Lawmakers Say EPA Administrator’s Secure Phone Booth May Not Ultimately Do Much for Securing Communications

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By on April 24, 2018 in Agency News with 0 Comments

Close up of a black phone handset hanging upside down just above the floor inside of a red phone booth

Democrats in both the House and Senate recently sent a letter to House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-SC) saying that the phone booth the EPA had installed in administrator Scott Pruitt’s office may not be so great for its ability to ultimately protect classified information.

The letter was sent by Senators Tom Carper (D-DE) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) along with Representatives Elijah E. Cummings (D-MD), Gerry Connolly (D-VA) and Don Beyer (D-VA).

The concerns stem around a security sweep of Pruitt’s office that was conducted prior to installation of the phone booth.

In the letter, the lawmakers wrote:

Documents provided to us from within EPA indicate that as of March 2017, the Administrator’s office was not cleared for classified communications. The phone booth, which was installed months later, appears to be a “privacy booth” installed by a vendor that describes itself as a “manufacturer and distributor of acoustical products” whose mission is “to solve sound and noise control problems to improve every environment of your life.”

Even if the phone booth itself is authorized to receive top secret communications, that would mean classified information is being received in an otherwise not-secured location, preventing the Administrator from discussing it with any other cleared person.

The letter also casts doubt on the EPA’s spending on enhanced security measures and the process used for obtaining them.

The lawmakers asked for a hearing to have Pruitt testify before Congress about actions which, as they wrote, “May constitute evidence of a ‘violation of law, rule, regulation, gross mismanagement, a gross waste of funds, an abuse of authority, or a substantial and specific danger to public health or safety.'”

The Government Accountability Office recently concluded that the EPA had broken the law when it installed the secure phone booth in Pruitt’s office for failing to send advance notice of the purchase to Congress.

A copy of the letter is included below.

Letter Re: EPA’s Secure Phone Booth

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Ian Smith is one of the co-founders of FedSmith.com. He enjoys writing about current topics that affect the federal workforce.

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