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CREW learns Dept. of Education staff are using private e-mails in violation of federal law

The use of private e-mails in the Bush administration isn't limited to White House staffers. CREW has learned that the Department of Education may not be able to provide complete information relating to its troubled "Reading First" program, because Department employees have been using non-governmental email accounts for official business.

So today, CREW asked the Department of Education Inspector General’s office to initiate an investigation into employees who – in violation of federal law and with the full knowledge of the Department’s Office of General Counsel – have been using non-governmental email accounts for official business. Our letter to the Inspector General can be found here.

On March 28, 2007, CREW filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with the Department of Education, seeking records related to the Reading First program. At a congressional hearing last month, the Chair of the House Committee on Education and Labor, Rep. George Miller (D-CA), stated that the troubled "Reading First" program "sounds like a criminal enterprise to me." The Department of Education's Inspector General also revealed that he's made criminal referrals based on his investigations of "Reading First."

On May 9, 2007, CREW’s counsel, Dan Roth, had a telephone discussion with FOIA officers who told Mr. Roth that Department personnel “often use private email addresses,” and that the Department “wouldn’t have access to that.” Mr. Roth asked whether private email accounts were used for official business and was told that they were, adding that this issue has arisen in the past in reference to other FOIA requests.

On May 14, 2007, a Department FOIA officer confirmed that Department employees use private email addresses for official business.

This is serious. If employees are regularly using private email accounts to send official email and the Department neither tracks nor stores such email, the Department may be violating the Federal Records Act (FRA), which requires agencies to preserve records of official business.

Citizens blogging For Responsibility and Ethics in Washington


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