Badlands National Park Rejoins the Federal Government After Twitter Rampage

FILE - This undated file photo provided by the North Dakota Game and Fish Department shows a group of bighorn sheep in North Dakota. Bighorn sheep hunting is likely to resume in North Dakota later in 2016. The season was called off last year for the first time in more than three decades due to a 2014 die-off in the Badlands herd caused by disease. (Craig Bihrle/North Dakota Game and Fish Department via AP, File)

Yesterday, in what appeared to be some sort of a Third World coup d’etat where the leaders take over the only radio station in the country and start broadcasting communiqués to an incredulous public, the Twitter feed of Badlands National Park (South Dakota) seemed to have declared independence from the federal government. In defiance of directives from the incoming administration, someone using the Badlands Twitter account went on a rant about the favorite myth of the left, anthropogenic global warming.

The facts here are pretty banal. Federal employees do not have the right, and have never had the right, to speak in their capacity as federal employees on the actions of the government, at large, or their agency without clearance from their agency. This is not censorship. This has no Constitutional implications. Via Ken White, aka Popehat, who is a libertarian First Amendment attorney:

Indeed, people have been suspended without pay and terminated for holding forth on agency policy and policy-making without having been cleared to comment on the subject.

As it turns out, Badlands National Park was not actually responsible:

A Park Service official subsequently claimed that the tweets were deleted because they were posted by someone who no longer worked for it: “Several tweets posted on the Badlands National Park’s Twitter account today were posted by a former employee who was not currently authorized to use the park’s account. The park was not told to remove the tweets but chose to do so when they realized that their account had been compromised.”

And we know who the “former employee” is: just check the Twitter timeline of @BadHombreNPS.

We may or may not take the NPS excuse at face value. To believe it we have to believe that the organization is so sloppily run that it doesn’t bother changing passwords when employees leave. What is equally likely is that the “former employee” is still a contract employee of some variety and was used by Badlands NP to run their Twitter feed thus giving him access to the Twitter account. What is for certain is that if the story put out by Badlands is correct, then the guy who did it committed a federal felony. The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act makes unauthorized use of a password a federal crime. Because this is a federal Twitter account there might even be “terrorism” implications.

On the whole this is less of an embarrassment to Trump than it is to the National Park Service. That agency’s Twitter accounts have now been used at least twice to take swipes at the incoming administration.