The House Jan. 6 committee, while posting hundreds of records online during its final weeks, included in the cache a spreadsheet containing nearly 2,000 Social Security numbers associated with people visiting the White House in December 2020, including those of three members of former President Donald Trump's Cabinet, some GOP governors, and several Trump allies.
"Whether it was a careless and sloppy handling of records or a deliberate disregard of decorum, either scenario is a perfunctory and callous display of government and a frightening reminder of the current state in Washington," former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, whose name and Social Security number were included on the spreadsheet, commented to The Washington Post.
"President Reagan was a savant indeed — the nine most frightening words to hear are 'I am from the government and here to help.'"
The spreadsheet was taken offline Wednesday, but James Lee, the chief operating officer of the Identity Theft Resource Center, which advises victims of identity threats, said many of the people on the list are now at an "elevated risk" of problems because of their high profiles, which makes the information useful to intelligence agencies.
Lee said that those involved should use tips recommended for victims of identity theft, including freezing their credit, setting up credit and account monitoring services, and using a multi-factor authentication app for online accounts.
The Government Publishing Office (GPO), which had put the file online, did not respond to a request for comment about whether it planned to notify the people whose information was exposed, and the people on the list do not appear to have been notified.
However, GPO spokesman Gary Somerset said in a statement that the office "does not edit or alter materials provided by Congress for publication."
He added that the GOP removed the logs "as a temporary measure" while they and other documents are scanned for identity information.
"To my knowledge, we were not notified," Ian Fury, a spokesman for South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, commented. Her name and number were on the list, as well as those of her husband and their three children.
The numbers were part of the White House visitor logs that were published by the committee. Most numbers were redacted in the logs, but almost 2,000 were not. The numbers that were exposed were listed several rows down in the spreadsheet's second tab, representing visits to the White House on one single day in December.
Last year, the White House said the committee had agreed to accept the records in redacted form from the National Archives with birthdates and Social Security numbers removed.
The National Archives, though, cast some blame on the Jan. 6 committee, telling The Post that "while we took affirmative steps to redact personally identifiable information (PII), we did not expect that the Committee would publicly release records that still may have contained PII.”
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