NSA should access federal employees' communications

Published: August 17, 2013
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By now, almost everyone knows the National Security Agency is recording and storing electronic communications in the United States and many other nations. This includes phone, fax, email, Internet business, credit cards, medical records, IRS files, etc. These databases of recordings can be cross checked by phone numbers, email addresses, account numbers, etc.

Various federal officials claim that cross checking is done only after getting a warrant from the 12-member Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Agency court. Then the telephone recordings can be listened to, emails read, accounts printed, etc. All this supposedly locates terrorists, but missed the Fort Hood shooter and the Boston Marathon bombing brothers.

Another use of NSA's databases is possible. All federal employees' communications are public property. They can already be accessed with a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) snail mail request of any agency for memos, reports, emails, phone calls, etc. of specific employees and dates. Congress should authorize electronic FOIA requests through NSA for instantaneous information that is already public property.

Not surprisingly, federal employees are anticipating such unwelcome requests. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has revealed at least three email addresses. The Environmental Protection Agency's Lisa Jackson used an alias — “Richard Windsor” — to “sidestep disclosure rules.” Department of Justice official Thomas Perez used a private email address for 1,200 government messages.

Congress should require all government business be done on public communications accessible by FOIA through NSA.

John Terneus, Yukon