By Susan Crabtree - 10/31/09 01:32 AM EDT
The top Democratic and Republican leaders in the House issued a rare
joint statement Friday evening pledging to conduct an immediate evaluation of the
security of House computers in the wake of an embarrassing leak of a
secret ethics committee document.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) announced that the Office of the Chief Administrative Officer’s Security Department will perform an “immediate and comprehensive assessment” of the security policies governing computers in the House.
The announcement comes in the wake of revelations about internal House investigations into the conduct of more than two dozen House members accidentally exposed when a low-level ethics committee staffer used a peer-to-peer Internet program. The leak of the secretive, mainly preliminary inquiries by the House ethics committee and the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) rocked Capitol Hill on Thursday night and interrupted progress on Congress’s work to overhaul the nation’s healthcare system.
Members and offices implicated in the probe were frantically calling the ethics committee and leadership offices Thursday night and Friday to try to figure out how to respond to inquiries about their inclusion in the secret document.
Reverberations from the leak were still occurring Friday night after a day full of responses and explanations from members named in the document that ended up in the hands of Washington Post reporters.
An ethics committee statement said the internal document leaked when a low-level staffer used “peer-to-peer filing-sharing software” while working at home. The employee has since been fired. The staffer was authorized to work on the document at home but was responsible for keeping it secure, a House aide said.
The July report contained a summary of the panel’s work at the time, but Reps. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) and Jo Bonner (R-Ala.), the chairwoman and ranking member of the ethics committee, said no inferences should be made about the names mentioned.
The Washington Post reported that more than 30 lawmakers and staff members were under scrutiny, including seven members of the House Appropriations defense subcommittee.