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House Republicans want an investigation into EPA officials using encrypted chat apps

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In a letter sent yesterday to the EPA’s independent watchdog, two Republican representatives asked the agency to investigate reports that EPA officials have been using encrypted messaging apps like Signal to discuss Trump administration policies.

“Reportedly, this group of career officials at the EPA are aiming to spread their goals covertly to avoid federal records requirements, while also aiming to circumvent the government’s ability to monitor their communications,” the letter to the EPA inspector general reads, citing a Politico story from earlier this month. The letter is signed by Representative Lamar Smith, chairman of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, and Representative Darin LaHood, chairman of the Subcommittee on Oversight.

Politico reported that EPA officials were using encrypted apps to discuss what to do if the Trump administration attempted to break the law or “undermine their agency’s mission to protect public health and the environment.”

The House letter says the officials’ app use raises concerns about complying with records laws like the Freedom of Information Act. The types of communications under discussion would likely need to be retained under the law, but as the letter itself notes, the issue is hardly a problem that’s new to the Trump administration or unique to apps like Signal. In a report from December, the EPA inspector general found that the agency was already unintentionally failing to document text messages related to government work.