By Elise Viebeck - 12/17/13 09:22 PM EST
The House Oversight Committee's top Democrat is accusing Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) of deliberately stoking fears about HealthCare.gov with partial and misleading document releases.
Rep. Elijah Cummings (Md.) cried foul on Issa's habit of withholding portions of documents about ObamaCare and charged the committee chairman with "cherry-picking" evidence to heighten concerns about the enrollment website.
Cummings disputed Issa's recent allegation that users' personal information is in jeopardy on HealthCare.gov.
Issa drew his conclusion from a contractor's old security assessment without noting that the company deemed the issue "closed" ahead of the site's launch, Cummings wrote.
The letter intensifies a bitter dispute between Issa and the Obama administration over Oversight Republicans' approach to investigating the rollout of ObamaCare.
Tensions are also high among partisans on the committee after several investigations in which Democrats accused Issa of overreaching.
The fight's latest round took place Tuesday after Issa said that documents he obtained through subpoena show federal health officials downplayed key security concerns at HealthCare.gov ahead of Oct. 1, when the site went live.
Issa did not release the documents, citing separate concerns for security, but stated in a letter to Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius that her department showed a "disturbing lack of judgment" when it came to safeguarding the system.
"The American people have a right to know the risks they face on HealthCare.gov when they submit sensitive personal information," Issa wrote.
HHS spokeswoman Joanne Peters disputed the claim that health officials ignored key vulnerabilities ahead of the site's launch, stating that each piece of HealthCare.gov was tested by an independent party prior to Oct. 1 with no findings of "high" risk.
"All high-, moderate-, and low-security-risk findings ... that launched on October 1st were either fixed, or have strategies and plans in place to fix the findings that meet industry standards."
In addition, Peters said that all operational components of the website are compliant with federal requirements.
“Security testing is conducted on an ongoing basis using industry-best practices to appropriately safeguard consumers’ personal information," she said.
Issa’s effort to obtain physical copies of six security reports prepared by contractors has sparked a battle with the administration.
While officials have permitted Issa's office to view the documents, they have sought to prevent him from obtaining copies, arguing the information would give hackers a "roadmap" into HealthCare.gov.
The feud came to a head on Monday, when the White House general counsel and seven top Democrats went around Issa in a letter to Boehner, asking him to intervene to ensure the chairman wouldn’t leak the documents to the press.
Issa and his Republican colleagues argue that copies of the documents are essential to their duty of investigating ObamaCare's botched rollout.
A spokesman for Issa shot back at Cummings.
"Ranking Member Cummings' false claims and continued efforts to obstruct oversight add insult to injury for Americans reeling from the inept implementation of the health law," Frederick Hill said in a statement.
"The American people have a right to know who made reckless decisions to launch a website with both functional and security problems to meet an arbitrary political deadline."
This story was updated at 9:21 p.m.