California Republican Congressman Darrell Issa gives government transparency a bad name. The chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has a long track record of leaking and selectively publishing portions of sensitive materials that further his political agenda.
Now, in the name of enhancing government security, Issa wants documents for his committee on the technical structure of Healthcare.gov to see if there are bugs or weaknesses that could allow hackers to penetrate the system and use it as a portal to other government systems, like Social Security.
Issa wants unredacted documents from a contractor who tested the healthcare system in October and found some security vulnerabilities. The contractor said that without the redactions, the “basic security architecture” is at risk, as well as, potentially, “the security of other CMS data networks that share attributes of this architecture.”
A spokesman for Issa told the Washington Post there is no guarantee the committee wouldn’t release that unredacted information. House Democrats, who have fought with Issa over his countless investigations of the Obama administration, want him to have a classified meeting with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to hear the downside of publishing the information.
But there is reason for skepticism that he can be trusted to keep the information secret. ABC ran a story last week based on a leak from Issa that “two high findings of risk” in the Obamacare website threatened to wreak havoc. The partial leak of a transcript from Teresa Fryer, chief information security officer at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, turned out to be bogus. One of the issues was improperly flagged as a problem, and the other was a piece of software code that was quickly fixed.
The system has no known serious security problems. That didn’t prevent Issa from giving television interviews from his national tour of hearings that implied mysterious White House forces had squelched Fryer’s recommendation that the website launch be delayed. The danger, he said, is indisputable.
“This is a system, exchange and portal, that lets me go into the Department of Homeland Security, lets me go into the IRS . . . Social Security,” Issa told CBS. “Think about what's at Social Security, what's at IRS, what's at Department of Homeland Security. That's the vulnerability.”
Issa has no evidence any of that is true. What he has is a partial transcript, crafted into a partisan argument and hand-fed to gullible journalists, especially of the TV variety. It’s a technique that has worked for him in the past.
Issa, who is the wealthiest member of Congress, has used his chairmanship of the Oversight committee to pummel the administration for years over the U.S. Postal Service (he wants it privatized), Operation Fast and Furious, Solyndra (he claims conspiracy and cronyism), the IRS (bogus claims of Tea Party antipathy) and the closure of war memorials and monuments during the government shutdown.
Issa made the Washington Post Fact Checker’s end-of-the-year column on the most egregious lies of the year by politicians. The congressman received his official 4 Pinocchios for a comment he made up Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s involvement in the deadly Benghazi attack on the U.S. Embassy in Libya.
Issa said, “Clinton denied security for Libya personnel with her signature on a cable.” Turns out, the secretary’s stamped signature is included by the communications center on every cable and there is no evidence she had direct knowledge of its content.
Issa is a three-term congressman representing wealthy northern coastal areas of San Diego County. He won re-election in 2012 by a landslide, 58%-42%.