"While the restrictions on the disclosure of sensitive, but not classified, security information should be clear to the Department, the Office of the General Counsel willfully misinterpreted their application in this case," he continued. "Unlike classified information, the SSI label on documents your department submitted to the committee only has an internal application to your employees and other narrowly defined categories of individuals."
In statement released late Friday by his congressional office, Chaffetz agreed.
"This allegation is false. I did not disclose any information that was in violation of federal law," said Chaffetz, who is contemplating a primary challenge to Sen. Orrin HatchOrrin HatchCan Trump rebound after failure on healthcare bill? Overnight Finance: US preps cases linking North Korea to Fed heist | GOP chair says Dodd-Frank a 2017 priority | Chamber pushes lawmakers on Trump's trade pick | Labor nominee faces Senate US Chamber urges quick vote on USTR nominee Lighthizer MORE (R-Utah).
Chaffetz said he notified the House Committee on Ethics about the letter he received from DHS and was willing to submit to a review about the issue.
"Should the Committee be interested in discussing this matter further, I am happy to do so," he said.
In his letter to Chaffetz, DHS Deputy General Counsel Maher alleged said the release of the SSI documents prior to Tuesday's Homeland Security subcommittee meeting was "a matter of serious concern."
"The purpose of SSI is to protect the traveling public by ensuring that security information is made available to those who seek to do our country harm," he wrote to Chaffetz. "The document publicly disclosed by your subcommittee contained information about past security breaches: a topic of particular interest to our adversaries."
The issue of SSI documents has caused previous dust-ups between lawmakers and the homeland security department.
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