Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to reflect a prior statement from Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Texas, and a letter from the White House.
Republicans in the House Science, Space and Technology Committee have authorized a subpoena for Todd Park, former federal chief technology officer, to appear for questioning related to his involvement with HealthCare.gov prior to its launch and its corresponding security vulnerabilities.
The committee, led by Chairman Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, initially debated whether to issue the subpoena in September, soon after it was revealed that a test server for HealthCare.gov was successfully breached, though no users’ personally identifiable information was put at risk. The committee invited Park to testify Sept. 10 on the federal health care marketplace website’s security, but according to Smith, the White House canceled the meeting within 24 hours because “they did not want any official transcript of the discussion.” That led Smith to question, “What is the White House trying to hide?”
The House Science Committee and its oversight subcommittee published a report Tuesday in which they justify Park’s subpoena, citing various articles of evidence it claims connect the former CTO to the shoddy website rollout, even though he testified last November that “he did not ‘actually have a really detailed knowledge’ of the website before it was launched and was ‘not even familiar with the development and testing regimen that happened prior to October 1,'” the report states.
The report itself is brief, but attached to it are more than 40 pages of emails and meeting minutes from the Affordable Care Act Information Technology Exchange Steering Committee, which Park co-chaired, dating as far back as 2012. These documents marking Park’s correspondence lead the committee to believe he was “intimately involved with the development of HealthCare.gov, including its cybersecurity standards and protocols,” the report says.
Though Park testified in November 2013 before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that he didn’t “actually have a really detailed knowledge base of what actually happened pre-October 1,” emails obtained by the committee suggest otherwise. In one correspondence with former Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Chief Information Officer Tony Trenkle, Park wrote he wanted to have “a discussion of our defenses, the threats, and our responses to the threats. I would absolutely love to be part of as much of this meeting as I can,” and “I will also reach out to Alex Karp today to let him know that we would love to speak with him about cyber and the Marketplace – we should do a confidential, cone of silence consult with him after we’ve had our meeting.” Karp is the CEO of Palantir, a Silicon Valley software firm.
Based on follow up emails, it appeared that Park did take part in that discussion, which allegedly happened over the phone. Further correspondence also suggests that Park was involved with technical testing and other key steps in developing HealthCare.gov and that he was a “direct liaison with various staff members in the White House as well as the President,” the committee argues in the report.
Despite Republicans’ constant targeting of Park for the botched rollout of HealthCare.gov, Democrats heralded him as a champion for piecing the system back together after it launched. This isn’t the first time that Park has been subpoenaed either. When he testified last November on his involvement with the site, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee issued a subpoena for his appearance. This led to an uproar from many Democrats and others in the technology community upset he was taken away from his role in helping fix the website. His supporters began a campaign and petition against his appearance called “Let Todd Work.”
Democrats from the House Science Committee did not comment on the report. However, during a meeting in September in which the committee voted on the subpoena, ranking member Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Texas, questioned why the majority had not brought up Park’s involvement for eight months, when they received documents they sought from the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy. She also revealed that the White House was cooperative with the committee’s most recent requests. Counsel to the president wrote in a letter to the oversight subcommittee, “If the Subcommittee desires additional information, there is no need to resort to subpoenas. Mr. Park will be pleased to testify at a Subcommittee hearing in November.”
“I am sorry to see that the majority have leaped to conclusions about Mr. Park that are not borne out by the evidence before us,” Johnson said in her statement. “The chairman alleges that OSTP and Mr. Park knew more than they have acknowledged, but the truth is that we cannot come to a fair conclusion absent the documents which the White House was willing to give us. I hope that in its hunt for headlines the committee treats Mr. Park with courtesy and fairness. Today’s actions to reject the White House’s offer and insist on unnecessary subpoenas unfortunately suggest that fairness is not going to be the hallmark of this effort.”
Despite the White House’s efforts to cooperate, Park has been summoned to testify Nov. 19, about a year since his last testimony on his involvement with HealthCare.gov. The next open enrollment period for the Affordable Care Act is set to launch just days before that on Nov. 15.