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How NY Gov. Cuomo Sidesteps Freedom of Information Requests With His Blackberry 306

Posted by timothy
from the we're-not-having-this-conversation dept.
New submitter wrekkuh writes "The Daily News is reporting that if aides of New York's Governor Andrew Cuomo cannot speak in person or by telephone with the Governor, they are told to use BlackBerry's PIN-to-PIN messaging system — a function that leaves no lasting trail because it bypasses data-saving email servers. Consequently, a Freedom of Information request for all e-mails to and from Governor Cuomo's office resulted in an empty reply from the Records Access Officer: 'Please be advised that the New York State Executive Chamber has conducted a diligent search, but does not possess records responsive to your request.'"
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How NY Gov. Cuomo Sidesteps Freedom of Information Requests With His Blackberry

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  • freedom of Rim (Score:5, Insightful)

    by alphatel (1450715) * on Tuesday July 17, 2012 @02:35PM (#40676665)
    Why do sysmgr geeks love RIM? Above is one of many reasons, along with enterprise integration, remote administration, custom device policies. For years nothing could compete.

    Droids/iStuff can run apps, but none of them could do exactly what a BB does, although perhaps that gap is narrowing. Too bad RIM is so far behind on the game nowadays no one will buy their devices and market share is plunging. 10% of value 1 year ago? Madness.
    • by Teresita (982888) <badinage1@@@netzero dot net> on Tuesday July 17, 2012 @02:38PM (#40676695) Homepage
      Maybe if they ask real nice, the NSA can give the FOIA requestors their not-so-blank copy of the "blank" email archive.
      • by cpu6502 (1960974)

        RIM probably has a record of all email the last 2-3 months. A judge could get them with a warrant.

        I'm surprised the FOIA applies to state governments. They are independent governments from the U.S. government, and thus U.S. law only applies to U.S. government and interstate transaction. Not internal state government affairs.

        • by Hadlock (143607)

          Since you're a constitutional scholar, can you tell us why the federal wiretap law wouldn't apply here?

        • by hakey (1227664)

          I'm surprised the FOIA applies to state governments. They are independent governments from the U.S. government, and thus U.S. law only applies to U.S. government and interstate transaction. Not internal state government affairs.

          The article doesn't specifically say FOIA, just "a freedom of information request". All states have enacted there own version of FOIA.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by falcon5768 (629591)
      "Droids/iStuff can run apps, but none of them could do exactly what a BB does, although perhaps that gap is narrowing. Too bad RIM is so far behind on the game nowadays no one will buy their devices and market share is plunging. 10% of value 1 year ago? Madness." Never heard of a MDM server have you? Apple released MDM for iOS along with 10.7 server. We have no issues doing any of these things.
    • Re:freedom of Rim (Score:5, Informative)

      by jbolden (176878) on Tuesday July 17, 2012 @02:55PM (#40676939) Homepage

      RIM isn't increasing their share and is falling slightly in terms of sales, but it is not quite that bad.

      2010 global sales: 49.6m
      2011 global sales: 51.5m

      You get the impression from the US market where RIM has gone (users not sales) from 21.9m Sep 2010 to 12.5m in May 2012. But that still does represent sales, the average life of a smart phone is 11.5 months. In the US Apple's share of the computer market is just about about getting to the level of RIM's share of the smartphone market, to help put it in perspective.

      RIM is deeply troubled, they aren't dead by any means. They've had a rough few years but they haven't done anything truly tragic like follow LG and later Nokia's lead and go with Windows mobile.

  • by Orga (1720130) on Tuesday July 17, 2012 @02:37PM (#40676683)

    Next thing you know the Legislative Branch will start writing laws to sidestep the Judicial!!

    • Next thing you know the Legislative Branch will start writing laws to sidestep the Judicial!!

      As long as the Judicial Branch doesn't start declaring that "Up" really means "Sideways" in the Constitution or just start making stuff up from the bench, we'll be OK. I mean, sheesh, will we ever be in trouble if that happens.

      • "Up" doesn't mean "Sideways", "Up" has been ruled to clearly mean "Interstate Commerce".
        • by swb (14022)

          You're behind the times. Up and Sideways are actually a tax now.

    • by sycodon (149926)

      All Cuomo really had to do was sign an executive order. Everybody knows those overrule legislation now.

  • Not a surprise (Score:4, Insightful)

    by wbr1 (2538558) on Tuesday July 17, 2012 @02:38PM (#40676701)
    Do you think all his phone conversations have been recorded?
    There will always be unrecorded means for government officials to communicate, unless it becomes illegal, and still even then.
    They don't want Jefferson's informed populace. Go back to watching the Kardasians please.
    • by Teresita (982888) <badinage1@@@netzero dot net> on Tuesday July 17, 2012 @02:43PM (#40676753) Homepage
      I really want to watch the Kardasians but DS9 ain't even in syndication anymore.
    • by Bigby (659157)

      When Google glasses get good enough, all public sector employees should have to wear them at all times and carry around a battery pack so that they work all day. Anyone can then tap into what they are saying, seeing, or hearing at any moment of any day. I don't even care about the bathroom, allowing them to disable it for periods of time will defeat the purpose. You will still have enough people to fill the positions.

      • Right, because the private sector never embezzles, bribes, threatens, commits fraud, employs thugs to use violence, destroys the environment or commits crimes of any sort, destroys meeting minutes, email or data of any kind, or performs any kind of lewd or lascivious act, in or out of a bathroom. I'm with ya boss!
        • by Bucky24 (1943328)
          So you're saying that because OP's solution only fixes half the problem, it shouldn't be implemented? Half a solution is still better then nothing at all.
    • Re:Not a surprise (Score:4, Insightful)

      by s.petry (762400) on Tuesday July 17, 2012 @04:06PM (#40677703)

      Nicely stated. I think that the one thing Kwame Kilpatrick taught all politicians is not to use text messaging.

      Food for thinking: If a Public official working on behalf of the public has nothing to hide, why are they hiding? It should be illegal for them to do business with no trail in my opinion. The whole idea of "Public" official and "Public" offices are that these people work for the "Public".

      • by clodney (778910)

        Food for thinking: If a Public official working on behalf of the public has nothing to hide, why are they hiding? It should be illegal for them to do business with no trail in my opinion. The whole idea of "Public" official and "Public" offices are that these people work for the "Public".

        Surely you are joking. Have you never written an email that could be quoted out of context, or exposed your ignorance about a topic? Or even ranted about what a huge PITA somebody was?

        If you think government is ineffective and bloated now, wait until you get to a world where every conversation and email has to be treated like a press release.

  • Repost from 1896 (Score:5, Interesting)

    by paiute (550198) on Tuesday July 17, 2012 @02:40PM (#40676717)
    "Never write if you can speak; never speak if you can nod; never nod if you can wink." - Martin Michael Lomasney
  • What usually happens (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jbolden (176878) on Tuesday July 17, 2012 @02:44PM (#40676779) Homepage

    We have a classic problem with the freedom of information requests:

    1) We want accurate historical records maintained of how decision were made, by whom and why.
    2) We want a have an open press and legal system to have access to those records so our legal processes and our political processes are based on accurate information.
    3) We want to have an open campaign system where all available information is discussed as part of the process of choosing leaders.

    Pick any 2.

    • by jeffmeden (135043)

      We have a classic problem with the freedom of information requests:

      1) We want accurate historical records maintained of how decision were made, by whom and why.
      2) We want a have an open press and legal system to have access to those records so our legal processes and our political processes are based on accurate information.
      3) We want to have an open campaign system where all available information is discussed as part of the process of choosing leaders.

      Pick any 2.

      The true problem is that instead of FOIA being used by journalists or investigators for specific issues, they are used by political firms who are trying to dig up dirt on the "other side" (and most of those FOIA requests are overly broad to boot). Throw away #3 and the FOIA process isn't a zoo anymore. Let reputable journalists investigate, not anonymous trolls who get paid to encourage the other side to waste time.

      • by jbolden (176878)

        That means a registered press where certain people have much greater FOIA rights than others. Essentially a group of journalists and/or organizations are registered for insider access and they get accurate information. You are tossing #2. That's essentially what we had in the first term of the Bush administration where access required obedience.

        • by jeffmeden (135043)

          That means a registered press where certain people have much greater FOIA rights than others. Essentially a group of journalists and/or organizations are registered for insider access and they get accurate information. You are tossing #2. That's essentially what we had in the first term of the Bush administration where access required obedience.

          1: Give press creds to anyone who successfully applies for them. 2: Give FOIA responses to any journalist under the stipulation that the request itself is recorded and FOIA-able. 3: Sit back as the press starts watchdogging itself.

          Its not a perfect solution but better than what we have now.

          • by jbolden (176878)

            OK I work for XYZ campaign corporation. We provide state level officials with campaign managers, fundraisers.. We have ties to print, radio... and make some extra on referrals.

            1) I apply and get it
            2) I comply with the FOIA and openly state what I'm requesting and why.

            • by jeffmeden (135043)

              OK I work for XYZ campaign corporation. We provide state level officials with campaign managers, fundraisers.. We have ties to print, radio... and make some extra on referrals.

              1) I apply and get it
              2) I comply with the FOIA and openly state what I'm requesting and why.

              3) You run the risk that someone on the "other side" or even just a journalist looking to make the front page will dig up FOIA data on YOU specifically, and the elected officials that are associated with you will be implicated in wasteful one-sided political gamesmanship. Sure, it can still happen on both sides, but at least this way the public knows what is going on at that level. Right now they are in the dark thinking that Cuomo (in this case) is trying to hide something from the public when all he is

      • Conspiracy theorists who think the government is after them, or has some other conspiracy going. Also, you get a lot of people who are just curious and order a huge amount of information just to satisfy it. Let's just say that, even where partisan politics isn't an issue, a large number of FOIA requests really don't serve the common good.

        Yes, I knew a FOIA officer.

      • The true problem is that instead of FOIA being used by journalists or investigators for specific issues, they are used by political firms who are trying to dig up dirt on the "other side" (and most of those FOIA requests are overly broad to boot). Throw away #3 and the FOIA process isn't a zoo anymore. Let reputable journalists investigate, not anonymous trolls who get paid to encourage the other side to waste time.

        Do you have any evidence of this being a systemic problem? And I don't just mean that "anonymous trolls" (whatever that is) make too many (whatever that is) FOIA requests, but that the goal of digging up dirt is ultimately bad for society.

    • by Hatta (162192) on Tuesday July 17, 2012 @03:18PM (#40677167) Journal

      The "pick any two" canard is for when there are actual constraints making all three impossible. There's no reason beyond corruption that we can't have all three of those.

      • by jbolden (176878)

        It has nothing to do with politicians being corrupt though that certainly makes the problem worse. If you look at any idealogical breakdown of the voting population it is almost impossible to assemble coalitions of 50%+1 that agree on objectives and means across an array of issues. Politicians to get reelected need to be able to spin. The problem is not one of immorality, the problem is the diversity of the electorate.

        • by Hatta (162192)

          Politicians to get reelected need to be able to spin.

          No. If they can't get reelected based on an honest recounting of what they did in office, they should not be reelected. In the case that no one can get elected, the union itself should be abolished.

          • by jbolden (176878)

            No one can get re-elected. And the problem is not just the union. I don't know of a single congressional district where you have 50%+1 agreement on a wide range of issues.

            So what do you want to put in place of this system?

            • No one can get re-elected. And the problem is not just the union. I don't know of a single congressional district where you have 50%+1 agreement on a wide range of issues.

              Am I reading you right? You think that because the majority of the population aren't in full agreement on most issues that politicians need to be able to lie to the population in order to get re-elected? Really? WTF? Do you seriously think that voters are not already aware that the people they vote for don't necessarily match them on each and every issue? That voters already pick the candidate they have the most agreement with, not total agreement?

      • and since there will always be corruption, the constraint is real. we can never have all 3. at least not with any consistency.
      • by jeffmeden (135043)

        The "pick any two" canard is for when there are actual constraints making all three impossible. There's no reason beyond corruption that we can't have all three of those.

        There is a way to get beyond corruption? What planet do you live on?

    • by gstoddart (321705)

      Well, the way I see it, the lawmakers are pushing to have everything we do me monitored and tracked for several years ... we should be starting with them.

      • by jbolden (176878)

        And they don't like it anymore than you do. And just as you try and evade, they try and evade. Hence the story.

    • by jader3rd (2222716)
      I don't think that those are mutually exclusive. To me the fighting interests are "We want accurate historical records maintained of how decision were made, by whom and why." and "We want cost effective government".
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Had a former employer demand that I get an iPhone so he could text me the instructions on everything he wanted me to do, much of which was either illegal or leading me to suspect that he was basically building up an elaborate scam. But then of course he demanded emails that would show evidence that I was the one at fault for providing false information to him the whole time (me being the programmer). I cursed him out and quit for insulting my intelligence, and made sure the rest of the company employees g

  • by Karmashock (2415832) on Tuesday July 17, 2012 @02:45PM (#40676791)

    Everything needs to be on record. It has to be a criminal offense to systematically use systems with no log. These people are public officials with enormous power. The ability to find out who knew what when is vital to the public trust.

    What public officials are effectively saying is that we need to make this a felony for them to take it seriously. A felony conviction amongst other things would invalidate them from public service ever again. So indifferent to whether they actually served any jail time it would be the irrevocable end to their political career.

    I don't see any reason to bother even sending them to jail for it. Just give them a felony conviction with a 1000 dollar fine for court fees.

  • I'm sure they're logged somewhere.

  • Here in the UK, we learn that during the "cash for honours" scandal, a separate non-government computer was operating in No. 10 specifically for the purpose of doing business without oversight.

    The arsehole also shredded all his expense data just before the storm over MPs claiming for duck ponds and tennis courts broke.

    Labour, Democrat - it seems they are all in it together.

    • by nedlohs (1335013)

      Labour, Democrat - it seems they are all in it together.

      Labour, Democrat, Labor, Tory, Republican, Liberal, National - it seems they are all in together.

      Just a minor tweak.

  • Maybe they have a local history of chat logs.

  • Am I the only one who thinks this is completely reasonable and acceptable?

    • He's obviously hiding something. Only crazy conspiracy theorists think every time something happens off the record they're hiding something; perceptive people notice when someone deliberately and intently shuffles things off the record.
      • by whoever57 (658626)

        He's obviously hiding something.

        If he has something to hide, he must be a terrorist or criminal, according to all the comments from people who want to take our privacy away from us on the basis that it should not matter if we don't have anything to hide!

    • by swb (14022)

      I hope so.

      Government is supposed to be open, period. The only time it's not is to preserve the privacy of citizens, employees or for bona fide national security purposes.

      Which is why most states have open meeting and sunshine laws that require official minutes be kept any time officials meet to discuss policy and to require public notice of meetings so that the public can attend.

      Of course, all politicians dislike this. They want to cut sweetheart deals with businesses and contributors, make decisions for

    • by Attila Dimedici (1036002) on Tuesday July 17, 2012 @05:24PM (#40678683)
      Well, except for the fact that Governor Cuomo is a big proponent in his speeches of all government decision making to be open to the public, there is nothing wrong with it. At least if you don't mind your public officials being hypocrites.
  • I would simply ask for every email the Gov. has sent or received and then see if he's circumventing FOIA. If the only emails that come back are fluff crap or none at all then that would provide a pretty good indication of circumvention.

  • by wannabe (90895) on Tuesday July 17, 2012 @04:41PM (#40678175)

    Don't underestimate the deliberate nature of Cuomo's actions. He is acutely aware of technology, what it is, and how it can be used. He has a lot of good advisers who are technologically aware. He also knows a lot of the dangers posed by email and what it can do.

    During his time as Attorney General, he learned very quickly how crucial email was to a case. I don't specifically have to name cases, but a reader can easily find landmark investigations he conducted that hinged on getting email, mining it using some very sophisticated tools, and finding the right evidence.

    I'm sure as he conducts himself and his staff now, mis-steps are keenly in his mind. This is a man who is not satisfied as Governor and will run for President.

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