Cummings Questions Issa Subpoena for Sensitive Healthcare.gov Docs
Washington, DC (Dec. 13, 2013)—Today, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, Ranking Member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, sent a letter to Committee Chairman Darrell Issa requesting that he abandon the unnecessary and confrontational subpoena he issued to government contractor MITRE Corporation demanding sensitive security documents relating to the Healthcare.gov website. If Issa refuses, Cummings’ letter calls on Issa to follow House Rules and hold a Committee vote before releasing any documents obtained pursuant to his subpoena.
Issa issued his unilateral subpoena on Monday while Cummings was in South Africa for Nelson Mandela’s funeral, and he rejected requests by Democratic staffers to wait two days until Cummings returned. Issa’s actions contradicted a commitment he made to consult with Cummings before issuing subpoenas and, according to Cummings’ letter, “leave the impression that you were rushing to issue the subpoena before I returned to the United States.”
The documents under subpoena are Security Control Assessments conducted by MITRE. According to Cummings’ letter, MITRE security officials warned Issa repeatedly in letters on November 5, November 22, and December 4 that “the documents you are demanding include software code and other technical information that is highly sensitive and that MITRE officials believe could give hackers a roadmap to compromise the security of the website and the personal information of American citizens.”
MITRE has already produced redacted copies of the documents to the Committee, and last Friday Issa’s staffers were given full access to review the complete unredacted documents, raising questions about why Issa is continuing to demand physical copies of the unredacted reports.
“The Committee has already obtained the information at issue,” wrote Cummings. “Both Republican and Democratic Committee staff have reviewed these documents in their full unredacted form, and HHS has offered to make them available for review by all Members of the Committee at their convenience.”
Cummings’s letter raised concerns with Issa’s track record of leaking sensitive information and documents without consultation:
“Since you became Chairman of the Committee in 2011, you and your staff have engaged in a reckless pattern of leaking sensitive information and documents to promote political narratives that turn out to be inaccurate after further investigation. You have ignored repeated requests to consult first with Committee Members, law enforcement officials, and agency experts to understand how your disclosures might harm our national interests. As a result, under your leadership the Committee has become a virtual revolving door of leaks and misinformation.”
Cummings urged Issa to accept offers made in a letter yesterday from the Department of Health and Human Services to further accommodate the Committee’s interests by providing full access to the unredacted documents for every Member of the Committee at their convenience, among other measures.
If Issa declines, Cummings’ letter calls on him to follow House Rules and hold a Committee vote on appropriate protocols to safeguard the documents. Cummings wrote: “I will insist that you abide by the House Rules and not release these documents to anyone who is not a Member of the Committee or a member of its staff until the Committee has an opportunity to vote on their appropriate handling.”
Cummings cited a letter from 1997 describing similar actions by former Committee Chairman Dan Burton, who had asserted, like Issa, that he had unilateral authority to release any document to anyone at any time, regardless of the negative consequences. That letter stated: “The Parliamentarian’s advice makes it clear that it is the Committee—not the chair acting on its own—that must decide how the documents received during the investigation will be handled.”
Click here to read the full letter from Cummings.