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Wayne Hale's Blog: Public Records, Official Secrets, and FOIA

Status Report From: NASA Blogs
Posted: Monday, March 9, 2009

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After engaging in a few communications of late, I feel it is probably necessary to point out some information to all you internet road warriors.

First of all, blogs are public, not private, by design. And once its out there, you can't take it back. Somebody has copied, downloaded, or otherwise distributed it. So, if you have comments to the blog -- and I approve them, which automatically and immediately posts them -- well, they are out there and that is that. No going back.

Second, please know that I am a government official. Sounds funny to me, but there it is. NOTHING you write to me is private. No blog comment, no email, no regular letter. There is a federal law and several regulations that say that correspondence with me (or anybody else in the government, by the way) is part of the official record and it is AGAINST THE LAW to remove, erase, or delete it. Somewhere all my email is being archived, for example. Who is going to look at all those terrabytes of data is problematic, but I am required to keep them, my agency is required to keep them.

So, much as I appreciate your inputs, cards, letters, tweets, emails, etc., etc., once you write me, it is NOT PRIVATE. You should have no expectation of privacy in that correspondence. At least for anything sent to my work address, actual or virtual.

Further, almost anything that I have in my files, actual or virtual -- and this includes email, blog posts, etc. -- is subject to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). That means that if a citizen (typically but not always a representative of the news media) requests the information from me, I am compelled by Federal Law and regulations to turn it over to them unless it is covered by a very few restrictions. Nothing you might send to me fits under those few restrictions.

So, not to turn you off, but you need to know that if you write me, email me, comment to my blog, whatever, that information is part of the public record and you have no expectation of privacy nor any recourse to have the information deleted or erased.

So now you know.

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