Public Service and Privacy
Just before Congress left town for the August recess, it passed a bill to slam the brakes on implementation of the STOCK Act. That’s Public Law 112-105, the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act of 2012.
Congress passed the law under pressure to stop federal officials from profiting on investments made based on information about pending government actions.
The law set a deadline of August 31st for putting online the financial disclosure forms filed by government officials. That’s mid-week this week.
Well, some government officials didn’t like that idea. One set got together with the American Civil Liberties Union and filed a lawsuit to protest the law. They said that law “will cause federal employees and their families ‘an immediate and irretrievable loss of their most private and confidential financial information, simply because they are public servants.’”
Some high government officials argued that the law hands information to foreign intelligence services “on a silver platter,” allowing them to “harass career public servants who have access to the most sensitive information held by the U.S. Government.”
That might be a little overwrought. But maybe are there some real privacy and security concerns. The authors of the bill to stop STOCK Act disclosure say it would “prevent harm to the national security or endangering … military officers and civilian employees.”
Whatever the case, with a deadline pending, Congress has kicked the deadline for the law down the road. But only one month—until September 30th. When Congress comes back from the August recess, it will have to decide whether to put this information online or to let government officials have a little more privacy and a little less oversight, including when they might be profiting from their positions.
We’ve seen government officials giving their kind special protections before. The Court Security Improvement Act of 2007 allowed judges to remove their addresses from the national ID databases that all Americans were supposed to put their personal information into. And early this year, Congress allowed federal judges to remove sensitive information contained in their financial disclosure reports.
Is public service consistent with the kind of privacy officials want? Or do we need a look at their financials to keep potential corruption in check? It’s your call, when you call your representatives in Congress.
Here’s a look at the current vote on the law Congress passed to delay implementation of the STOCK Act. Click to vote, comment, learn more, or edit the wiki article about the bill.