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The Environmental Protection Agency took an expensive step to prevent leaks

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt is having a $25,000 soundproof private communications booth installed in his office. (Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images)

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt is determined to prevent people from listening in on his phone calls. How determined? He's having a $25,000 custom-made soundproof communications booth installed in his office.

The privacy booth

Manufactured by Acoustical Solutions, the communications booth will be a full-scale enclosure that's normally used to conduct hearing tests, with some unspecified modifications that multiplied the cost.

“They had a lot of modifications,” said Steve Snider, a salesman for Acoustical Solutions, according to the Washington Post. “Their main goal was they wanted essentially a secure phone booth that couldn’t be breached from a data point of view or from someone standing outside eavesdropping.”

The booth should be completed by early October.

Other privacy measures by the EPA

Pruitt has faced heightened scrutiny since becoming the EPA Administrator, in part due to emails that came out in an open records request detailing his interactions with the oil and gas industry.

As a result, Pruitt and his agency have instituted other privacy and security measures, such as:

  • Avoiding the use of email communication, preferring face-to-face delivery of information
  • Requiring employees to surrender cell phones and other devices before meetings at Pruitt's office
  • Not publicly posting Pruitt's appointment calendars, which was previously a common agency practice
  • Tripling Pruitt's personal security detail

Why do they need it?

While a privacy booth of this magnitude is unique, the idea of secure locations in government offices for sensitive information to be shared is not.

Most federal Cabinet offices have a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility where secured communications can take place and be safe from outside eavesdropping or hacking.

An EPA spokeswoman said the EPA's SCIF needed to be updated, so they opted for this more advanced option from Acoustical Solutions.

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