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Thursday, October 29, 2009

Security breach threatened to make public names of 2 dozen members of Congress whose conduct has come into question.

The House ethics committee announced Thursday that it would begin full investigations into two House members, Maxine Waters and Laura Richardson, but a security breach threatened to make public the names of many other members facing possible ethics charges.
The separate investigations into private financial matters of Ms. Waters and Ms. Richardson suggest a stepped up effort by the ethics committee at a time when it has faced criticisms for the slow pace of its work.
The security breach related to a document that contained the names of two dozen members of Congress whose conduct has come into question, along with the status of those investigations, according to House officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Normally investigations only become public after a preliminary inquiry to avoid unfair damage to a lawmaker’s reputation. Including the new investigations of Ms. Waters and Ms. Richardson, the committee has now publicly acknowledged at least eight formal investigations, with the most prominent focused on Representative Charles B. Rangel, Democrat of New York, chairman of the Ways and Means Committee.

A committee statement about the security breach said that a junior staff member, working from home, improperly placed a document listing all the on-going inquries into a file-sharing software system that could be accessed by people outside the committee. The staff member, whose name was not released, has been fired and committee officials said Thursday they did not know who had gained improper access to the document.
Some House staffers were skeptical of the committee’s explanation, saying that tight security protocols were designed to prevent exactly such an episode. Committee officials, embarrassed by the breach, appeared to be bracing Thursday evening for the public disclosure of its internal business. (continues here)

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