JEFFERSON CITY - Following several attempts to access secure information about concealed carry permit owners, both government officials and members of the press have submitted competing open-records requests in an effort to determine who accessed the records and why.
Last week, an unknown individual attempted to gain access to a secure server using a Missouri House computer, which contained information on concealed carry permit holders in Missouri, 23 times within one hour.
The Office of Administration filed a Sunshine request asking the House to provide records of its computer logs Thursday, May 2. Commissioner of Administration Doug Nelson said the agency filed the request in order to identify who attempted to access the records, why they made the attempts, whether they had the authority to do so and how the attempts would affect the state government.
In response, the House denied the office's request and submitted its own Sunshine request, asking for any information that the Office of Administration has relating to the matter. The House's request also asked for any correspondence or information relating to records concerning the surveillance of legislative information technology systems, networks or information transfers. In a written response, Nelson said the office had responded with the information available at the time and that it had begun to process the third part of the request.
When asked Wednesday if the agency would honor a Sunshine request made by the press that was similar to their own, Nelson would not confirm whether it would be approved or denied.
"We would have to review that request," Nelson said.
However, Nelson also said that the information the agency requested is public and should be available to all.
"As we explained in our open-records request, this information is a public record, retained by a public governmental body, which the public and the press have a right to access," Nelson said, after describing one of the agency's duties as protecting the security of the government's computer systems.
A reporter for the Columbia Daily Tribune submitted a Sunshine request during the press conference for the same information the Office of Administration requested from the House.
In his written statement, Adam Crumbliss, the chief clerk of the House, cited a provision in the state Constitution, as well as exemptions in Missouri's Sunshine laws, as reasons for the House's denial. Crumbliss said the administration's request might interfere with or obstruct ongoing investigations of state agencies. He also said the information was not technically a record according to the state's Sunshine law, which states, "records identifying the configuration of components or the operation of a computer" and that would allow unauthorized access to the government's computer network are exempt.
The server in question contained a list of Missourians with concealed carry permits. The Office of Administration created an access ID to a state Internet site for Special Agent Keith Schilb of the Social Security Administration. Schilb was given access to the server after he asked for a list of concealed carry permit holders in Missouri as part of a planned investigation into potential disability fraud. Schilb later told the Senate Appropriations Committee he was never able to access the list, bringing his investigation to an end before it got off the ground.
The information enabling Schilb to access the site was sent via email and made available to the public after a subpoena issued by the Senate Appropriations Committee.
The Office of Administration has not contacted law enforcement at this time.