EDITOR’S NOTE: Judicial Watch provided legal assistance in Watchdog.org’s effort to review Department of Energy documents regarding social media policy at the department’s National Renewable Energy Lab. We republish here with permission Judicial Watch’s report on the disclosure, and we’re grateful for help Judicial Watch provided Watchdog.org reporter Tori Richards.
By Judicial Watch | Special to Watchdog.org
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Federal employees at a major government agency are encouraged to use social media—such as Twitter and Facebook—during work hours and one staffer recently “tweeted” death threats to reporters who exposed an official’s exorbitant salary.
This may sound like the sort of juvenile stuff that goes on among adolescents in high school, but it’s actually taking place at the Department of Energy, the cabinet-level agency responsible for the nation’s policies involving nuclear material and energy. Worst yet, American taxpayers are funding this nonsense.
The shameful story comes from a group of independent journalists—known as Watchdog.org—that cover local government activity across the nation. A few months ago, the consortium published the findings of an investigation that revealed a government official’s salary at the DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Colorado was an astounding $1 million.
Evidently, this upset one of the overpaid official’s subordinates who spent work hours firing threatening tweets to reporters from her government computer. “Have you ever felt like going on a murderous rampage?, the NREL staffer, Kerrilee Crosby, tweets. “Start at @WatchdogCO ‘s offices. They perpetuate lies like this.” The 34-year-old employee goes on to say the reporters “deserve to die.”
It turns out that the DOE encourages employees to use government phones and computers to access personal social media accounts during work hours. In fact, the agency even has a written manual devoted to social media policies, detailing behavior, etiquette and government confidentiality issues that staff should follow when tweeting, posting on Facebook or blogging.
There’s little doubt the agency is promoting spending work hours engaging in this silliness. Just read this excerpt from the DOE policy; “Social media sites provide opportunities for workers to interact, brainstorm, explore ideas, and encourage or challenge peers and can support the activities of discovering, innovating, collaborating, disseminating, and learning.”
This is stuff the government doesn’t want taxpayers to know, but the targeted journalists fired off a public records request to obtain the manual with the help of Judicial Watch. The agency initially refused to provide the information, stating that the NREL is not a government organization because it’s separately managed and therefore its social media policy is an “internal document.”
The government will invoke any ridiculous reason to avoid handing over documents that help illustrate its stupidity. There is no doubt that the NREL, created during the Jimmy Carter administration to invent energy alternatives, is part of the U.S. government and operates with DOE funding. In fact, employees email addresses have a .gov suffix and the American public pays their salary.