Ethics sends memo to lawmakers on SCIF etiquette

Ethics sends memo to lawmakers on SCIF etiquette
© Greg Nash

The House Ethics Committee sent a memo on Thursday to lawmakers, officers and staffers reminding members about etiquette and proper conduct that should be used in the sensitive compartmented information facility (SCIF) to ensure the security of sensitive and classified information. 

The document was sent weeks after more than two dozen House Republicans stormed the SCIF being used for a closed-door impeachment hearing. Republicans wanted to call attention to what they said was an unfair process. Democrats were quick to slam the move as a security risk. 

The memo from Ethics Committee Chairman Ted DeutchTheodore (Ted) Eliot DeutchBipartisan lawmakers condemn Iran, dispute State Department on number of protesters killed Bipartisan lawmakers introduce amendment affirming US commitment to military aid to Israel Ethics sends memo to lawmakers on SCIF etiquette MORE (D-Fla.) and ranking member Kenny MarchantKenny Ewell MarchantHouse GOP wants Senate Republicans to do more on impeachment Ethics sends memo to lawmakers on SCIF etiquette Ethics panel investigating Rep. Hastings over relationship with staffer MORE (R-Texas) notes that under House rules, those accessing classified information are required to take an oath that it won’t be disclosed.

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It also highlights how bringing electronic devices into the secured areas could cause a breach. Some of the GOP lawmakers who stormed the SCIF were carrying their cellphones.

“Access to classified information and areas, even for cleared personnel, is granted on a ‘need to know’ basis. As such, House personnel should not attempt to gain access to classified information or controlled areas unless they have a need to access the area or information. Multiple overlapping safeguards exist to protect against different types of intrusion,” the memo reads. 

“However, the protections rely on the cooperation of those entering the SCIF to ensure countermeasures are not compromised. Thus, portable electronic devices should generally not be taken into any controlled area. PEDs include, but are not limited to, cell phones, laptops, smartwatches, tablets, or any other devices capable of transmitting or receiving an electronic signal.” 

Democrats blasted GOP lawmakers for their attempt to access the area — which caused a five-hour delay in the testimony of Laura Cooper, the deputy assistant secretary of Defense for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia.

They alleged that the cellphones brought into the area could have compromised the SCIF’s security. Republicans argued the phones were collected shortly after they entered, and the complaints were overblown. 

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“House controlled areas are accredited for operation by the intelligence community and are subject to periodic inspections to recertify their accreditation,” the memo reads.

“Breaches of security protocols or unauthorized disclosures could result in the decertification of these facilities. This would significantly impair the House’s ability to conduct its business.” 

It goes on to assert the committee has jurisdiction to investigate violations of the House rules.