Not a big fan of the headline that poses a question followed by a blog post that doesn’t answer it, but in this case, an exception.

On Friday, Sharon Leahy-Lind, the former official at the Center of Disease Control, told a legislative panel that her supervisors told her not to use state email to communicate while conducting state business. Instead, Leahy-Lind told the panel that she was instructed to use her state-issued Blackberry to send "instant messages," or text messages. 

The reason? Instant messages are not subject to the state’s Freedom of Access Act, Leahy-Lind said.

Her comment prompted subsequent questions to other state officials about whether they use instant messages to get around FOAA. Each of the CDC officals testified, confidently, that, no, it never happens. Never. 

First of all, the idea that instant messages used to conduct public business aren’t subject to records requests through FOAA just isn’t accurate. Just ask Brenda Kielty, the state’s FOAA ombudsman:

"Any record, regardless of the form in which it is maintained by an agency or official, can be a public record. If a text message is received or prepared for use in connection with the transaction of public or governmental business or contains information relating to the transaction of public or governmental business and is not deemed confidential or excepted from the FOAA, it is a public record." 

Ok. So did Leahy-Lind get bad advice from her bosses (again), or is something missing? Something’s missing. What she’s referring to is a PIN messaging system unique to Blackberry phones. Unlike text messages, which the cops — and the courts — can extract from your phone, Blackberry PIN messages are untraceable. Just ask New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, whose staff made heavy use of PIN — and little use of email — to conduct state business and get around that state’s open records law.

PIN’s are untraceable.

Again, Kielty:

"Text messages on a State-issued Blackberry are ‘transient’ and are not stored on the Blackberry server, nor are they captured on the (Office of Information Technology) server backup tapes. Text messages pass through the carrier service, U.S. Cellular."

That pretty much means that the state has a secret messaging system.

It’s unclear how many state employees are using it, but the state’s cell phone contract is with U.S. Cellular and offers Blackberry phones as an option. Lots of state officials carry them.

Leahy-Lind told the lawmakers Friday that someone showed her how to set up her phone, which, along with some of the questions from the Government Oversight Committee about instant messages, is somewhat reassuring for public records advocates. Not many people seem to know about PIN messages.  

That, along with Blackberry’s uncertain future, bodes well for public records retention. 

That is, until something different comes along.

Like the Boeing Black. It self-destructs.