- The Washington Times - Monday, December 16, 2013

Democrats said Monday that the House’s top investigator, Rep. Darrell Issa, went too far in using a subpoena to obtain the secret plans for the computer architecture behind HealthCare.gov, and the Democrats warn that having those documents out in the open could be a major cybersecurity threat.

Over the weekend President Obama’s lawyer, White House counsel Kathryn Ruemmler, sent a letter to House Speaker John A. Boehner warning that if the details in the document get out, that could cause problems across the federal government, since many agencies share similar protocols.

On Monday, the ranking Democrats on seven key committees wrote to Mr. Boehner asking him to convene a classified briefing on the dangers posed by the documents, which were turned over to the House oversight committee and Mr. Issa, the panel’s chairman.

“It is reckless in the extreme for Chairman Issa or any member to possess these documents without a full understanding of the extremely sensitive information they contain and the widespread damage that could be caused if they got into the wrong hands,” the Democrats wrote.

The letter is the latest tussle between Mr. Issa and Democrats who say the California Republican has been overzealous in his pursuit of oversight of the Obama administration. Topics of Issa investigations have ranged from IRS targeting of tea party groups and the Justice Department’s gun-walking operation dubbed “Fast and Furious,” to the latest investigation into the rollout of Obamacare’s health exchanges.

A committee spokeswoman said members are taking precautions to make sure the information is being held properly, but found it curious Democrats were complaining about the storage of documents when the HealthCare.gov website itself is potentially vulnerable.

“While this disturbs us, we recognize the seriousness of the situation and are taking appropriate steps to secure the information we have obtained and consult with experts on sensitive technical information. We only wish the administration had taken security concerns this seriously before launching its website,” spokeswoman Caitlin Carroll said.

The documents in question are known as Security Control Assessments, which were part of MITRE Corporation’s work as a contractor helping test the administration’s HealthCare.gov website.

The website is the online portal where many Americans without insurance are supposed to go to buy policies. But the website has been plagued by errors and officials have admitted it was not ready to go when it was launched Oct. 1.

One of the major questions is whether applicants’ sensitive financial or medical data is being protected by the website.

MITRE has repeatedly protested having the information turned over, saying that “in the wrong hands, this information could cause irreparable harm to the basic security architecture” to the Obamacare website.

The government had previously turned over redacted versions of the documents, and had let committee investigators see the full documents behind closed doors. But Mr. Issa has argued that the committee is entitled to see full documents as part of its oversight role.