The top Republican on the House's federal watchdog committee has subpoenaed Office of Personnel Management Acting Director Beth Cobert to supply documents relating to a severe breach of personal information on U.S. national security employees.
The hack of background check records in OPM systems, which was discovered last April, predates Cobert's time in office. But since assuming leadership in July 2015, Cobert and her agency have not shared details requested six months ago about the hack attack, in which suspected Chinese cyberspies ferreted out information on 21.5 million federal employees, contractors and their families, according to Republican lawmakers.
At a Jan. 7 Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing, Chairman Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, grilled OPM officials about binders' worth of redacted papers received and a delay in delivering other files. Outstanding items included a list of individuals whose usernames and last four Social Security number digits were compromised during a phase of the cyberspy campaign dating back to as early as 2013.
A Senate panel is scheduled to consider Cobert's nomination to become the permanent OPM director tomorrow. The former director of the agency, Katherine Archuleta, resigned in July 2015 amid hostility from both sides of the aisle over her handling of the breach, which was disclosed last June.
Wednesday's subpoena marks the first time Chaffetz has directly accused Cobert of stonewalling during the committee's ongoing probe of information security across the federal government.
“OPM, under Ms. Cobert’s leadership, is not cooperating with the committee’s investigation," Chaffetz said in a statement released Wednesday evening. "The documents we’ve repeatedly requested be provided to this committee are essential” to fulfilling a commitment to ensure a hack of this nature never happens again.
“Despite assurances of cooperation, I’m disappointed Ms. Cobert is not working in good faith with the committee,” he added. “I will use all available remedies to obtain the information needed to conduct a thorough and meaningful investigation.”
At the time of the January hearing, the panel was still missing facts on reports a contractor, CyTech, discovered the intrusion at OPM during a product demonstration. Another request focused on revelations from June 2015 committee hearings that the attackers stole manuals mapping out OPM’s IT environment.
Chaffetz has called for the dismissal of OPM Chief Information Officer Donna Seymour multiple times, alleging she is incapable of carrying out her managerial responsibilities.