02:07 - Source: CNN
Source: Employees terrified by EPA lockdown

Story highlights

Two GOP congressmen are claiming possible violations of the Freedom of Information Act

The EPA bureaucracy has been consistently butting heads with the new administration

Washington CNN  — 

Congressional Republicans are trying to clamp down on rank-and-file employees from the Environmental Protection Agency who have turned to secret messaging platforms to voice frustration with the new Trump administration.

Claiming possible violations of the Freedom of Information Act, two senior Republican congressman asked the EPA Tuesday to review the use of Signal, an encrypted messaging application, within the agency to conduct official business. Some at the EPA are reportedly turning to the app to speak out confidentially against current administration policy on the environment.

“The committee is concerned that EPA career officials’ decision to utilize encrypted messaging tools in fact circumvents federal record-keeping requirements and is an attempt to shield communications from production in response to (Freedom of Information Act) or congressional requests,” Reps. Lamar Smith, the chairman of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, and Darin LaHood, the oversight subcommittee chair, wrote in a letter.

The committee’s Democrats said they could not verify the conduct alleged in the reports but said federal records laws must be followed.

“It is clear the new administration has created an environment where government scientists are feeling intimidated and fearful for their ability to continue to do their work without political interference,” said spokeswoman Kristin Kopshever. “That said, attempts to evade federal records requirements are unacceptable whether they take place at a federal agency or in the White House.”

The EPA bureaucracy has been consistently butting heads with the new administration: Trump’s team is examining the EPA website to determine which information will remain, underscoring concerns that climate change and other scientific data might be removed.

And EPA employees have also been instructed not to distribute news releases, publish blog posts or post anything on social media. It’s part of a crackdown by the new administration that seems to be especially felt at the EPA and the Interior Department, leaving some employees “terrified,” CNN reported last month.

CNN’s Rene Marsh and Dan Merica contributed to this report.