Oversight

•Senate Finance Committee (4/24/07) – Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) asked the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to investigate two recent disclosures of Social Security numbers by the Department of Agriculture and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

“This incident reveals that insufficient progress has been made by the federal government in securing personal information, in spite of years of public attention,” Baucus wrote to OMB Director Rob Portman. “I am very troubled that a serious privacy violation could simply be found by an Illinois farmer surfing the Internet, but not by the Departments of Agriculture and Commerce.”

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According to newspaper reports, both FEMA and the Department of Agriculture had posted thousands of Social Security numbers on pages of their respective websites.

Baucus gave the OMB until July 30 to report what actions it had taken to ensure the privacy of personal information.

• House Education and the Workforce Committee (4/19/07)- Chairman George Miller (D-Calif.) asked the Department of Education why it failed to provide information the committee was looking for in the investigation of alleged fraud and abuse of the department’s Reading First Program.

“It is inconceivable to me that the Department withheld the requested information from Committee investigators who have been conducting a formal congressional inquiry,” Miller wrote to Secretary Margaret Spellings.

Miller noted the Education Department had provided some information about the Reading First Program to his panel, but said it was redundant and not what the committee was looking for.

•House Ways and Means Committee (4/20/07) – Chairman Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) asked U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab to release information about the Bush administration’s pending U.S.-South Korea Free Trade Agreement. Rangel said the information should be disclosed to the public for evaluation and discussion.

“This excessive secrecy is harmful to restoring public confidence in and broad bipartisan support for U.S. trade policy,” Rangel wrote in a letter to Schwab. “We urge that you end it by releasing the full text of the agreement immediately.”

Rangel made several references in the letter to the Trade Act of 1974, which requires pending trade agreements to be disclosed for evaluation purposes.