Rep. Issa to Sebelius: Tell Truth to Avoid Criminal Charges

Image: Rep. Issa to Sebelius: Tell Truth to Avoid Criminal Charges

Wednesday, 08 Jan 2014 06:53 PM

By Cathy Burke

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Embattled Obamacare official Kathleen Sebelius should revise her "false and misleading" testimony before Congress or face consequences such as possible criminal liability, House Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa warned Wednesday.

In a long letter to the Department of Health and Human Services secretary, the California Republican said he was giving Sebelius a chance to "clarify or amend" her testimony before "further investigative action by the committee," The Hill reported.

"Providing false or misleading testimony to Congress is a serious matter," Issa wrote. "Witnesses who purposely give false or misleading testimony during a congressional hearing may be subject to criminal liability."

"With that in mind, I write to request that you correct the record and to implore you to be truthful with the American public about matters pertaining to Obamacare going forward."

The letter ticks off details of Sebelius' testimony before Issa's panel, information Issa contends doesn't match his independent probe into security testing of HealthCare.gov before its launch.

At the hub of the dispute is contractor Mitre Corp., hired to assess security issues with the Obamacare website; Issa says Sebelius' claims were false that MITRE conducted ongoing security testing that didn't raise any red flags before the launch.

"Did any senior department official predict serious problems? And did any senior department officials advise delaying the rollout of the exchanges or parts of the exchanges on Oct. 1?" Florida Republican Rep. Gus Bilirakis asked Sebelius on Oct. 30 before the House Energy and Commerce Committee, the Washington Times noted.

"I can tell you that no senior official reporting to me ever advised me that we should delay," she answered.

The Times also reported that Sebelius told another lawmaker that Mitre "did not raise flags about going ahead, and the mitigation strategy was put in place to make sure that we had a temporary authority to operate in place while the mitigation was going on, and then a permanent authority to operate will be signed."

On Nov. 6, Sebelius told Utah Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch and ranking members on the Senate Finance Committee that no one had suggested a potential security risk outweighed the need to move forward with the system's Oct. 1 launch.

"Prior to further investigative action by the Committee, we thought it prudent to write you and invite you to reflect on your testimony," Issa wrote. "Should it be necessary to clarify or amend your testimony, then we request you do so as quickly as possible."

The administration has insisted the Obamacare portal is safe and hasn't been hacked.

Sebelius was called before Congress to explain the well-documented problems of the site in its initial rollout.

HHS spokeswoman Joanne Peters defended the website's security.

"The HealthCare.gov components that are operational have been determined to be compliant with the Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA), based on standards promulgated by the National Institutes of Standards and Technology (NIST)," she wrote, The Hill reported.

The GOP majority will vote this week on bills to require the government to come up with weekly reports on Obamacare exchange activity, such as enrollment data, and to notify users if their personal data has been breached, the Washington Times reported.

"We're going to pass these bills. I'm hoping that the Senate will take up these bills," House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., said Wednesday, the Times reported.

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