Despite President Obama's direction for transparency in government, the Department of Labor is continuing its Bush-era practice of destroying email records of its former employees, according to the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW).
In its complaint to the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), CREW accuses the Labor Department of continuing to enforce a rule first implemented by President Bush's Secy. of Labor Elaine Chao requiring that "all information on digital media is permanently destroyed when an employee leaves the agency."
Crew contends that the destruction of the electronic records - including email - without the prior approval of NARA could result in violations of the Federal Records Act, which states in part: Federal records may not be destroyed-except in accordance with the procedures described in Chapter 33 of Title 44, United States Code. These procedures allow for records destruction only under the authority of a records disposition schedule approved by the Archivist of the United States.
CREW's complaint contains a copy of a Labor Department employee instruction manual dated March 13, 2009 updating its "Media Sanitation Standard Operating Procedure" for the incoming Obama administration. "Most notably," writes CREW, "none of this guidance contains any reference whatsoever to the record preservation requirements imposed by the Federal Records Act."
Obama on the Records: During his very first week in office, President Obama directed all executive branch agencies - like the Department of Labor -- to be "committed to creating an unprecedented level of openness in Government." To the long-term maintenance of government records, he wrote, "Information maintained by the Federal Government is a national asset. My Administration will take appropriate action, consistent with law and policy, to disclose information rapidly in forms that the public can readily find and use."