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Posts tagged ‘United States House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform’

Issa: Despite NYT, al-Qaida Involved in Benghazi.


A group affiliated with the al-Qaida terrorist organization was involved in the deadly Sept. 11, 2011 attack in Benghazi that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three others, Rep. Darrell Issa insists, despite a New York Times investigation that suggests otherwise.

“There was a group that was involved that claims an affiliation with al-Qaida,” Issa, the Republican chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, told NBCMeet the Press” host David Gregory Sunday.

Issa has long been one of the more outspoken critics of how the Obama administration handled the attack, including claims made by then-UN Ambassador Susan Rice that the embassy attack was a mirror image of an attack in Egypt after Muslims reacted over an inflammatory video about the Prophet Muhammad.

Story continues below.

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Issa and other Republicans have maintained that the attack was a planned and organized raid backed by al-Qaida, but The New York Times lengthy investigative report, written by journalist David Kirkpatrick, concludes that local militants conducted the raid, not al-Qaida or other international terrorist groups. The report also says that while the video itself was not the entire cause of the attack, it helped inflame some of the attackers.

Issa conceded Sunday that Kirkpatrick did “very good work,” but he still has not seen conclusive evidence that the video led to the attack. Further, he said that it is time for the Obama administration to tell the truth about its misstatements.

“They went out on five stations and told the story that was at best a coverup for the CIA or at worst something that cast away this idea that there was a real terrorist operation in Benghazi,” Issa told Gregory.

Kirkpatrick, appearing at the beginning of the program, told Gregory that Issa and other Republicans may be combining the goals of Islamic groups with the al-Qaida network and its infamous leader, Osama bin Laden.

“If you’re using the term al-Qaida to describe even a local group of Islamist militants who dislike democracy or have a grudge against the United States, If you’re going to call anybody like that ‘al-Qaida,’ then, okay,” the New York Times journalist said.

Kirkpatrick denied Sunday that his piece bolsters Rice’s comments about the attacks being conducted by a mob inflamed by the video, however.

“No, we’re not bolstering that statement,” Kirkpatrick said. “This was not a street protest. This was not a copycat of Cairo. This was a group of armed men.”

But Kirkpatrick said the United States misunderstood the Libyan militias on the ground at the time.

“The attackers were the militias the Americans thought were there to protect the mission,” said Kirkpatrick.

Meanwhile, Texas Democratic Rep. Joaquin Castro told Gregory that he hopes Issa and other Republicans have learned a lesson from the report.

“They crusaded for over a year over what’s basically a fairy tale,” said Castro. He noted that as in an any other major event, there was a great deal of information released that needed to be verified.

“Susan Rice and the administration were doing their best to provide information,” said Castro. “Issa and the others took it and crusaded with it.

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© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.
By Sandy Fitzgerald

Perry to Sebelius: Don’t Blame ‘Pesky Texans’ for Obamacare Problems.


Image: Perry to Sebelius: Don't Blame 'Pesky Texans' for Obamacare Problems

By Sandy Fitzgerald

Gov. Rick Perry is defending Texas‘s decision to strengthen qualification requirements for Obamacare navigators, saying it’s not the state’s fault that President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare program has so many problems.

“Obamacare offers virtually no protection for consumers shopping for health coverage through these so-called navigators,” the Republican governor wrote in an scathing op-ed piece that appeared Thursday in The Austin American-Statesman.

The former GOP 2012 presidential candidate, and possible 2016 candidate, also took Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to task for suggesting that Obamacare enrollment would be going a lot smoother if “it weren’t for all those pesky Texans getting in the way,” as the governor put it.

The Texas Department of Insurance (TDI) is implementing “commonsense” rules for navigators who “probe Texans for their most personal and private information in the name of signing consumers up for Obamacare,” Perry wrote. “These rules are especially important given the minimal federal requirements navigators must meet.”

The rules include basic measures like criminal background checks, Perry said, to help protect Texans.

“Secretary Sebelius herself admitted federal navigators underwent no background check at all and could, in fact, be felons,” he continued. “TDI’s rules will help ensure felons, including convicted sex offenders, are not knocking on Texans’ doors under the guise of signing them up for insurance, and that Texans aren’t giving out their most private and sensitive information to someone already convicted of fraud or identity theft.”

Further, Perry noted that even though Sebelius has “bragged” that navigators get 20 hours of training, “it hasn’t prevented fraud documented in published videos showing navigators — who have already completed Secretary Sebelius’ training — encouraging applicants to lie about their income and misstate their smoking habits in order to snare higher subsidies and lower premiums at taxpayer expense.”

A new report by the U.S. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, also points out the need for overseeing the navigators, he added. The report shows instances in which he said “navigators openly encouraged applicants to commit tax fraud to obtain subsidies they otherwise are not qualified to receive.”

But consumers are still at risk even if they don’t use navigators, the governor said, noting “security flaws” in the Healthcare.gov website that been “widely reported.”

“Clearly, Texas’ concerns about this program are well-founded,” he added.

Perry went on to describe Obamacare as “a colossal disaster and getting worse.”

“Until the Obama administration places the privacy and protection of American consumers above political pushback, Texas will hold the line on protecting our citizens,” Perry declared.

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© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Govt Official: Security Problems Plague Health Website.


Image: Govt Official: Security Problems Plague Health Website

By Melanie Batley

A top federal official has admitted that “high” and “moderate” security risks have been discovered on the Obamacare website in recent weeks, giving credence to months of claims by both experts and users that the site is vulnerable to security breaches.

Teresa Fryer, chief information security officer at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, testified about the risks during a Dec. 17 hearing before the House Oversight Committee which has been investigating issues with the troubled site.

“There were two high findings. One high finding was identified in an incident that was reported in November,” Fryer said in partial transcripts released Friday by committee chairman Rep. Darrell Issa.

She said that the functionality in question was currently “shut down,” according to The Hill.

Fryer said that weeks before the debut of HealthCare.gov, she had recommended against its launch, she said, telling her boss that her “evaluation of this was a high risk.”

Federal health officials, however continue to insist the site is safe and that any issues are being quickly addressed.

“Each piece of the live HealthCare.gov system that was going into operation Oct. 1 had been tested by an independent security control assessor and testing was completed prior to Oct. 1, 2013 with no high findings,” Joanne Peters, Health and Human Services Department spokeswoman, said this week, according to The Hill.

“All high-, moderate-, and low-security-risk findings… that launched on Oct. 1 were either fixed, or have strategies and plans in place to fix the findings that meet industry standards.”

But since the Oversight Committee started delving into the security issue, it has produced evidence that the government was aware of high security risks in advance of the launch, and also that final top-to-bottom security tests were never implemented.

Meanwhile, in the months since the launch, a number of users have come forward to report that either their personal information had been shared with other users or that they have seen the details of other users. Reports also surfaced that Chinese hackers tried to break into the site in November, raising further concerns about the site’s vulnerability.

Peters, nonetheless insists that all operational components of the websites are compliant with federal requirements.

“To date, there have been no successful security attacks on HealthCare.gov and no person or group has maliciously accessed personally identifiable information from the site,” Peters said, according to The Hill.

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© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Rep. Issa: Sebelius Reneged on Meeting to Discuss ACA Security.


Image: Rep. Issa: Sebelius Reneged on Meeting to Discuss ACA Security

By Cathy Burke

In the latest volley of a protracted battle over the Obamacare website, Republican Rep. Darrell Issa says Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius backed out of a date to discuss security issues, The Hill reports.

“It’s difficult to have a serious dialogue when the other party walks back an offer after we’ve said yes,” a statement from Issa’s House Oversight Committee said.

Issa had agreed to a meeting Tuesday, after revealing that documents from a contractor for the website showed federal officials knew the site was “vulnerable” before its Oct. 1 launch.

The administration has balked at handing over sensitive data, fearing it will be leaked — and even suggested Issa couldn’t be trusted with the information.

Issa and Sebelius have been feuding since October, when the lawmaker subpoenaed her for website-related documents, accusing the administration of “failure to provide answers” about what led to the botched launch of HealthCare.gov.

HHS official Jim Esquea wrote to Issa that House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi also wants in on the briefing, and that HHS is now trying to work out a meeting between Republicans and Democrats, The Hill reports.

“In light of these requests and the seriousness of our concerns, we would like to work with majority and minority staff for the committee to schedule such a meeting with you” and other leaders, he wrote in the Wednesday letter.

Esquea emphasized there have been no serious attacks on the website; he said HHS could have cybersecurity experts brief the committee, The Hill reports.

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© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Issa: Obamacare Navigators Put Americans at Risk From Identity Theft.


Image: Issa: Obamacare Navigators Put Americans at Risk From Identity Theft

By Drew MacKenzie

A damning report from Rep. Darrell Issa‘s Oversight Committee alleges that the Obama administration’s “serious mismanagement” of the healthcare reform law’s navigator program has put millions of Americans at risk of having their private information stolen by identity thieves.

The staff report also reveals that the very navigators who are supposed to help people enroll in health insurance plans are urging consumers — in certain cases — to lie and commit fraud to qualify for or enhance their government subsidies.

The navigator program was launched by the White House supposedly to help guide consumers through the confusing Obamacare sign-up process, including navigating around the troubled HealthCare.gov website.

But the report, which was released in conjunction with a Monday field hearing in a Dallas suburb, warns that ill-trained navigators are violating navigator rules and procedures while also giving bad advice to applicants about the insurance marketplace and the enrollment process.

Issa, a California Republican who is chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said the Department of Health and Human Services “lacked a contingency plan for the navigator program after HealthCare.gov failed, leaving consumers open to the risk of identity theft” due to confusion surrounding enrollment for health exchanges.”

“Major problems have plagued the Navigator and Assister programs in the first 10 weeks of enrollment,” his committee’s report states. “Poorly-trained navigators gave consumers incorrect information about the healthcare exchanges, violated HHS rules, and even encouraged applicants to commit tax fraud in some instances.”

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has admitted that navigators do not need a background check before becoming certified, which means criminals — including those who have been convicted of identity theft — can become Obamacare assisters. They can then get access to sensitive personal information, including Social Security numbers, date of birth, addresses, phone numbers, and annual income.

The report was drawn up by the committee after HHS officials, including Gary Cohen, the deputy administrator and director of the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight, briefed it last month on the troubled navigator outreach program.

The report said, “[The] documents call into question the effectiveness of the navigator program and the Obama administration’s ability to safeguard consumer information.”

The system “induces fraudulent behavior and poses real threats to the safety of consumers’ personally identifiable information, such as one’s Social Security number, yearly income, and other sensitive tax information,” the report said.

The Oversight Committee also learned that there have been instances where Obamacare navigators have “encouraged consumers to commit tax fraud by underreporting income in order to qualify for Obamacare’s health insurance subsidies.”

The navigators have assisted applicants before even completing their five- to 20-hour online training course, according to the report, and mailed applications for consumers, which violates “the rule that applicants must mail in the application themselves.”

The committee quoted a video released by conservative activist James O’Keefe’s Project Veritas in that navigators from the Urban League of Greater Dallas were seen urging consumers to lie on their health insurance applications to qualify for tax subsidies. They were also captured telling one consumer to lie about her smoking habit to reduce her monthly premium.

In another case, an alleged navigator gave a TV interview in which she incorrectly told viewers that credit scores would affect their eligibility for some health insurance plans. It was later revealed that she was not a certified navigator, but a volunteer with a navigator organization.

Also, a navigator organization in North Carolina, Mountain Project Inc., has been mailing application for consumers, disregarding HHS rules.

On Monday, Issa joined forces with Texas Republican Rep. Pete Sessions to attack the navigator program in an op-ed in The Dallas Morning Newssaying that “while President Barack Obama and other allies of Obamacare continue to publicly tout the law, they have done too little to address serious problems that come with it.”

Issa and Sessions said the point of the field hearing in Richardson, Texas, on Monday, one of several investigating “the flawed implementation” of Obamacare, was to help the American people understand the problems surrounding the navigator program.

“The American people deserve to know why the administration believes that inadequately trained navigators are qualified to help guide them through such an important process as signing up for healthcare,” they said.

The lawmakers were particularly concerned about the lax security surrounding the navigators when proper consumer privacy protection should be imperative in a program like Obamacare, which requires Americans by law to purchase health insurance or face a fine for noncompliance.

“Fortunately, states such as Texas have proposed rules that will protect Americans’ private information by requiring health navigators to pass background checks and complete additional privacy training,” Issa and Sessions wrote.

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© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Issa: Obamacare Will Send Patients to Cheaper Doctors.


Obamacare will cause insurance companies to send patients to “less expensive doctors” with “more limited scopes,” Rep. Darrell Issa said Thursday, following a hearing with healthcare professionals on Capitol Hill.

“They gave us literal examples of decisions made by these insurance companies, in compliance with the Affordable Care Act, that are causing them to choose less expensive doctors and more limited scopes,” the California Republican told Fox News’ “America’s News HQ” Thursday.

High quality medical institutions are not included in plans insurance companies are offering through Obamacare because they cost more, Issa explained. And, he said the reason the high quality hospitals cost more was because they were already “taking the sickest among us.”

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Healthcare professionals presented testimony Thursday to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform about how Obamacare was affecting the way they practice medicine. Issa chairs the committee.

Issa said he thought the administration of president Barack Obama knew there would be problems and uncertainty associated with implementing the healthcare law. He suggested the administration viewed the problems as “collateral damage they could live with.”

Congress would try to “unring the bell” on conditions causing people to lose their existing plans, Issa said. He indicated Democrats in Congress might join with Republicans in legislation to amend Obamacare.

“We do begin to see a crack in our Democratic colleagues to, at least, consider reforming some of the mistakes made in the Affordable Care Act,” Issa said.

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© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.
By Wanda Carruthers

Issa Subpoenas Tech Company to Check Obamacare Website Security.


House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa said Tuesday he issued a subpoena to the company in charge of security testing for the Obamacare website to make sure security problems are fixed.

“We need to make sure that all of those gaps have been filled, all of those security shortcomings have been corrected,” the California Republican told Fox News’ “Happening Now.”

“I waited 70 days [after the website’s launch], 10 days after President [Barack] Obama said, mission accomplished, we’re all fixed and up and running,” he said.

Story continues below video.

Issa issued the subpoena to Mitre Corporation, one of the IT providers for the Obamacare website. He said he called Mitre because it had knowledge of the security issues that needed addressing prior to the website’s launch.

“They were the ones that published these reports showing what still needed to be done, and why, at least, in some people’s opinion, this website was not ready to be launched,” Issa said.

Congress could learn why, in light of security issues, the decision was made to move forward with the website’s launch, Issa said. The testimony might also explain who in the administration made the decision to proceed with the launch.

“Our investigators need to have this material, as we ask individuals at Health and Human Services and other agencies about what they knew, when they knew it, and why they made the decisions they made before, during, and, of course, even after the launch of the website,” Issa said.

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© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.
By Wanda Carruthers

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