You'd think everyone would have the idea by now that if you're going to do things you don't want other to know about, you want to avoid enterprise email and instant messaging. Those who have searched for the seamier side of life on AOL found themselves outed on sites like AOLPsycho. Those who reponded to hoax naughty personal ad on Craigslist found their names, work emails and phone numbers displayed on personal websites.
Now Rep. Mark Foley (R-Fla.) has learned this the hard way. As widely reported he sent lurid emails and IMs to a number of male pages, both in Washington and his Florida offices. And, in a development that remind some of the way the Vatican has handled reports of priests molesting young boys, the House leadership appears to have sat on the information, even as Foley served as leader of the Congressional Missing and Exploited Children's Caucus.
The Washington Post reports today that Speaker Dennis Hastert denied that leadership knew of Foley's explicit emails to a page in 2005.
The Republican leaders of the House did not have them," Hastert (R-Ill.) said at a Capitol Hill news conference where he answered none of the questions shouted by reporters after he finished reading his statement. "We have all said so and on the record."
But Hastert said he sent Attorney General Alberto Gonzales a letter asking him to look into whether Foley broke any federal laws.
Hastert acknowledged that some of Foley's most sexually explicit instant messages were sent to former House pages in 2003. They came two years before lawmakers say they learned of a more ambiguous 2005 e-mail that led only to a quiet warning to Foley to leave pages alone.
As the scandal broke, Hastert contended he learned of concerns about Foley only last week. But after Rep. Thomas M. Reynolds (R-N.Y.) said Saturday that he had notified Hastert months ago of Foley's e-mails to a 16-year-old boy, the speaker did not dispute his colleague, and Hastert's office acknowledged that some aides knew last year that Foley had been ordered to cease contact with the youth.