Congressmen: We can't trust hacked federal agency to hold sensitive data

ted lieu
Congressman Ted Lieu, of California, doesn't want the hacked federal agency OPM to house sensitive personnel records anymore.

Now that hackers have stolen millions of federal personnel records, two Congressmen say the government agency that lost them should no longer be trusted to protect sensitive documents.

Hackers stole 21.5 million personnel records from the government's human resources department, the Office of Personnel Management. That included 5.6 million fingerprints on file.

OPM knew who had security clearances to know government secrets. Experts warned this could put American spies at risk and sure enough, the U.S. pulled spies from China after the hack.

U.S. Congressmen Ted Lieu and Steve Russell want to prevent that from happening again.

They say any list of who has security clearances -- which Americans know state and military secrets -- is itself sensitive information. And it belongs at a place that knows how to protect spies.

On Wednesday, the politicians laid out their suggestions in a letter. It was addressed to a special council, one put together by the Obama administration in the wake of the data breach to review how the government handles records.

CNNMoney obtained a copy of that letter.

It's still unclear who did it. Some in law enforcement quietly point to China. Just last week, however, National Intelligence Director James Clapper said investigators still aren't sure.

But what is clear now is that OPM wasn't prepared to protect the records in its computers. Lieu and Russell want the president's council to suggest a simple fix: move sensitive stuff out of there.

"We strongly believe that security clearance data - which has been described as 'crown jewels' of our national intelligence -- should not be protected by OPM, which is neither an intelligence agency nor a defense organization," they wrote.

Lieu told CNNMoney that approach makes more sense than creating yet another totally secretive agency.

"There are really two choices," he said. "Either you take the database out of OPM's protection or you turn OPM into a defense intelligence agency. Our proposal is far easier."

That change will require Congress to pass a bill. Lieu, a Democrat from California, is currently drafting legislation with Russell, a Republican from Oklahoma, to do just that.

If they get the president's council to agree that OPM should no longer house this sensitive information, Lieu thinks it could make the bill more likely to pass Congress.

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