House Majority Leader Questions HealthCare.gov Security
On Tuesday, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy issued a press release questioning the security of the Administration’s healthcare website, Healthcare.gov. The release asked, “If the Obama Administration couldn’t even create a website that worked, how could it safeguard American’s private information on that website?”
The Majority Leader cited an Associated Press (AP) article by journalist Jack Gillum, who wrote on Tuesday that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) denied an AP request for documents about the type of security protecting HealthCare.gov and the computer systems they are using. CMS spokesman Aaron Albright defended the denial in a statement, “We concluded that releasing this information would potentially cause an unwarranted risk to consumers’ private information.
In 2009, President Obama instructed Federal agencies not to keep information from the public “merely because public officials might be embarrassed by disclosure, because errors and failures might be revealed, or because of speculative or abstract fears.” In addition, Attorney General Eric Holder has suggested that agencies should consider releasing documents with redactions, if there are security concerns. CMS told the Associated Press that no part of the records could be released.
According to Majority Leader McCarthy, “Americans have a right to know if their private information that the federal government is forcing them to report is safe.” Leader McCarthy says the Administration has refused to answer multiple questions from his office since the health care rollout, a practice which he called “worrisome.”
Speaker Boehner Criticizes Obama Administration on Transparency
The office of Speaker of the House John Boehner on Tuesday challenged President Obama’s claims that his is the “most transparent administration in history.”
A press release from the Speaker’s office cited a number of recent news articles that call into question the President’s claims. A National Public Radio (NPR) article published on August 13 explained that inspectors general, whose job is uncovering government fraud, have been facing opposition by the Obama Administration. Forty-seven inspectors general sent a letter to the leaders of Congress’ oversight committees on August 5, explaining that many inspectors general had issues obtaining Federal records, which impede their investigations and diminish their independence. In response, both the Republican and Democratic leaders of the House and Senate government oversight committee sent a letter to the Office of Management and Budget, which stated, “Timely and complete access to information is essential if Inspectors General are to perform their missions.”
Speaker Boehner’s press release also referenced an article published by The Washington Times on Monday about Cause of Action, a nonpartisan government accountability group, suing the Obama Administration over the interference by presidential attorneys on the release of public documents under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The lawsuit alleges that officials in 12 Federal agencies dawdled on releasing documents, allowing them to confer with Administration lawyers, so as to review them for anything potentially embarrassing to the White House. The Washington Times also reports that experts on FOIA say this “never occurred in prior administrations.”
Speaker Boehner also drew a contrast between what he called the President’s “pretty flimsy” claims about his historically transparent administration, and the House’s record on good governance. According to the Speaker, the House has actually become “more open and transparent” under his supervision. He specifically cited a ban on earmarks, the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act, and the use of “open rules.” The Speaker also cited a Politico article from June 22 as an example of recognition of their transparency efforts. The article stated that the “House GOP and Democrats have actually made big strides when it comes to using technology on the official front, often moving in bipartisan fashion in the name of institutional change and greater transparency.” It also cited “new transparency standards” as a “critical change” that has helped OpenCongress.org and similar sites more easily make information available to the public.
And for our latest post: Is Congress Really “Useless”?