UPDATE 2: Video of Hearing (Runs About 90 Minutes) (via YouTube)
A current law that gives federal agencies 30 years to turn over all the records that must be permanently retained by the National Archives is a recipe for lost documents and a spotty historical record, the government’s chief archivist told lawmakers Tuesday.
That 30-year window may have been appropriate in a paper era when the only danger to documents came from floods and fires. But in an electronic age, any method of record storage is likely to be obsolete by the time the National Archives gets hold of the records stored on it, Archivist David Ferriero told members of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
Ferreiro said only about half a dozen agencies now voluntarily turn over their records early. He recommended a president’s time in office, either a single or a double term, as a reasonable lag time for records to be turned over.
The nation’s archivist said Tuesday he’s uncomfortable with allowing White House staff members to decide whether their tweets, emails and Facebook messages from personal accounts are work-related and must be saved.
David Ferriero, archivist of the United States, told a House hearing that official communications sent from a presidential employee’s personal device, using personal accounts, must be preserved under the law. However, a staff member gets to determine what is official.
Brook Colangelo, the Obama administration’s chief information officer, said there’s no way to automatically capture communications from personal accounts unless they are accessed through a government-issued computer or personal device, such as an iPad or BlackBerry. He said the administration relies on periodic training to help employees make the right decision.
Asked by Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., whether he was comfortable with a voluntary system replied, “Any time there is human intervention, then I’m not comfortable.”
The White House automatically captures and retains all communications sent to and from government computers and government-issued personal devices. But only the president and vice president can determine which White House records must be turned over to the National Archives and Records Administration when the administration ends.
Holding up an iPad, Issa — chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee — told the White House’s Colangelo: “People carry a product that circumvents your entire system” of preserving records.