November 12, 2013

Sharyl Attkisson at CBS News strikes again. This time it's a very, very serious report about very, very serious problems with the website, the contractors who built it, and security issues. You might be very worried after hearing her report, which includes a "partial transcript" from Darrell Issa's committee about security issues, testing, and vulnerabilities.

You can imagine Issa rubbing his hands together as he produced that smoking partial transcript gun which clearly paints Henry Chao as some kind of high-flying idiot for not knowing about that secret memo setting deadlines after the website launched, right?

A partial transcript from Attkisson's report:

Henry Chao,'s chief project manager at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), gave nine hours of closed-door testimony to the House Oversight Committee in advance of this week's hearing. In excerpts CBS News has obtained, Chao was asked about a memo that outlined important security risks discovered in the insurance system.

Chao said he was unaware of a Sept. 3 government memo written by another senior official at CMS. It found two high-risk issues, which are redacted for security reasons. The memo said "the threat and risk potential (to the system) is limitless." The memo shows CMS gave deadlines of mid-2014 and early 2015 to address them.

But Chao testified he'd been told the opposite.

"What I recall is what the team told me, is that there were no high findings," he said.

Chao testified security gaps could lead to identity theft, unauthorized access and misrouted data.

According to federal guidelines, high risk means "the vulnerability could be expected to have a severe or catastrophic adverse affect on organizational operations ... assets or individuals."

It's a pretty standard sleight-of-hand to drop a document in front of a witness that they've never seen before and then grill them about it. In court, the document usually needs to bear some relevance to the testimony. The same is not true in Issa Kangaroo Obamacare Court. There, anything can be tossed at a witness and they have to testify truthfully about it. Chao did, saying he'd never seen the document.

So CBS, perhaps you might have asked whether you could see the full transcript of that testimony? Or at least the context of the document? If you had, you might know you'd just been punked by Darrell Issa and his roving band of mercenary Obamacare killers.

Steve Benen:

The CBS report sounds troubling, right? Probably, at least until one picks up the phone to ask Democrats on the committee whether the CBS report is accurate.

I talked to a Democratic staffer this morning about the partial transcript and the aide said Issa’s staff “basically sandbagged this witness with a document he had never seen before and then failed to inform him that it has nothing to do with parts of the website that launched on October 1. In fact, it relates to a function of the website that is not currently active and won’t be until the spring of 2014. Rather than seeking out the truth, this press release tries to scare the public by capitalizing on confusion caused by the Chairman’s own staff.”

Oh. So, when Republicans and CBS suggest the project manager in charge of building the federal health care website was apparently kept in the dark about serious failures in the website’s security, they’re leaving out pretty much every relevant detail that points in a more accurate direction.

The Democratic staffer added that even when this part of the website is active, it “will not submit or share personally identifiable information,” but rather, will only include “insurance information plan data.”

Let’s say this again: beware of partial transcripts from Issa’s office. They keep pulling this trick; there’s no reason anyone should keep falling for it.

Attkisson is right up there with Lara Logan when it comes to agenda-based ZOMG investigative reporting. She may be best known for her claim earlier this year that her computer was hacked, which then became a vague, well, maybe not, maybe it was just...BENGHAZI.

This latest was an easy story for Attkisson to verify. It just took a telephone call to verify with some Democrats on the committee. Attkisson's failure to make that call or to even check the most basic facts before going on the national news with this is further evidence of how far CBS News has fallen.

It's sad and yet heartening all at once to know that the only news outlet doing actual reporting with real investigative work is not a United States-owned network -- Al Jazeera America. The rest of them are captives of their paymasters, who are desperate to make sure the Affordable Care Act doesn't bring this country into the 21st century anytime soon.

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