Signal is a fantastic application that allows us to avoid SMS and MMS fees while having private, untraceable, encrypted conversations using our data connections whether they be text or voice conversations. Part of the application’s feature set is that it erases records. In fact, I use Signal as my primary means of communication, and I believe most Americans should in this day and age of big telecom extortion and constant data collection.
So how can such a wonderful application be abused? There is nothing wrong with the application itself; in fact, it’s amazing and can save you a lot of money and help protect your privacy. It becomes a problem when our elected officials and party leaders insist on using it to have conversations about topics that should happen, and in some cases are legally required to happen, in public. See the public records act. Still, I use this app so often that it took me a while to put two and two together. After all, for me it’s just answering the phone…because I’m not a public official.
Then a few days ago, it dawned on me that it probably isn’t good if our elected officials and party leaders are using this application to keep information away from the public. I know for sure that PUD Commissioner Atul Deshamne, 2022 Democratic Party Chair Andrew Redding and current 40th district Democratic chair Todd Lagestee all have Signal accounts.
Signal is exponentially removed from a few backdoor conversations in coffee shops or alleyways, which sadly has always happened in politics. Using Signal is more like our officials being air-lifted to a remote, windowless site in the desert; having their secret meeting; being extracted by helicopter; then having an F-16 fly by a few minutes later and firebomb the building so all evidence is eliminated.
It is also reasonable to surmise that everyone who communicates with these individuals frequently is also using this application to cover their tracks. We all know who they are at this point: Sharon Shewmake and everyone connected to her, Christine Grant, Alex Ramel, Todd Donovan, and Satpal Sidhu, at a minimum. Are the Republicans doing this too? Most likely. Can we prove it? Well maybe, but remember the entire point of the application is to allow people to have secret conversations with no records. So, if anyone else has Signal account info showing elected or party officials using this application to have secret conversations about issues of public concern, please list them in the comments below.
So why the insistence on using an untraceable communication method in the first place? Because politicians are afraid to have open and honest conversations in the presence of Sharon Shewmake and her closest supporters. They literally are so afraid of each other they are hiding. So much for democracy. There will be none of that while the Corporate Democrats are in charge; and let’s not pretend the Republicans wouldn’t stoop to this level, too. Time for a new party and ranked choice voting.
In closing I have to say that it's funny to me that the Whatcom Democrats site says “Freedom of speech is one thing that will Keep America Great. Let your voice be heard.” But I know from personal experience that if you tell people the truth about where their candidates funding is coming from the Whatcom Democrats will pathologically lie to protect their big money donors and try to ruin your life and run you out of town. Apparently, they’ll most likely discuss how they’re going to do it via secret, encrypted conversations. I guess what their site means to say is, “speech we approve of in our secret encrypted conversations is what will keep our pockets lined and prevent real progress. You know, the usual. Maintain the status quo!”
Comments by Readers
Ruth FrulandFeb 08, 2023
I am so glad that you shared this information - more evidence that technology is never neutral and needs iron-clad guardrails to protect democracy, currently in grave peril on many fronts.
Also, I thank you for bringing “Signal” to my attention so I can use it!
Wendy HarrisFeb 09, 2023
Jon: There is no doubt we have a corrupt government, but that is very different than doing something that is illegal. If you are accusing someone of a crime, you need to tread lightly unless you have evidence. It is illegal to delete anything considered a public record under our state Public Records Act and any elected official or public employee knows that. They receive training on this. We have archives and schedules for deletion after so many years based on classification. The only person you have mentioned that you know uses the Signal and would be breaking the law if using Signal for public business is the PUD Commissioner but you do not tell us what evidence you have of this action or if it used for public business. See RCW 42.56.335. Members of political parties would not be covered by the WA Public Records Act, at least until they are elected. What you say may be true, but you should not be saying this publicly unless you have evidence that would likely stand in a court of law. And if elected officials are using Signal for non-public business, it is not a crime. Knowing or believing something and proving it are two different matters. I am not big on defending local government, but I am big on defending democracy and our legal system. I also do not wish to see you lose your credibility because we need public watchdogs like you.
Ellen Baker-GlacierFeb 09, 2023
Hat tip to Wendy (Hi Wendy!) for explaining those critical distinctions! What truly matters, IMHO, is that the decision-makers - whether elected (and frankly, even “the employed”) - keep all, and I mean ALL PUBLIC BUSINESS (the mechanics: communications, deliberations, action-taking processes) completely transparent and open to us. Whether our public business is conducted by ‘staff’ or electeds, the clarity of the legislative intent of both the Public Records Act and the Open Public Meetings Act brilliant - I dearly love this:
Where it comes to personal beliefs, political and ideological communiques - I think people DO have the right to exercise the right to free speech. Fine. But where it comes to the public’s business - I want every “jot and tittle” out in the open - everything. I once made a public records request - won’t reveal who the County Executive was at the time - but the [bleep] approached me in council chambers, poked his chin up, and insisted that nobody had the right to poke through what’s on and in his desk. I said, “The h*** - if it’s public business, explain why not!” I doubt he’d ever read these acts, or really understood. Rambling - but - I do think all public business IS our business. Technologies will come and go. We need to hold true and firm to the principle(s).
D. CrookFeb 10, 2023
Signal, Session et al. E2EE messaging tools are essential these days. Anyone without more than a passing sense of what ‘privacy’ means (or mass surveillance, corporate data brokering, etc.) would do well to learn about it.
As for politicians…
Old days—a simple phone call was more or less private (unless someone was evesdropping, or you were sharing a partyline with a neighbor). The content of these calls was not normally recorded. Meetings where nobody took notes. Hallway conversations.
I remember lobbying for a bill years ago—lots of reps / senators backing it. Had to do with contract bargaining for WWU staff—the October deadline / status-quo-if-you-can’t-find-agreement-by-then rule that inclines so heavily toward management who can use it as a ‘wait-them-out’ tactic to block cost-of-living increases, etc. Everyone we talked with loved it, supported it; and most signed-on to it. Then one day, it disappeared. Not a politician to be found who could remember ever hearing of it, let alone supporting it. We were advised later, by an insider, that someone with connections to the UW had made a phone call to someone in Olympia…
It’s the access enjoyed by insiders, donors, power-brokers et al.—the proverbial “smoke-filled back-rooms” that seems most worrisome to me. Whether they use Signal or not—I mean, signal may save them a keystroke (specifically, the delete key), but it’s not enabling them to withold public information that they weren’t already well practiced at withholding.
For what it’s worth—Signal and similar messenging apps could be blocked from gov. computers / phones / etc. But with so many other ways to communicate “off-the-record”—I’m not sure it would do much good.
That said—if a politician is using Signal—and has no records to show for it (or you don’t believe their account of the conversation, etc.)—then they deserve to be called-out for it—publicly—just as we might do if we found out who the mystery person was who disappeared our bargaining bill all those years ago. And inline with @Wendy Harris above—if a judge thinks there is probabl cause (or “reasonable suspician” if they’re a cop in the mood for a potentially deadly vehicular persuit through a town year you—shout-out to you Reps Rule & Timmons 😉 ) to think they’re breaking the law with Signal—then a formal investigation seems appropriate.
Jon HumphreyFeb 12, 2023
Thanks everyone for your valuable commentary. Wendy, since this publication has actual credibility, they would not have printed this article with no evidence to back it up. Unlike Ralph Schwartz of Cascadia Daily News who prints whatever he is told to on the topic of broadband by the Corporate Democrats. Well, ok, Ralph prints whatever they tell him to on any topic.
Hence, before I released this article, I provided the owners with screenshots of the Signal accounts of the people I’ve mentioned here. I have also been pouring through public record requests from the Port and PUD.
I do know for a fact that they insist on discussing public matters that should be discussed in public via untraceable communications methods as they insisted on doing this on the topic of broadband. I would love to see a real investigation on this matter as it’s obvious that Atul is probably NOT the only one doing this. For example, Todd Lagastee tired to “broker a peace deal” between Andrew Reding and I after Sharon Shewmake and Andrew went on their pathological lying spree about me after my legitimate work linking the Shewmake Cartel to big telecom and Rick Larsen to species ending technologies and warmongering like nukes. My only “crime” was telling you the truth. When Andrew Redding said, “no Todd, we’re going to screw Jon and his family over. That’s the Party Order!!!,” Todd informed me of Andrew’s decision via Signal and was happy to do it. They even sacrificed the TAGNW Broadband Strategy Document over it. So much for caring about the community and workers. It’s why he insisted on using Signal in the first place. I can go on… Redding’s fascism knows no bounds. If you say anything bad about the Shewmake cartel, especially if it’s the truth, they will act like any other fascists in history and fire up the propoganda machine.
I think the complete lack of real progress on most issues that effect workers in this town shows us that a lot of serious corruption is taking place in the background.
Yes, Satpal specifically is incredibly corrupt and allows his personal beliefs to dictate every conversation he has. He needs to be investigated. He is also too immature to be in charge of so much money. I put it this way when describing most of the Corporate Democrats to others, “if you had a free cure to cancer and AIDS and wanted to talk to him about it, but Satpal didn’t like you personally, he would refuse to listen to you.” But again, that’s true of most of our elected officials.