Reader Question: Can Government Aides Use Text Messages at Work?


In response to an item we posted yesterday about how some wary government aides are now conducting business over text messages instead of E-mail (for fear of their correspondence being subpoenaed, as has happened at the Department of Justice recently), one reader wrote in with an interesting question about the implications.

Kim McCall in California asks, "Does the use of nongovernmental channels of communication interfere with a claim of executive privilege? Does it constitute a breach of security?"

We turned to constitutional law expert Jonathan Turley of George Washington University for an answer.

In short: Simply texting the U.S. attorneys a quick "u r fired" wouldn't have absolved anyone at the Department of Justice.

"They're allowed to pick the mode of communication," Turley says, calling the use of texting an "overblown reaction."

In fact, Turley says, sometimes a paper trail can serve as a powerful defense in cases where a person's actions and decisions are in question. He mentioned the trial of Scooter Libby, which focused largely on differing accounts of oral conversation where no record exists.

In the end, though, Turley says the means of communication are far less significant than the content.

"Karl Rove's problem is not his use of emails," Turley says. "It's his moronic sense of judgment" in getting involved in the firings.

--Chris Wilson

Video: The U.S. Attorney Firings