of every person to ever be employed by the CIA will be flushed down the digital toilet three years after they leave. All messages older than seven years old will also be nuked, and only the digital missives of 22 top officials will be preserved — something which several senators do not want to happen.
Led by California Senator Dianne Fenstein, the group sent NARA a letter detailing why they want the Archives to reconsider its tentative approval of the CIA’s proposal. Based on what was written there, the senators seem concerned that the agency might use that opportunity to expunge any important correspondence or materials (say, any evidence of dubious activities) not filed as a permanent record.
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