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The much ballyhooed STOCK Act’s financial disclosure requirements for senior federal officials could endanger national security and individuals’ safety, a congressionally mandated report found.
The National Academy of Public Administration issued a scathing report on the law, likening mandates that top level staffers disclose personal financial details online to boiling a frog.
“This forthcoming increment in available data could become the fatal temperature change that goes undetected by the hapless frog,” the NAPA’s report said of disclosure and online posting requirements contained in the 2012 law known as the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act, or STOCK Act.
Under the law, staffers in both the legislative and executive branches paid annually at $119,553 or more must disclose their assets, liabilities and financial transactions valued at more than $1,000, which will then be posted to an online database. Congress in December delayed implementation of the new posting requirements until April 15, to allow time for lawmakers to digest the report before the data is released.
While a request for comment from the office of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., was not immediately returned, the report’s findings and recommendations were so negative that another delay could be in the offing when Congress returns from the Passover and Easter recess on April 8.
“When considering the totality of the information gathered in this research, the Panel finds that the preponderance of the testimony presented by agency cybersecurity, national security, ethics, human resources and other experts supports the conclusion that posting personal financial information as required by the act does indeed impose unwarranted risk to national security and law enforcement, as well as threaten agency missions, individual safety, and privacy,” the report said.
Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Chairman Thomas R. Carper said in a statement that he would review the study with staff before determining a way forward, noting “a number of serious safety concerns that have been raised” by the report.
“The STOCK Act is an important measure that helps ensure that Members of Congress and their staffs play by the same rules that all Americans must follow regarding financial investments,” the Delaware Democrat said.
Among the report’s more troubling findings is that granting easy access to financial transactions of senior officials poses a national security risk.
“Virtually all the cybersecurity, national security, and law enforcement experts interviewed during this study noted that making this information available in this fashion fundamentally transforms the ability (and the likelihood) of others — individuals, organizations, nation-states — to exploit that information for criminal, intelligence, and other purposes,” the report said.
Several groups representing the interests of federal employees have criticized the law from the outset.