Issa Presses White House on Its Decision to Redact HHS’ HealthCare.gov E-mails

April 17, 2014

WASHINGTON – Today, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., pressed for more information on the White House’s decision to withhold and redact documents the Committee subpoenaed from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) about the launch of HealthCare.gov.

In a letter sent today to White House Counsel Kathryn Ruemmler, Issa writes, “During a meeting between our staffs, representatives of your office stated that the White House did in fact apply redactions to [an e-mail trail with HHS Chief Information Officer Frank Baitman]. They were unwilling to provide further details about the redactions.”

The e-mail trail in question, dated September 3, 2013, shows that Baitman was involved in preparing talking points on the site’s security measures requested by the White House. “According to the Department, a portion of this e-mail and the attached list of talking points were not previously produced because the document ‘raised important Executive Branch institutional concerns that extend beyond HHS and [the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services],’” Issa states.

The email exchange in question shows senior White House officials asked HHS and CMS officials how to validate the security of the online marketplace. The exchange contains redactions far more extensive than previously offered by HHS. The letter also reveals that in August 2013, senior White House officials requested CMS produce an internal briefing memo for senior staff detailing the problems with security testing still plaguing the marketplace. The memo cites several risks CMS was tracking, and emphasizes the problems CMS was facing to complete security testing before the October 1, 2013 launch. The letter requests details on the number of documents reviewed and withheld, as well as a general description of any redactions applied.

You can read the complete letter here.

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