Today, a National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA) task force released a report mandated by Congress on the risks posed by Section 11 of the STOCK Act, which would require Internet publication of the financial disclosure forms of 28,000 senior executive officials and flag officers. The NAPA panel concludes that the risks of Internet publication outweigh any possible incremental transparency advantages over the current agency filing system; the panel recommends that "Congress should indefinitely suspend the online posting requirements."
Here is the key finding: “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.”
Lawfare readers know that I have been very critical of this provision, which was passed without any Congressional hearings. The NAPA report quotes from (and includes in its appendix) our letter signed by 14 former senior national security officials expressing grave concern about the provision.
Congress has passed three extensions of the implementation date for Section 11, but Internet posting is now due to begin on April 15 -- in less than three weeks.
When it returns from recess, Congress should act on the NAPA recommendation and repeal or indefinitely suspend this misguided provision.
For his part, President Obama, who for political reasons signed the STOCK Act over the objections of several cabinet departments, should now use the cover of the NAPA report to work with Congress to repeal Section 11. He owes this to federal officials.
Note to the JAGs and SJAs who read Lawfare: You should bring this to the attention of your affected flag officers. If enough senior members of the military complain to Congress that Section 11 will pose unwarranted risks to them and their families, Congress may listen.
And in a related development, yesterday Judge Alexander Williams in Maryland rejected the Justice Department's motion to dismiss the ACLU's suit for a permanent injunction against implementation of Section 11. Judge Williams held that the government's interest in transparency, "However compelling, ... fail[s] to outweigh Plaintiffs’ privacy and security interests." His opinion also cites extensively from our letter from national security officials.