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EPA Officials Use Encrypted Text App To Fight Trump Administration, Republicans Demand Investigation

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Cyrus Farivar, PM Technika

Two Republican members of Congress sent a formal letter Tuesday to the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of the Inspector General, expressing concern that “approximately a dozen career EPA officials” are using the encrypted messaging app Signal to covertly plan strategy and may be running afoul of the Freedom of Information Act.

The open source app has gained renewed interest in the wake of the election of President Donald Trump.

As Ars has reported previously, all Signal messages and voice calls are end-to-end encrypted using the Signal Protocol, which has since been adopted by WhatsApp and other companies. However, unlike other messaging apps, Signal’s maker, Open Whisper Systems, makes a point of not keeping any data, encrypted or otherwise, about its users. (WhatsApp also does not retain chat history but allows for backups using third-party services, like iCloud, which allows for message history to be restored when users set up a new device. Signal does not allow messages to be stored with a third party.)

The letter was written by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) and Rep. Darin LaHood (R-Ill.), who are the chair of the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology and the chair of the subcommittee on Oversight, respectively.

The congressmen note that the EPA has previously examined employee use of text messages to conduct government business and found that only a minuscule fraction of those messages was retained under FOIA.

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