CfA Seeks Records Detailing Use of Secret Messaging Apps by Missouri Governor and His Staff
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 8, 2017
Contact: Daniel Stevens, email@example.com, 202.780.5750
WASHINGTON – Today, Campaign for Accountability (“CfA”), a nonpartisan, nonprofit watchdog group focused on public accountability, filed an open records request in Missouri for information about the usage of disappearing instant message apps by the Missouri Governor’s Office. On December 7, 2017, the Kansas City Star reported Missouri Governor Eric Greitens and his senior staff use the phone-based app Confide, which deletes messages after they have been read, and prevents recipients from saving them.
CfA Executive Director Daniel E. Stevens stated, “The use of Confide by state officials raises serious questions about whether employees in the Office of the Governor are violating the Missouri Sunshine Law. Governor Greitens cannot simply delete records he doesn’t like that are subject to public disclosure.”
The Kansas City Star reported that several officials in the governor’s office have Confide accounts, including the chief of staff and the deputy chief of staff, among others. The Star also reported that several political advisers to Gov. Greitens have Confide accounts.
CfA’s open records request seeks copies of all records created or received by any employee of the Office of the Governor on Confide, or any other instant messaging application that automatically deletes messages, including, but not limited to, Signal or WhatsApp.
CfA also requested copies of all records reflecting any permission, clearance, or approval granted to employees of the Office of the Governor to conduct official business using Confide or any similar application. CfA also asked the Governor’s Office to produce any records regarding efforts to retrieve, recover, or retain Confide messages sent or received by state employees.
Stevens continued, “Government officials using apps that make messages disappear is plainly irresponsible and antithetical to the ideals of a transparent and accountable government. The public deserves to know what information was transmitted using Confide or similar apps.”
UPDATE: January 30, 2018
Today, Gov. Greiten’s office responded to CfA’s open records request, stating that the Office of the Governor does not have any responsive records to provide.
CfA Executive Director Daniel E. Stevens stated, “Obviously there are no responsive records from the apps themselves. That’s the problem with the use of Confide and other disappearing message apps. Missouri state officials appear to be using these apps to avoid disclosing their communications and possibly violating the Missouri Sunshine Law.”
The Missouri Sunshine Law states that “[a]ny member of a public governmental body who transmits any message relating to public business by electronic means shall also concurrently transmit that message to either the member’s public office computer or the custodian of records in the same format.” It appears that the Office of the Governor has made no attempt to recover messages sent through these apps, which may be a violation of the Missouri Sunshine Law.
Stevens continued, “I find it extremely concerning that they don’t have any responsive records regarding office policies or guidelines for using disappearing messaging apps. The absence of any official guidelines regarding the use of these apps suggests the Governor is not taking the requirements of the Missouri Sunshine Law seriously.”
Campaign for Accountability is a nonpartisan, nonprofit watchdog organization that uses research, litigation, and aggressive communications to expose misconduct and malfeasance in public life and hold those who act at the expense of the public good accountable for their actions.