GOP Lawmakers Demand Investigation Over Air Force Records Leak

GOP Lawmakers Demand Investigation Over Air Force Records Leak

The Gateway Pundit reported on the Air Force improperly leaking private and confidential information about a Republican candidate being sexually assaulted while she was serving in the military before the mid term election.

The Air Force has admitted responsibility for information about Indiana House candidate Jennifer Ruth-Green’s sexual assault being improperly leaked to an opposition research firm and subsequently handed to a Politico reporter.

Now, several House Republicans are calling for an investigation and prosecution for the “unauthorized release” of Official Military Personnel Files (OMPF) to a private research firm in a letter revealing that 11 individuals’ records were released.

Representative Mike Rogers (R-AL), Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, and Rep. James Comer (R-KY), Chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Accountability, have written a joint request to Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin demanding answers.

Rogers writes, “The Office of the Secretary of the Air Force (OSAF) has informed the Committee that it released 11 individuals’ records over a 14-month period from October 2021-December 2022 to a private research firm which allegedly misrepresented itself in order to obtain access to the personnel records without authorization or consent.”

Fox News reports:

Reps. Don Bacon, R-Neb., and Zach Nunn, R-Iowa, were both notified by the Air Force that their military records were released improperly as they were campaigning in the 2022 midterm elections, and they believe it was part of political effort to hurt their campaigns.

“Knowing that this third party paid by the Dem Campaign Congressional Committee was able to obtain my social security number and fraudulently use it to obtain my military records is concerning not only for myself and the other ten affected, but to every single veteran,” Bacon told Fox News Digital. “Veterans deserve peace of mind knowing their information is safe and will be protected from political dirty tricksters.”

The Air Force confirmed to Fox News that an internal audit had “determined there was an unauthorized release of military duty information on 11 individuals” from October 2021 through October 2022. In a letter to Bacon, first reported by Politico, the Air Force said the records were “inappropriately requested” in November 2021 by a researcher named Abraham Payton, who formerly worked with American Bridge 21st Century, a liberal super PAC, on the false basis of “employment and benefits.”

The Air Force, which told Fox News in a statement that “[t]here was no evidence of political motivation or malicious intent on the part of any employee,” said the record branch released Bacon’s personal identifiable information to the man without any authorization, and the person appeared to already be in possession of the congressman’s social security number when he requested the information. The employee did not follow proper procedures which required Bacon’s signature in order to release the information.

The full text of the letter is below:

Dear Secretary Austin:

It is essential that the men and women of the Armed Forces trust their leadership’s ability to protect private personnel data from improper disclosure. The release of Official Military Personnel Files (OMPF) outside the proper processes violates Department of Defense (DOD) policy and the Privacy Act of 1974,  and if done pursuant to a public request, may also violate protections afforded under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

The Office of the Secretary of the Air Force (OSAF) has informed the Committee that it released 11 individuals’ records over a 14-month period from October 2021-December 2022 to a private research firm which allegedly misrepresented itself in order to obtain access to the personnel records without authorization or consent. This news comes on the heels of a prior admission by the Air Force to having inappropriately released the OMPF of former Republican Congressional candidate Jennifer-Ruth Green to the very same research firm, Due Diligence Group (DDG).  That disclosure served to revictimize a servicemember by releasing details about her sexual assault.  The recent broader release of additional servicemembers’ records highlights not only the inadequacy of procedures to secure military personnel files, but also raises concerning questions of possible illicit motive or political partisanship.

This conduct by the Air Force is, at a minimum, unacceptable. The conduct by the research firm is quite possibly criminal.

Please provide to the Committees no later than February 27, 2023, the following information to help understand the shortcomings in the process which resulted in the improper disclosure of former servicemembers’ private personnel records:

  1. A list of all servicemember records, excluding the content of such records, of individuals who were candidates for Congress or elected to Congress from January 1, 2021 to January 3, 2023 that were improperly released to DDG without a servicemember’s prior consent;
  2. A status report detailing current notifications to impacted individuals and an assessment of whether or not additional notifications may be forthcoming;
  3. The regulations and policies governing the request, redaction, and release of servicemembers’ OMPFs;
  4. The safeguards in place to ensure that only properly redacted OMPFs are released;
  5. The investigative process each military service takes if servicemembers or the civilian workforce release information covered by the Privacy Act outside of official channels;
  6. Any administrative or punitive action taken against any individuals involved with the release of Ms. Green’s, or other servicemembers’, unredacted OMPFs;
  7. A detailed list of changes the Department of the Air Force has made to policies and procedures related to the release of OMPFs as a result of the Inspector General’s investigation into Ms. Green’s case; and,
  8. Whether there is any active Air Force Office of Special Investigations case or any other criminal referral of DDG for potential violations of law pertaining to improper access and disclosure of private, federal, military personnel records.

Thank you for your immediate attention to this request. The Committee on Armed Services, under Rule X, clause 1 of the Rules of the House of Representatives (House Rules), maintains oversight jurisdiction over the Department of Defense generally. Moreover, under the House Rules, the Committee derives its authority to conduct oversight from, among other things, clause 2(b)(1) of Rule X (relating to general oversight responsibilities), clause 3(b) of Rule X (relating to special oversight functions), and clause 1(b) of rule XI (relating to investigations and studies). The Committee on Oversight and Accountability is the principal oversight committee of the U.S. House of Representatives and has broad authority to investigate “any matter” at “any time” under House Rule X.

Thank you in advance for your cooperation with this inquiry.

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Author: Margaret Flavin